To mark the beginning of Dyslexia Awareness Week Scotland this week, we caught up with Cathy Magee, Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland to find out what’s happening and how you can get involved.
We’re also delighted to announce that Cathy is joining Barrington Stoke’s board of directors, where we know we will benefit enormously from her in-depth knowledge of dyslexia support and resources. Welcome, Cathy!
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Hi Cathy, and welcome to the blog. Can you tell us a little about the work of Dyslexia Scotland?
Dyslexia Scotland aims to inspire and enable people with dyslexia, regardless of age and abilities, to reach their potential in education, employment and life. We are a Scotland-wide national charity with 7 staff members, 19 branches, 3 Adult Networks and over 180 volunteers, including a strong team of high profile Ambassadors/Young Ambassadors led by our President Sir Jackie Stewart OBE.
We provide a wide range of high quality support and services to people with dyslexia of all ages as well as those who support them. These include direct support through our Helpline, assessment, tutoring and employment services; dyslexia awareness training, conferences, road shows; branch and Adult Network meetings; Dyslexia Awareness Week events and membership services including our magazine; a wide range of information and advice on our website and social media. We also aim to influence positive change and give people with dyslexia an individual and collective voice.
It’s Dyslexia Awareness Week Scotland this week – what’s the aim behind the campaign?
The campaign aims to reach out to more people and to raise awareness and understanding about the 1 in 10 children young people and adults with dyslexia in Scotland. This year’s theme is ‘Dyslexia: Did you know…?’ – each day we will post social media messages on variations of this theme. We’d love people to join in on Twitter using #DAW16.
Anyone can join in by going along to our events across Scotland, wearing a blue ribbon or an electronic Twibbon, putting up a poster, making a presentation or doing something in their school or workplace. Our website has further details of events, resources and activities.
How do you think dyslexia awareness and support in Scotland stands at present and how does it compare to other areas of the UK and further afield?
Some of our Young Ambassadors took part in July in a European Dyslexia Association Youth camp in Malta, joining groups of young people with dyslexia from Ireland, Malta, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden. Our Scottish representatives were pleasantly surprised to find how well the awareness and support in Scotland compared with other parts of Europe. Within the UK, the systems for identifying and supporting young people with dyslexia in schools also vary greatly.
In Scotland, work is underway to take forward the recommendations from a 2014 Education Scotland review, ‘Making Sense: Education for children and young people with dyslexia in Scotland’. Updates are available on the Scottish Government website. This review showed that whilst improvements have been made, there is still a lot to be done to ensure that young people are identified early and given the right support.
Early intervention is also crucial for people of all ages at key transition points throughout their life, to help them to reach their potential – and again, although there have been huge improvements in dyslexia awareness and support, there is still a great deal to be done.
What would your advice be for a parent whose child has just been identified as having dyslexia?
There is a lot of helpful information about dyslexia on our website – I would advise parents to check out our website, call our Helpline (0344 800 84 48) and go along to one of the many open meetings that are run by our 19 volunteer-led branches around Scotland to meet other parents, young people, adults and professionals. Also, it’s well worth joining Dyslexia Scotland, to receive quarterly magazines and other membership benefits for just £20 a year.
We’re big fans of your President, Sir Jackie Stewart. How important is it to have high profile individuals talking about dyslexia?
Sir Jackie is a passionate and influential advocate for dyslexia and Dyslexia Scotland – by sharing his personal experiences, he has raised awareness across the world of what dyslexia is and what it means on a day to day basis, as well as providing an important role model for others with dyslexia to know that they too can be successful in their lives. We believe it is very important to have high profile individuals talking about dyslexia – which is why we also have a group of Ambassadors from a wide range of different parts of Scottish life who also share their experiences of dyslexia. We also believe that it is important for all people with dyslexia to have a voice – as everyone’s experience of dyslexia will be different. That is why our third strategic aim is ‘To give people with dyslexia an individual and collective voice.’ And why we encourage dyslexia people to share their stories and experiences across all our work.
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Thank you Cathy for such a lot of practical advice – we very much hope to have you back on the blog again soon. Happy Dyslexia Awareness Week, Scotland!