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Problem of undiagonsed learning difficulties


5th November 2008

Little Benefit From Political Literacy Push Until Root Causes Addressed

Census indicator reinforces estimate that one kiwi in every five has learning difficulty – most are undiagnosed

Promises by political parties to focus on increasing literacy and numeracy levels largely ignore the core reason why up to 20% of the population struggle with reading & writing.

As many as 1 in 5 kiwis have a learning difficulty and until their Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD or Dyspraxia is identified and dealt with literacy programmes are of little benefit to them.

“People with learning difficulties have an inability to retain information or process it quickly, so much of their learning is lost”, said Dore Centre General Manager, David Conroy.

The Dore Centre is a specialist treatment programme for people with learning difficulties like Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADD & ADHD and has clinics in Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch.

“Hoping literacy will improve by just practicing reading is like hoping a few tennis lessons will put you on the road to Wimbledon despite the untreated greenstick fracture in your right arm”.

New Zealand has a very low rate of diagnosis so we don’t have exact numbers of people affected but 2006 Census qualifications data backs up the estimate that up to 20% of the population may have a learning difficulty.

A very common symptom is a general reluctance to learn something new. It’s usually an avoidance technique to prevent having to attempt something that is extremely hard & stressful, eg: remembering sequential tasks, retaining complex information, reading instruction manuals, writing reports, analysing numbers or sitting exams.

“Even though people with learning difficulties usually have above average IQs they generally have few or no qualifications and often do jobs that require learning one set of skills and repeating them, for example; share milker, smelter or freezing worker, plumber, electrician, sound engineer, TV camera operator, telephonist, chef, barista etc”.

The 2006 Census found that 25% of kiwis aged over 15 years had no formal qualifications*. In Southland that rate pushes up over one-third to 36%.


Primary School children are currently screened for any hearing or sight conditions that may impede learning.

Politicians serious about literacy should look at adding a standardised assessment that screens all children in Year 2 or 3 for learning difficulties.

Identifying at risk children and then treating them before they begin to fail and drop out would be the single most significant boost to the nation’s literacy and self esteem.

NZ Dore Centre, General Manager David Conroy is in Invercargill tonight speaking about learning difficulties at the Southland Art Gallery & Museum at 7:30pm.

*No formal qualifications = no school qualifications such as School Certificate or NCEA


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