SPELD stands for specific learning difficulties which are estimated to affect up to 20% of the population. For many of these students, the barrier to effective learning is a component of their developmental make-up. These students, although almost always of average or above average intelligence, have a specific condition which has a significant impact on their learning. These students have a specific learning disability. The majority of these are dyslexic. Dyslexia means word blindness and relates to having difficulties with words and language – predominantly reading, spelling and writing. It is of neurological origin, frequently genetic and cannot be cured.
Dyslexics can benefit from early and consistent synthetic phonics instruction from specialist teachers and tutors. Unfortunately many ACT schools do not have the resources to provide these services leaving parents to find tutors and to finance this themselves. DSA is hoping to help provide tutoring and reduced fee services for those that are socially and economically disadvantaged.
The Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, has personal experience with dyslexia as two of his children are dyslexic. He and his family have a long association with SPELD in South Australia. In June he presented a petition to parliament calling for the recognition of dyslexia as a disability. On Monday this week he stated via his Facebook page,
“Had a terrific meeting with SPELD on Friday in my electorate office. We have so much to do for children with learning difficulties and we can do it. I can help through initial teacher training and I intend to.”
DSA hopes to continue to build on the good work that their SPELD colleagues have been doing by providing services, support and advocacy for members and the broader community. Rolling out full services next year from their Lyneham Offices, Clinical Director, Jo Whithear is looking forward to being able to assist more people with learning difficulties.
“Until now there has been no centralised information and support for families in the ACT region. We hope to make a difficult experience easier through our knowledge and networks.”