The Creative Mentors Foundation is a charity that helps secondary students with learning differences to engage successfully with the educational opportunities they are offered at school. Because there is a large degree of overlap between the difficulties they experience, we are interested in helping students with dyslexia, dyspraxia, aspergers/autism and ADHD.
Specifically, we are concerned with how well students are able to engage with creative subjects such as art, design and music. We believe that helping students in these areas of the curriculum, where they can do exceptionally well, leads to greater self-esteem and confidence. In turn, this can lead to higher levels of achievement in other subject areas and in their lives beyond school.
Our approach is to provide trained mentors to work in schools with students and teachers in the creative areas of the curriculum. All our mentors have succeeded to postgraduate level in creative subjects and are themselves dyslexic and/or dyspraxic. We believe this experience enables them to have empathy towards the students we are aiming to help and an intuitive understanding of the difficulties they face.
People with dyslexia struggle with many academic tasks at school such as reading and writing.
Uta Frith (1997), Margaret Snowling (1997), Amanda Kirby (1999), Tilly Mortimore (2003) and Liz Du Pre, Dorothy Gilroy and Tim Miles (2008).
Failing and or struggling with academic tasks can do enormous harm to students’ self-esteem, which in turn negatively affects their learning experiences.
McLoughlin et al (1994).
There is a well-established link between some types of dyslexia and creativity.
Maryanne Wolf (2007), John Everatt, Beverley Steffert and Ian Smythe (1999).
Acknowledgment and praise from peers and teachers can positively affect self-esteem.
At secondary school it is often hard for students with learning differences to usefully engage with the music and art and design curricula, because of the way they are taught and assessed.
By teaching these children strategies to usefully engage and often excel in creative areas, self-esteem is re-established, maintained, enhanced. Once students feel confident that they have learning strategies that work, they are often able to transfer their newfound confidence into other areas of the curriculum and fulfil their learning potential.
This is the aim of the Creative Mentors Foundation.
There has been much research around the cognitive differences that are characteristic of dyslexic readers. This has been concerned with the impact of dyslexia on how they receive, hold, retrieve and structure information and the speed with which these processes occur. (Uta Frith (1997), Margaret Snowling (1997), Amanda Kirby (1999), Tilly Mortimore (2003) and Liz Du Pre, Dorothy Gilroy and Tim Miles (2008))
Paula Bishop-Liebler is one of several researchers who has been examining the cognitive differences of musicians with dyslexia and dyspraxia and looking at how they navigate their way through difficulties. These difficulties can affect various key skills such as: reading notation (especially sight-reading), learning new music quickly; gaining rhythmic accuracy (especially from notation); memorising music; scanning music or following a conductor and then finding the right place in the score. Clearly such skills are essential for professional musicians (Bishop-Liebler 2008).
Similarly (Howard Riley, Qona Rankin 2015) have been looking at possible effects of dyslexia and dyspraxia on drawing ability. Their work was discussed recently, on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Art of Walking into Doors (Ledgard 2015). In the same programme Chris McManus, Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at University College London, described drawing from observation as: “…taking in visual input, processing it through our eye, through our brain, sending it to another bit of the brain that produces motor outputs and moving our hand in just the right way to make the two look the same, it’s a very complicated process”.
Creative Mentors Foundation is interested in how successful teaching of music and art and design to individuals with these cognitive differences can be achieved through tailor made support programmes. The aim is to discover and apply strategies that make the hurdles easier for the students to get over. The results can be hugely rewarding for the mentors and encouraging for the students, who can see and feel acknowledgement for the progress they have achieved. Many students raise their aspirations as a consequence of their experience.