Increasing dyslexia awareness
Why it is important
What we can do
How we can help
This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week and our focus is on increasing awareness of what it means to be dyslexic. We do this so the general community better understands what being dyslexic means and also for those who are dyslexic (recognised and unrecognised) so they can develop self belief and advocate more fully for themselves.
Why increasing awareness is important
There are two main areas our Trust works in to increase awareness, that is the general community and also unrecognised dyslexics (dyslexics who don’t know they have dyslexia).
The general community, unless they have lived experience of a close relative, will naturally not be dyslexic experts. They can hold the views that dyslexic’s cannot read and spell, may not be that smart and reverse their b’s and d’s. They will also not see the correlation between dyslexia and mental well being, how they may behave in class or at work as they try to mask their learning struggles or the value they bring with their different way of thinking.
Unrecognised dyslexics don’t think or know they can be dyslexic and generally think they are not very smart compared to others. It can be for a variety of reasons. It may be they can read okay and their spelling is not too bad, have done well at primary school, high school or with tertiary studies even though always with extra effort and needing more time (these dyslexics have compensated with their dyslexic strengths to learn to read and manage school work). They may be unrecognised because their masking behaviour was what was noticed first rather than why they were behaving like that. They may have tried so hard but made no progress that they disengaged from the learning and left school or they masked their struggles so well no one noticed.
It is estimated that at least 10% of the population is dyslexic (USA states it is 20%).
According to recent UK data they indicate that just over 80% of dyslexics leave school not knowing they are dyslexic.
Population of NZ 5 million
Dyslexics in NZ 500,000
Unrecognised dyslexics when they left school 410,000
What we can do
Parents are very good advocates for increasing dyslexic awareness within the general community. When you have lived experience of a child with dyslexia or you are dyslexic yourself you develop knowledge and a passion to make it better for your child and in doing so automatically try to increase the knowledge of those who interact with your child.
Do not underestimate the ripple effect you can create by being aware and talking about it with other parents and your child’s teachers and schools.
Southland schools are on a journey to support our dyslexic children. There is definitely increased awareness among our regions schools to upskill their staff, increase their knowledge and bring in supports, accommodations and programmes that recognise the dyslexic learner’s strengths and challenges.
To reach the unrecognised dyslexic we have to change our language for explaining what dyslexia is. We are more able to do this when our own awareness has increased to seeing the whole picture of what it means to be dyslexic.
Instead of it being a black and white question of can you read or not read it is more along the lines of “do you struggle to read for long periods?” or “ do you like reading?” or “what kind of books are your favourite books and why?”.
It can be “do you struggle to say what is in your head” or “do you struggle to get down on paper what is in your head?” . It may be “did you like school?”
It may be around their poor short term memory or ordering and sequencing “ do you struggle to follow verbal instructions?” and “do you find it hard to write emails in a logical order so they make sense?”
We then start to expand to the way dyslexics process information “ do you need to see the big picture before starting?” or “ can you see a picture of how it is all going to work together before you start?”
Incorporating their empathy strength “do you have a good understanding of how people feel?”
It may be around their extra effort “Does it take you longer to write reports?” and “How long does it take for you to do your homework?”
Asking these questions starts to help an unrecognised dyslexic to clarify what their specific learning struggles are.
How we can help
To support these conversations Learning Differences Aotearoa Trust have developed a series of posters based on this alternative language to describe what it means to be dyslexic.
We also run a variety of programmes and services
- Growing Stars for children aged 6 -12 years
- Free information sessions for school communities
- Adult Dyslexia Support Group
- Professional development for schools, organisations and support agencies
Learning Differences Advisor for Learning Differences Aotearoa Trust.