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Educators welcome official recognition of dyslexia

http://news.massey.ac.nz

Friday, April 20, 2007

Educators welcome official recognition of dyslexia.

The head of an international organisation researching learning disabilities has welcomed the Government’s announcement yesterday that it recognised dyslexia as a significant barrier to learning.

International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities president, Professor James Chapman says the change is overdue and will give a boost to New Zealand’s credibility in future research.

Until the Ministry’s announcement yesterday, Professor Chapman, the head of Massey’s College of Education, attended international panels representing a country where the Government failed to officially recognise dyslexia as a learning disability. He says the new stance signifies a significant breakthrough that brings New Zealand in line with other countries.

“To have dyslexia finally recognised at this level as a legitimate area of learning difficulty and reading problems, should pave the way for further research and development of initiatives which support students, and better prepare teachers for dealing with it,” Professor Chapman says.

As the nation observes its first Dyslexia Awareness Week, literacy experts are calling for a change to literacy education. Among other things, they are calling for a return to using phonics to teach reading.

Professor Chapman appeared with Professor Tom Nicholson in the recent television documentary, Decoding Dyslexia.

They said that children and adults with dyslexia can be identified, yet there is a lack of government support and a lack of willingness to intervene to help pupils with dyslexia. There is still widespread misunderstanding about dyslexia, says Professor Nicholson. In the past it was thought to be associated with seeing words and letters backwards.



“Most experts now say that the cure for dyslexia is to teach phonics. Dyslexic pupils will benefit greatly through one-to-one instruction in phonics. Teaching pupils to remember words using visual strategies, is not the best long term strategy even though it might bring short term success. Phonics is an extremely useful teaching strategy and is now mandated in British schools. If we had it in New Zealand, then it would benefit many dyslexic children."

Dyslexia, a learning condition affecting more than 70,000 New Zealand children, was officially recognised by the New Zealand Government last week to enthusiasm from educators who are calling for change to literacy education.

Dyslexia occurs when an otherwise bright and verbal child has extreme difficulty in learning to decode words. A dyslexic person has adequate or above language ability and a history of regular classroom instruction but with inaccurate and slow reading of words.

ENDS

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