Friday, January 31, 2020

The Benefits of Dance for Dyspraxics and Dyslexics Essay Example for Free

The Benefits of Dance for Dyspraxics and Dyslexics Essay As a consequence of my career in the teaching of dance, I have had some practical experience working with dyslexic and dyspraxic children for a number of years now and have become increasingly interested in the problems they face. In having this study to write an ideal opportunity arose to research the subjects in more detail. In doing so I have discovered how vast it really is and how difficult it is to write even an explanation of the conditions. â€Å"No two dyslexics are alike† ,[1] so how can one state precisely what it is? Even the different institutions who are expert in their fields differ. My aim is to open up the subjects, provoking some interest in the reader to learn more about them and then to focus on how I feel dance can be of assistance in the child’s life, albeit in very different ways. To cover just one subject thoroughly would be impossible, but I hope, in skimming the surface, I can demonstrate how important these issues are. I do not claim expertise. The information that I have used comes from reliable sources (see Bibliography) and includes personal opinions. The essential fact is that although the two words sound similar, they are very different problems. There are many definitions of dyslexia. The International Dyslexia Association states that;â€Å"dyslexia is a neurologically based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language† .[2] British Dyslexics say simply â€Å"individuals†¦.struggle to learn through the medium of written or spoken language† ,[3] but have a list of definitions from other sources which includeâ€Å"dyslexia is the ability to see multidimensionally, all at once, or from any one place at a time. The ability to think in pictures and to register those pictures as real. Thus, you mix in creative thinking with reality and change what is seen or heard† .[4] The percentage of dyslexia sufferers varies from source to source, it may be up to 20% of the population (Dyslexia U.K information on ‘Incidence ’[5]) in varying degrees. That is a vast amount! Three times more males are affected than females probably because it is usually hereditary being passed down through males. In my experience boys heavily outweigh the ratio of boys to girls. Ron Davis, a dyslexic who suffered as a child wrote the book â€Å"The Gift of Dyslexia†. It left me both more confused about the problem and yet more understanding of it too! Why do dyslexics who are usually normal to above average intelligence often have difficulties at school even though hopefully nowadays teachers are taught to be more aware of learning disabilities? My understanding of Davis’ book allows me to see that dyslexics need a completely different teaching method because their thought processes are different. Dyslexics think in pictures, non-dyslexics think verbally (using words). These pictures/thoughts happen at a rate of approximately 32 a second, as opposed to 2-5 thoughts a second for the verbal thinker.[6] Dyslexics are not aware of most of their thoughts as they happen too quickly, but the subliminal part of the brain takes them in and it is this ability that gives them highly tuned intuition and creativity. They become so involved in their thoughts that these become reality- they see, hear, smell and feel what is in their heads. This causes me some confusion as I am a verbal thinker and it is difficult to conceptualise another way of thinking. How can any one teacher be expected to teach in two different ways at the same time? It is a little like having one half of the class thinking in French and the other in English but all speaking English (to use rather an extreme analogy). The reason behind thinking in pictures comes from the relative sizes of the brain’s hemispheres. The right side is often larger in dyslexics and this is the ‘picture’ side, the creative centre. The left side is the language side. This becomes a problem when the child goes to school and does not understand the written word. A different learning process is needed as our current methods rely heavily on written language and verbal thought. There becomes a big discrepancy between their intellectual ability and their reading performance. This lack of understanding in one area is also the reason why individuals are gifted in another area. Highly tuned intuition is a dyslexic talent, as is a greater curiosity the â€Å"dynamic force behind creativity† .[7] Dyslexics can ‘see’ things from all angles and from outside themselves. They can put their â€Å"mind’s eye† [8] anywhere, seeing the whole picture rather than fragments of the whole. â€Å"Dyslexia would not be so common if its effects were purely detrimental†. [9] Many of the great geniuses were dyslexic- Einstein for example once said, â€Å"if I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it† ;[10] Da Vinci, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill all suffered with this ‘affliction’. Living dyslexics include Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Guy Ritchie and Eddie Izzard â€Å"the bizarre connections he makes in his unscripted shows may be a dyslexic dividend† .10 A recent article in the Daily Telegraph features a severely dyslexic entrepreneur, Ben Way who at 20 is a multimillionaire! His grandfather was dyslexic and his mother is which may be one reason for his exceptional skills. When he gets an idea he says â€Å"it all comes together like a whirring candy floss machine, turning in my head, making connections from all over the place. In an hour I find I can see the solution to a problem† .[11] He also says about people he has worked with of higher IQ than himself â€Å"but they don’t see things from so many angles†. 11 It is probably becoming apparent that the negative side of dyslexia has an equal and opposite positive side that would not be so developed if there were no dyslexia present. The way they think leads them to be potentially talented in many areas unrelated to their language skills. Their â€Å"special talent comes from the same mental functions that prevent them from being able to read, write or spell well† .[12] Intuition has already been mentioned, this ability to understand and picture the whole. Creativity relates directly to dance (and other visual subjects; art, design, technology etc). Their thought processes which allow them to picture something, even themselves from another point in space is highly desirable in artistic subjects. â€Å"Dancers and athletes (two favourite professions of dyslexics) ordinarily have their minds eye positioned above their heads† .[13] As babies and toddlers dyslexics are more curious than other children are, often walking before crawling. This curiosity leads to creativity and this creativity is the gift they have. In dance, imagination and creativity are vital. Dyslexics are usually good musically and inner rhythm is another important element we look for. In summary the abilities that dyslexics have that potentially would make dance a good medium are-1:Thinking in pictures; dance is a visual art form that requires the participant to see shapes and copy shapes. It is moving art. 2:Thinking and perceiving multi-dimensionally. All the senses are utilised, seeing the whole picture rather than fragments. Ideal when choreographing. 3:A vivid imagination. 4:Extraordinary creative skills. â€Å"Tasks which require the ability to visualise something in a creative or different way are often simple for the individual with these talents†.[14] Achievement is vital for anyone’s self esteem but especially for a child who may perceive themselves a failure in other aspects of their lives. To my mind if children are struggling at school for whatever reason, but find a niche for themselves in the dance class or any other activity, then we are obliged to nurture it. This should build their confidence and self worth and hopefully help them in other aspects of their lives and so prevent negative feelings of frustration and failure. It may also offset other related problems that could arise such as bad behaviour and depression. Thomas Scheidler (co-founder of The Greenwood School) discovered a â€Å"big discrepancy between their [dyslexics] ability to perform artistically and their ability to perform in language areas†. [15] In sports that needed good balance and co-ordination they excelled; dyslexics that are well co-ordinated â€Å"tend to also be especially good in sports that require balance and a sense of flow†. 14 It is so important to encourage children in disciplines where they demonstrate some aptitude, especially children who obviously suffer in basic learning areas. Dyspraxia or â€Å"developmental co-ordination disorder† is â€Å"an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement and, in many individuals, there may be associated problems of language, perception and thought†. [16] Between 2-10% of the population are affected, 70% being boys. (Dyspraxic Foundation). I intend to concentrate on the problem of co-ordination and only touch on other difficulties when they are relevant or link to the role of dance/movement. Almost from birth children with dyspraxia will show signs of movement impairment. They lack motor competence and have often been labelled ‘clumsy’. It is thought, †parts of the brain have failed to mature properly†. [17] Without delving into the reasoning behind this too much, it is noteworthy that when taking a ‘history’ questions concerning pregnancy and diet are included (p.19 Developmental Dyspraxia by Madeleine Portwood). Dyspraxia â€Å"affects how a child manages and co-ordinates his or her movements† [18] because â€Å"reinforced interconnections between nerve cells in the cerebral cortex are reduced in number†. [19] Normally automatic movements in the dyspraxic have to be taught and used repeatedly to create these connections. Dyspraxic babies often ‘bottom shuffle’ then walk because the brain can not give the limbs independent messages they need in order to crawl. Children display awkward movement, have limited creativity and concentration. They lack strength and tone in muscles and subsequently have poor posture. Each of the ‘skills’ we take for granted i.e. walking with co-ordinated arm movements, jumping, climbing etc, have to be learnt by the dyspraxic child. The neural pathways need to be reinforced quickly. It is the â€Å"execution of motor skills which encourages the development of the neural pathways in the brain†. [20] They find it â€Å"difficult to execute tasks which involve co-ordination of arms and legs†, 19 although they become good at a skill they have practised. Unfortunately it is specific to that particular skill and they find transferring information from one area to another difficult. They almost end up relearning the same thing to be used elsewhere. â€Å"Tasks requiring balance, rhythm and co-ordination are most useful†. [21] One of the single most important areas that dyspraxic individuals need to work on is their co-ordination and their gross motor skills. This word, co-ordination, has already come up and it and dance are synonymous. This is the starting point that makes me feel dance can really play an important part in a dyspraxics life and their subsequent development. Dance can help promote their gross motor skills, their balance, mastering common movements, for example, standing on one leg, hopping, hop scotch, skipping, controlling their arm movements and synchronising arms and legs. It will also develop the body’s postural muscles which will go a long way to assisting in the control of their body as a whole, making them more spatially aware of themselves. We use nursery rhymes with young children that require putting actions to words, these can be most fun and beneficial in learning to co-ordinate and move the body in a variety of ways (the teacher helping as needed). When the child goes from nursery school to reception there is â€Å"less opportunity to improve his gross motor skills† [22] and so attendance of a dance class will continue to improve and build on motor skills outside the school environment and in an enjoyable and more relaxed atmosphere. The dyspraxic child â€Å"will avoid activities essential for development if he is not directed towards them†. 21 If used alongside other intervention methods early enough, dance can enhance the child’s self esteem and teach the motor skills required to avoid physical conflict. This will encourage their peers to include them in activities and help them to feel less isolated. This is essential to the child’s welfare and may offset, like the dyslexic child, other emotional problems. It can be seen that the two conditions bear little resemblance to each other. A dyspraxic child can often have a reading age two years above themselves whereas a dyslexic will probably always find reading a chore. Dyspraxics have limited creativity but dyslexics show extremely high levels of imagination. A dyslexic is often very good at sports and balancing, co-ordination type activity whereas a dyspraxic has to work very hard to become as skilled. There are common areas though. Both generally have normal to high intelligence. Dyslexics will experience some degree of dyspraxia due to seeing their thoughts as reality and so losing their sense of space in actual reality, thus becoming confused and disorientated. In my experience both respond to routine and if this is upset it often leads to disruption and this will cause them to achieve less than when the routine is consistent. With a dance class repetition is necessary in order to acquire a skill. For a dyspraxic or dyslexic child to see what is ahead is reassuring, especially when they feel themselves improving. One last point of similarity and interest is that both affect more boys than girls. If we can entice many more boys into the pre-school dance class we can start intervention and indeed see the signs of a problem earlier. We tend by default to help more girls, either intentionally or unintentionally, simply because they present themselves in larger numbers. Learning basic movement skills and firing off imagination is important for both sexes, as is interacting socially in a controlled environment. If we could get the boys into the classes and into our imaginative world we could begin to help many more youngsters with or without learning difficulties. Dance to me has an obvious place here, whether it be tuning into an individuals talent and providing an outlet to a very creative mind, or giving a child confidence in moving their own body and having control over that body. I have experienced the positive effect dance can have in both these areas and seen children gain in confidence in other aspects of their lives as a result. Having studied these ‘disorders’ I feel I have acquired much more of an insight into the approach needed when teaching in this area and consequently greater confidence that using dance is a positive addition to intervention methods currently in use. In my opinion, dance is a world that should be open and enjoyed by all and be beneficial as a whole mind and body approach for a healthy life, emotionally, mentally and physically. Bibliography: The Gift of Dyslexia by Ron Davis Developmental Dyspraxia – Identification and Intervention by Madeleine Portwood (Second Edition) A First Guide to Developmental Co-ordination Disorder. Published by OAASIS. (Office for Advice, Assistance, Support and Information on Special Needs). What is Developmental Dyspraxia? By Dyspraxia Foundation ‘He’s not stupid, he’s Dyslexic’ article- The Sunday Times 23 July 2000 by Peter Martin ‘One day we’ll take over the world’ article- Daily Telegraph 10 January 2001 by Cassandre Jardine. The following are articles found on the internet under Dyslexia;- Dyslexia U.K: Dyslexia and its Implications. What is Dyslexia? By Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, LLC What is Dyslexia? By British Dyslexics What is Dyslexia? By Roger P Harrie and Carol Weller Dyslexia and Creativity. An interview with Thomas Scheidler by Rondi Lightmark.

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