Professor Tom Nicholson –
I am concerned at the lack of government progress in providing support for children who struggle to read, because of the decoding disorder that affects about 80,000 school-aged children (about one in ten) in New Zealand.
The rate of dyslexia could be reduced from 10% to 2% if the right strategies are deployed in schools and at home.
Identifying the problem
‘The New Zealand Dyslexia Handbook’ (with co-author Dr Susan Dymock from Waikato University), the book sets out to demystify dyslexia by empowering parents and teachers at a grassroots level with practical tips and information.
These include reading and spelling tests to identify dyslexia, and language exercises to help overcome the condition that impairs the ability to de-code written language.
The jury is still out on the causes of dyslexia and why some have difficulties with visual or phonological processing and memorising of written words.
The research is based on working over many years with children with reading difficulties, including dyslexia, who have attended after-school reading labs at Waikato University and Massey University Auckland campuses, as well as summer reading programmes in South Auckland schools.
Improvements do not happen overnight. It can take between one and three years but they do crack it.
While the education system provides some support or ‘accommodations’ such as reader/writers for students sitting NCEA exams, there should be better understanding of dyslexia special education teachers.
There are simple approaches teachers can adopt, such as extending or emphasising what they already do in the classroom.
The book’s release coincides with Dyslexia Advocacy Week (March 16-22), organised by the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand.
Tom Nicholson is Professor of Literacy Education at Massey University.