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The New Zealand Government's Failure To Recognise Dyslexic Secondary Students.

2390 words - 10 pages

"The New Zealand Government's failure to recognise dyslexia as a Special Learning Disability (SLD) seriously disadvantages a large number of New Zealand secondary school students."

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." - Wittgenstein.
Addressed generally in the Education Act (1989) and specifically in the respective curricula, the Ministry of Education makes no bones about the critical importance of literacy for all New Zealand students. "...all students will need to develop the ability and confidence to communicate competently in English, in both its spoken and written forms." (Ministry of Education, 1993, p.10).
And this focus has some urgency about it. New Zealand's status amongst the countries participating in international literacy studies such as IEA/PIRLS (2001) and OECD-PISA (2000-2003) has suffered a decline over recent years. And whilst concerned policy-makers and educators well-intentionally discuss current notions and concepts of literacy, re-appraising and suggesting interventions and approaches to tackle what seems to be a national literacy crisis (Easton, 1999), a glaring blind-spot persists.
Dyslexia. Often referred to as a middle-class syndrome, it is a common term, defined in the Oxford Dictionary (1995; pg.160) as "a condition causing difficulty in reading and spelling", and bandied about in general society in the company of ADD or autism as causes of individual educational underachievement. But it differs in one crucial regard. The New Zealand Government recognizes ADD and autism as SLD - it does not recognise dyslexia. Thus they limit access to resources, funding, and appropriate teaching practices to students with this challenging condition.
Accidental oversight?
History says no.
Big mistake?
Research says yes.
Impossible task?
Optimism and responsibility say absolutely not.

"Prove dyslexia exists and we'll look at it." - Steve Maharey, Minister for Education.
I have referred to dyslexia in relation to SLD, which can be defined as "an unexpected and unexplained condition, occurring in a child of average or above average intelligence, characterised by a significant delay in one or more areas of learning." (Selikowitz, 1998). In this definition, a 'significant delay' refers to either more than 2 standard deviations below the mean, or 2 or more years behind the expected level for their chronological age. 'Areas of learning' covers the group of basic academic skills of, amongst others, reading and writing.
In 1887, Dr Berlin, building on previous research by Dr Kussmaul (Selikowitz, 1998), coined the term 'dyslexia' to describe a condition where people of average intelligence and education seem unable to learn to read, despite apparent ability. In reality, the challenges are more than just reading and spelling, as dyslexic students struggle to make meaning out of the information they are presented with.
Whilst there are different schools of thought on the...

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