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Understanding learning difficulties

Understanding learning difficulties in the Queenstown Lakes District

Queenstown Lakes District parents and educators wanting to find out more about children’s learning difficulties have the opportunity to hear from experts at two events in August.

Otago’s first-ever Learning About Learning Difficulties seminars are being held in Queenstown on August 16 and in Wanaka on August 22. Organised by local optometry practice OCULA, speakers include a paediatric speech language therapist, an occupational therapist and a behavioural optometrist.

The seminar will delve into how people use their brains to learn and how to tell if a child or student is affected by a vision, language or sensory processing disorder – and what to do about it. Attendees will also learn how a vision, language or sensory-processing disorder is relating to learning difficulties like dyslexia.

OCULA principal optometrist Danielle Ross – the district’s first qualified behavioural optometrist – will discuss how vision affects the learning process and explore how the brain uses the visual sense to learn. She’ll touch on how to tell if a child is affected by a visual processing disorder – as well as how it is related to dyslexia.

A highly qualified optometrist, Ross specialises in primary eye care from vision testing and therapy to detecting eye abnormalities and the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes and certain eye diseases.

She helps many children in Wanaka, Queenstown and Central Otago with learning and behavioural difficulties improve with vision therapy treatment. Vision therapy helps re-wire and re-teach visual pathways and visual patterns, as well as the foundational skills required to read (not how to read) plus other techniques to manage and adapt to challenges with learning.

“A child with learning difficulties can often be 'pigeon-holed' into a specific bracket. But many signs and symptoms of a visual, language or sensory processing disorder are similar, and can be confused if not properly diagnosed,” Ross explains. “The Learning About Learning Difficulties seminar will provide compelling, up-to-date, research-based information to help guide parents and teachers through what can be a challenging time in a child’s life.”

Ross will be joined by paediatric occupational therapist Fiona Brown, from Dynamic Developments, and paediatric speech language therapist Hallie Pearson from SHOUT. Brown specialises in sensory integration, primitive reflexes, visual perception, fine and gross motor skills and emotional regulation. She supports a range of young people to develop important foundational skills required for learning, social interaction and motor skill development.

Pearson is highly experienced working with children on the Autism Spectrum and children with complex communication needs. She enjoys working alongside teachers and within an inter-disciplinary team to develop children’s language skills, and to foster positive learning outcomes.

The Queenstown seminar will be held at the Queenstown Memorial Hall at 4pm (for educators) and 7pm (for parents and caregivers) on August 16. The Wanaka event will take place at the Lake Wanaka Centre on August 22, at 4pm (for educators) and 7pm (for parents and caregivers). Entry is by gold coin donation, with all proceeds going to local charities, including the Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Trust. Tea, coffee and cake will be provided after the seminar. More information can be found at


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