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(New Zealand) One in 10 with dyslexia; more support, "neurodiversity training" needed

June 29, 2023, 1News: Dyslexia advocate interrupts select committee, says Govt is failing

The Ministry of Education has acknowledged more needs to be done when it comes to supporting children with dyslexia.

People with dyslexia think differently and can face difficulties in literacy and numeracy, according to the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand.

The charity says an estimated one in 10 New Zealanders have dyslexia, but there is no New Zealand data on the prevalence of the condition.

Ministry of Education operations and integration leader Sean Teddy said the Government organisation was "largely in agreement" with issues raised by dyslexia advocates at a select committee hearing….

The Petitions Committee heard submissions on Mike Styles' petition, which gathered 7930 signatures in support of a Commission of Inquiry into dyslexia and neurodiversity and was presented to Parliament last year.

Teddy said after a 2016 select committee inquiry made recommendations for supporting students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism, legislation was changed to require schools to cater for students with different learning needs.
In terms of support for students with dyslexia, Teddy said the implementation of learning support coordinators in under half of the country's schools, neurodiversity training for learning support coordinators and online dyslexia resources that are accessed 22,000 times a month are among the actions taken.

He said the Ministry of Education is trying to support the teacher-student relationship by "bringing in extra supports where required".

Teddy said the ministry needs to review its practice "and make sure it's fit for modern circumstances"….

Teddy said the under-development Common Practice Model, which will outline evidence-based approaches to teaching literacy, communication and maths to prevent the ineffective practice in schools, will also support students with extra learning needs.

Another ministry spokesperson said the organisation is working to align professional learning development for teachers with the Common Practice Model and explained how some schools are participating in the Better Start Literacy Approach programme.

After that, dyslexia advocate Mike Styles interrupted the ministry's submission.

"I'm sorry, but I can't sit here and listen to the ministry saying everything's fine when it isn't," he said.

Styles earlier said how the Ministry of Education denied the existence of dyslexia until 2007.

In his submission, he explained the impact of a lack of recognition of dyslexia in government organisations is the condition is absent from public conversations.

"The biggest challenge faced by neurodiverse Kiwis is invisibility and ignorance."

He said current policies mean many Kiwis with dyslexia are subject to a second-class existence.

"Māori are currently negatively and disproportionately affected by our current settings. "Without concrete actions, without legislative changes, nothing will happen," Styles said.

Dyslexia assessment, tuition and support provider SPELD NZ supported the call for an inquiry in their submission.

"We would really strongly like this inquiry to proceed… so that we can get some equity for all New Zealanders," SPELD NZ executive officer Jeremy Drummond said.

Drummond said the charity is disappointed dyslexia is viewed as an education-only issue when multiple agencies are responsible for supporting people with dyslexia, including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health, Whaikaha — Ministry of Disabled People, Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections.

"This spreads right through. It pervades our society," Drummond said.

Drummond said in education, the charity strongly advocates for a phonemic-based structured literacy programme from Year 1 for all students in all of the schools in New Zealand.

Drummond was questioned if structured literacy instruction would disadvantage the majority of students that aren't dyslexic.

"The 90% will shoot through that reading pipeline a lot quicker and become independent readers.

"The people in our community need this because the balanced literacy approach is failing them."


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