Dear Senator Birmingham, My 9 year old daughter has a genetic auditory processing difference, otherwise known as Dyslexia. She is bright, ...

Shane's Red Letter

23:11:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

Dear Senator Birmingham,

My 9 year old daughter has a genetic auditory processing difference, otherwise known as Dyslexia. She is bright, creative and a natural leader. She has a high IQ, but has difficulty with reading text. She started to show signs of anxiety, which has now manifested itself in physical pain. We do not have a family history of anxiety or depression. She has a full-time, dedicated stay-at-home mum and attends a Montessori community school that provides a safe, inclusive and respectful learning environment. The reason that my daughter suffers anxiety is a direct result of her processing difference and her inability to keep up with her peers at school in the areas of reading and writing.

My daughter’s teacher recommended a course that a peer in her class participated in for anxiety management, and suggested that it had helped him enormously. When I looked into enrolling my daughter in the course, I discovered that it was created for Autism Spectrum (ASD) children. 

My question to you is, we know that when ASD children are supported appropriately, it helps them to reach their full potential and minimises mental illness associated with feeling isolated and different. Why is it that Dyslexic children receive NOTHING? These children that are also affected by a GENETIC learning difference can be left undiagnosed (due to a lack of screening or affordability), and completely unsupported. Children that are left to fail in the classroom will go on to develop low self esteem and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. This is not good for anyone, the individual or society.

Senator Birmingham, please tell me why there is currently no support for Dyslexic children in Australia's education system.

Kind regards,
Shane

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My name is Alana and I’m 13 years old, almost 14 in a few days. At the moment I’m at School in year 7, next year I will be going to high sch...

Alana's Red Letter

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My name is Alana and I’m 13 years old, almost 14 in a few days. At the moment I’m at School in year 7, next year I will be going to high school and I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I am for it. Today I will be telling you my story and how I have to live with Dyslexia each and every day.  

I remember the first time I was told I have Dyslexia. I had test after test after test I hated it so much. I would come late to school because I had a test that morning and my friends would ask me where I was and I never knew what to tell them, they wouldn’t understand, I didn’t even understand or why it was happening half the time. Being in a small room all by myself with a piece of paper and a pencil. As soon as the timer started I would turn over the piece of paper and start, well I would try to. Looking at the questions was giving me a head ache I couldn’t even read it or understand what the question was asking me. I would get so frustrated because I didn’t understand. I would read it over and over again but that never helped. I felt as if it was in a different language. I was just hoping time would pass and It would be over.

It was so quite I could hear the clock ticking, I could hear the front office lady typing away on her computer and then the phone would ring and I could hear her talking on the phone, I could see my mum talking to the psychology who I couldn’t even remember her name if I wanted to ask for help. I would get so distracted. I remember just looking outside the window wishing I was outside because it was such a beautiful day. I would ask myself over and over again why me, why do I have to find everything so hard, why can’t I just be normal. When the time was up it felt like I didn’t even have five minutes to do it, I didn’t even finish the first question probably. 

My mum and dad said that school work will be hard and that I’m always going to have to give 100% in everything I do. They said that you have to work things out the way that helps you the most, for example I’m in year seven and I still us my fingers when counting and I still use my finger when I’m reading a book so I don’t lose track of where I’m. In Primary school I us to get bullied. The people in my class called me stupid and then would just laugh at me. I never really understood why. They would say “I can’t believe you can’t even spell (friends) probably, you should be in reception with all the little kids there smarter then you” I started to believe them, I couldn’t even spell my last name right. I stop trying as hard and I was always so miserable I hated every second, minute and hour of school.

It was just like I’m a white flower with a thousand other red flowers, I didn’t fit in, I was just told that I was too stupid to learn and I will always be behind. I hated in class when the teacher would make you stand up in front of the whole class and make you say your times tables or spell a word. I was always the last person out of class because I never got the answer right. 

When we had relief teachers it was terrible because they don’t understand like all the other teachers I was treated like a normal, I’m not normal I need help can’t they see that. We would ready something as a class and she would get me to read out loud and I said “I don’t want to”, but she made me. For someone with dyslexia reading out loud is like there night mare coming to life. I was so embarrassed it felt like I was reading even slower. I was so nervous I couldn’t even focus on the sentences I was supposed to read. I was just about to speak but she got me to sit down and asked one of the smarter kids in my class to read it I never felt so stupid in my life. I remember asking to go to the bathroom, I would just wait in there hoping the school bell would ring so that I would just miss some of a lesson, that’s how much I hated it. 

I’m not a big fan of Maths or English only because I don’t understand. Well I’m not a fan of school work, assignment and homework to be honest with you. When people ask me what my favourite subject are, well I would say recuses and lunch if that counts but it would probably have to be P.E and Art/music. Over the years I have found new hobbies because of sports and I love going outside and getting really competitive in sport. Art/music is like another world for me I just understand it. I get to express my feeling in a painting and I’m the only one that understands what I have done. I am extremely creative. I have learnt new skills in art. Music, I could listen to music all day long if I could. I feel as if the lyrics are talking to me and it just really relaxes me. 

That white flower among the thousand red ones is me. I’m not stupid, dumb, lazy, a loser or useless. I’m me, the 13-year-old girl with dyslexia. That student that gives 100% in everything she does and try’s her hardest to prove anyone how talented she is. If you understand what I’m talking about and you know how hard it is to live with dyslexia well, I want you to stand up for what you know is right and never ever let anyone bring you down. You’re not the only one in this big world, it’s hard I know there’s challenges and some time you just feel like giving up but you were given dyslexia because we are only one’s that can fight and deal with it each and every day.” Why be normal when you can be special.”

I would like to thank me teacher’s for everything you have done for me I know high school is going to be a big challenge for me but I know I can do it. I will never give up. Through my years at school it has been a great and memorable time through the ups and downs. You guys have made a huge impact in my life and you have supported me through everything. Keep doing what you’re doing because I’m ready for high school and I can’t wait to start and new journey and reach my dreams no matter how big or small they are. 

From Alana

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Holgate School's Red Letter

22:33:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments




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Good evening Terry and Andy, I just jumped out of bed to write this email to you, in fact this red letter. You see I have been pondering f...

Natasha's Red Letter to Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

13:23:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

Good evening Terry and Andy,

I just jumped out of bed to write this email to you, in fact this red letter. You see I have been pondering for some time all the things I go through as well as my children being dyslexic. I had plans to send my red letter to pollies maybe, but my children inspired me and I have chosen you.

Please understand I have trouble spelling and with grammar at times. Red Letters are encouraged to be written without spell/grammar checks so the recipients can see what its like for us reading everyday. I haven’t strictly followed this guideline, generally correcting the four or five errors in every sentence i write as i go.

I don't know if you know what dyslexia is or what its like, especially in our Queensland schools for dyslexic children. Dyslexia can affect so much, nit just reading, and it is for life. If you have trouble reading, or are slow you have trouble in EVERY subject as everything is written, science, maths, history, art and so on. You see 1 in 10 people, of all backgrounds, are dyslexic. But teachers don't know. In fact, so far we’ve had over 20 main classroom teachers, and not one has had or since had any training or professional development in dyslexia. We have had only 2 of these teachers having a positive impact on my children. I have four children, 3 diagnosed dyslexic, one yet to even start school and  each with their own learning challenges making school all that much harder.

You see the reason I am inspired to send this to you is this – two of my children are reading your books at the moment (this actually translates to I am reading them with their help). My daughter, in year 5, read all the Treehouse books, some by herself (BIG deal for me/us/her!!) and now we are reading your version of Macbeth. I do not like Macbeth, and had to work really hard to motivate myself to read it with her. But I have started, she loves it, loves reading different parts with me, a little like acting (she likes drama!)

So thankyou for writing your books, all the different types you do and the little silly bits you put in that make it fun. I love it when we find something my children want to read, they love being read to, always have (in fact I still read to my teen). But anything that inspires them to try and read by themselves is even better.

Please keep them coming,
Natasha

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I see you  five-years-old   kindergarten big smile, lunch box, back-pack too large counting to 20 seems impossible all is still right w...

NSW Mum's Red Letter

13:16:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

I see you 
five-years-old  
kindergarten
big smile, lunch box, back-pack too large
counting to 20 seems impossible
all is still right with the world…

I see you
six-years-old  
year one
tries to read
not clicking?
why can’t he remember page to page?
‘Never mind, he’ll catch up’
everything still seems okay…

I see you
seven-years-old 
year two
who still persists
I am told
‘He 
can’t 
read.
It’s okay... More reading at home.’
Is there still time?

I see you
eight-years-old 
year three
‘refusing’ to write
testing, reading programs, no answers, eye checks, tutoring, hearing check, IQ assessment… no answer
could it be dyslexia? 
‘NO! 
just not bright’ 
things are starting to crack…

I see you
nine-years-old 
year four
disliking school
hiding, crying, under the desk 
work never finished - if started
Teacher life line: ‘dyslexic signs’
but where to now?
self-esteem is plummeting

I see you
ten-years-old 
year five
struggling everyday
speech therapy 
An answer then?
‘No, definitely not dyslexia’
something is at least working

I see you
eleven-years-old 
year six
almost whole again
amazing teacher
adjustments, understanding, encouragement 
best year 

I see you 
twelve-years-old 
year seven
excited
are you prepared, please be prepared
more testing
I see you 
weary, anxious, down, done
phone call, meeting, email… nothing
I tell them
diagnosis: dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety
phone calls, emails… nothing
I tell them 
diagnosis: dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety, underlying depression
phone calls, emails, meeting… nothing
I tell them 
diagnosis: dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety, underlying depression, 
self-harm…

now can they see?
now have they heard?
now will they learn? 
now will they listen?

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Hon. Susan Close MP, State Education Minister Hon. Jay Weatherill MP, Premier Hon. Simon Birmingham MP, Federal Education Minister My Na...

Bill's Red Letter

00:05:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 1 Comments

Hon. Susan Close MP, State Education Minister
Hon. Jay Weatherill MP, Premier
Hon. Simon Birmingham MP, Federal Education Minister

My Name is Bill Hansberry. I, and many others make a living working with children who are being let down by a school system that is failing at the one important task that the voting population would expect it could achieve – teaching all children how to read.

I only started to believe that 1 in 5 kids struggling to read was actually a problem when I left school teaching and began working in my own business as a specialist dyslexia teacher. Before that, like many of my colleagues, I just accepted that it as normal that about one in five children will always struggle to read. I accepted it as normal that there would be no help for these kids who thought and spoke like other kids, but for some reason, read very slowly and inaccurately and spelled awfully and fell further and further behind, seeing their educational opportunities diminish as they went. It wasn’t just me who thought his was normal. As a specialist in behaviour management within the state government system, I, like my colleagues, ignored the obvious link between poor literacy attainment and poor behaviour (defiance, work refusal, disruptive behaviour, aggressive behaviour, bullying, assaulting peers, assaulting teachers, leaving school grounds, drug taking at school etc.). We just focused on behaviour and ignored the very obvious links between reading failure and behaviour at school.

Eight years earlier, I remember being interviewed for a year seven teacher position at a prestigious private college. The interview was going well and then one of the panel asked “Bill, can you explain your understanding of how children learn to read?” I had nothing. My mouth went dry, my face went red and after a few moments that felt like an eternity I said “I don’t know”. I hadn’t forgotten, I just didn’t know. My four-year Bachelor of Teaching and Bachelor of Education studies at the University of South Australia had left me completely unable to answer this question. I got the position despite the fact I knew nothing about how brains knew to read. The damage I did because of my ignorance is hard to think about, even now.

The year is now 2016. South Australia is bottom of the country in NapLan reading attainment. Spin the data whichever way you like but we are doing very badly. Mr Weatherill, despite what you say, our Education system is not state of the art or cutting edge. We are ignoring the most vulnerable learners in our system and leaving them to fail. The facts are inescapable. Australia has slipped to 27th in the PIRLS international rankings for year 4 readers (2011). Numbers of critical behaviour incidents in SA schools are rising sharply. Our teachers feel less safe than they have ever felt in their places of work. DECD still allows schools to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on non-evidence based reading programs. Undergraduate teachers still spend less than 5% of their time focused on learning to teach children to read and dyslexia remains an unfunded learning disability in schools. Can you decode this situation? Are you able to comprehend what is going on here?

In a country like Australia, it should be expected that educated people who work in schools know what it takes to teach a young person to read and what to do when they don’t learn like the others. They should know what the research says about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to programs that remediate struggling readers. They should put science before the ideology and evidence before anecdote. School leaders should spend more time and money on investigating evidence based teaching and remediation programs than they do on their Stephanie Alexander Garden or their Walker Learning Program.

When a parent meets with a Principal with an identification of dyslexia that explains why their child has not kept up, the Principal should be able to say “We have an evidence based program that we know will make a big difference for your child. We use an evidence based synthetic phonics program right across the school. We use Response to Intervention to monitor the effectiveness of our three tiered system for teaching reading and spelling and we assess all of our students’ reading progress each year. Our classroom readers are phonics based and we have a trained specialist multisensory teacher heading up our learning support program.”

Right now, they hear many Principals say “there’s no funding for dyslexia, we can’t afford to provide the resources your child’s learning disability requires”. Despite not being able to do anything to help Dyslexic learners, many schools will however happily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on dubious edutrends that have no evidence base.

This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs and affects not only dyslexic students, but impacts on all students who become instructional casualties at the hands of education systems who for some reason refuse to listen to what the research into the teaching of reading is saying. We don’t need evolution; we need revolution. There is no time to waste, the human cost is too great.

It’s time for the leaders to lead – your teachers and students are waiting.

Thank you for reading.

Bill Hansberry
Director
Hansberry Educational Consulting

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Lucy's Red Letter

23:34:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 1 Comments






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I have been thinking for a long time about writing about my perspective and experience to people in positions of influence but I have been w...

Kate's Red Letter

23:25:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 1 Comments

I have been thinking for a long time about writing about my perspective and experience to people in positions of influence but I have been wondering how I, as an individual, can effect change in an entrenched system. Thankfully, there are many dedicated and passionate parents and professionals working in the field of education who also desperately want to see change. 

This is my story.

My experience with dyslexia is both personal and professional.

I started my career as a speech language pathologist 28 years ago. With no training in written language at university, my career path took me to places where I was privileged to work with some visionary leaders in the field of speech language pathology, such as Suze Leitao and Leanne Allen.

The joys of parenthood soon arrived, followed 5 years later by the start of my daughter’s school journey. My first taste of the public school system with my daughter was not a positive one. By the end of her first year at school, my once confident and vivacious child was losing confidence and complaining of feeling sick every day. She struggled to learn to ‘read’, aka learn the dreaded sight words (in reality a list of English words with quite often seemingly no logic or sense to her).

At this time, I knew very little about the science of reading and how to help her. So relied on the school system to support her and me.

In desperation, we moved her to a Rudolf Steiner School in Year 2 where she eventually regained her confidence, learnt to read and developed her talents in the creative arts. She has flourished since leaving school and, in fact, just received her Bachelor of Music in a ceremony yesterday.

She is not, despite her struggles with reading and spelling, dyslexic.

My second child had no difficulties with learning to read or spell. He also attended the Steiner School which follows a European time frame of early education. The first year of school, Kindergarten in NSW, was about play, oral language, creativity and imagination. Formal teaching of the alphabet does not occur until the child is at least 6 years of age. Readers are not introduced until term 2 of Year 2 when children are 7 turning 8. He never laid his eyes on a ‘sight word’ sheet. Despite this, he picked up the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ book at the end of Year 1 when he had just turned 7 and commenced to read it perfectly. Needless to say, I took it away from him due to the subject matter.

Throughout this time, in my work with young children with speech and language delays starting their school journey, I began to see their struggles with learning to read. 

My self-education began in earnest….I attended courses, researched online and read and read and read.

But it wasn’t until my youngest child, Darcy, came along that I really experienced first-hand the pain of having a child with a significant learning disability. My gorgeous baby boy developed epilepsy at the age of 3. His development suffered and language in particular. Prior to starting school, a language assessment revealed his language to be so delayed that he was eligible for a place in a Language Support class that now no longer exist in NSW schools. We did not take this position (following an observation session in the class, my son stated loudly in front of everyone ‘This is boring, Mum’).

Fortunately, he has grown out of the epilepsy but it has left its mark.

We also have dyslexia in the family. My husband always had trouble with writing and spelling. I had to edit all his assignments throughout university. I have informally diagnosed him with dyslexia and dysgraphia as an adult. The ‘help’ that he received for his learning difficulties in primary school was to be sent to 7 different schools.

From the time that Darcy was diagnosed with epilepsy, I worked hard with him building his oral language skills, in particular vocabulary and phonemic awareness. This moved on to include literacy from Year 2. Luckily we were on the Steiner path with education as it would have been an utter disaster if Darcy had attended a regular public school and been expected to learn through a whole language approach to reading at the age of 5. 

I once calculated that throughout year 2 and 3, we worked together 3-4 hours a week outside school hours to build his literacy skills. My self-education journey had very clearly pointed the way to a systematic, explicit phonics approach.

Although the Steiner teachers have been brilliant in many ways, I am in no doubt that he would not be able to read and write to the level that he can now without my experience and knowledge gained over many years and the time that I had to dedicate to him over all these years. 

Darcy has had 2 assessments by educational psychologist over the past few years. Both showed him to have significant difficulties with verbal comprehension, working memory (severe) and processing speed (severe) and average to above average perceptual skills. 

Darcy is now in Year 5. He did Naplan this year and his reading is right at the national average and his numeracy is slightly below. This is quite remarkable given his significant underlying cognitive difficulties and shows what is possible with the right intervention and intensity of intervention.

However, from a professional point of view, this makes me very concerned. Much of my time with the clients I see is spent in teaching their parents how to teach their own child to learn to read and spell. Without this what is the outcome. I imagine that can be seen in areas, unlike the area that I am in, where parents cannot afford to pay for private intervention. Areas with intergenerational unemployment and poverty.

The impact on children of struggling to learn to read and not achieving success at school can be devastating….poor self-esteem, disengagement, bullying, anxiety, depression…the list goes on. Research from a recent workshop showed that 30% of the prison population have language and literacy difficulties. Conversely, 30% of entrepreneurs in the US identify as dyslexic. Obviously, there are many factors that contribute to the path an individual takes in life but early lack of success at school is significant.

I often wonder about the wisdom of expecting 4, 5 and 6 year olds to master the incredibly difficult task of learning to read in 2 to 3 years and being despairing at their inability to learn it by 8 or 9 or worse, being written off by some teachers from as young as 6 or 7.

The alphabet is one of the most brilliant inventions of the human mind. It is truly staggering that just 26 symbols, consisting of various combinations of straight and curved lines and circles, can be used to encode over 1 million words. This system took many of the most brilliant minds of their eras over 2000 years to perfect. And yet we expect our children to master it in 2-3 years.

Whilst there are children who are dyslexic, there are many more, like my daughter, who are not but who struggle nonetheless. I, and many others, put this down to the method that is being taught in schools. An abundance of research has shown that ALL children benefit from systematic, explicit phonics instruction. This includes research using the miracle of modern technology in the form of fMRI which allows us to actually see what effect our instruction has had on the brain.

Well, what can be done…..

Universities must change the way they are educating teachers and existing teachers must be retrained. Withdrawing funding from Reading Recovery, as the NSW Government has recently done, is an essential and long overdue step in this process. The next is to ban it. 

Some other aspects of instruction that need to be eliminated are:
1. ‘look-cover-write-check’ – the single most useless strategy to teach children to spell ever thought of
2. Non phonics based early readers
3. Golden words at the start of kindy when many children don’t even know letter-sounds – how can you hope to read ’you’ when you don’t even know what sound ‘y’ makes.
4. Stop referring to words with unusual or irregular spelling as ‘’sight’’ words – every word needs to become a sight word, whether it is ‘’cat’’ or ‘’yacht’’.
5. Educate teachers about non-evidenced based assessment and intervention, eg behavioural optometry, Brain Gym

To the instigators of the Red Letter campaign and Light It Red for Dyslexia, my heartfelt thanks for your contribution. I can see a groundswell starting to take shape. With persistence and the support of politicians, such as Adrian Piccoli, we can make a change. We must …for the sake of our children.

Kate

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To the Hon Simon Birmingham, Hon Susan Close, Jay Weatherill Premier of South Australia and School Principal “She’s a lovely girl, I hope ...

Jacinta's Red Letter

22:42:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

To the Hon Simon Birmingham, Hon Susan Close, Jay Weatherill Premier of South Australia and School Principal

“She’s a lovely girl, I hope she marries a millionaire” Year 1 teacher.   

My name is Jacinta and I have four gorgeous children each with their unique personalities ……My ten-year-old daughter Ruby who is in year 4 has dyslexia.  She was tested by DECS in the fourth term of Reception because she couldn’t sound the alphabet therefore she couldn’t sound out words. She had very poor working memory and would read the word “I” in one sentence but wouldn’t be able to recognise it in the next.  A DECS psychologist came and assessed her and without using the term “Dyslexia” said that she needed explicit teaching with a phonics based program etc etc.  Ruby did get help but she didn’t improve and that was the only time I saw the DECS psychologist even though I was told she would reassess Ruby every term!   

In year one Ruby had a teacher who either couldn’t be bothered reading her DECS report or couldn’t be bothered implementing any of it.  I often asked her what else we could do and she threw her hands up in the air and said “Nothing” and then told me “She’s a lovely girl. I hope she marries a millionaire”!!!!!  REALLY …. REALLY…. how can a teacher say that about any student let alone one that had a learning disability. I was furious and so disappointed. I didn’t know what else to do.

Needless to say, Ruby was a long way behind all of her peers by the time she started Year 2.   She was lucky that in this year she had a proactive teacher who was passionate about her students learning, but by this stage there were already changes in Ruby’s personality and her behaviour at home.  At school Ruby was the perfect student, she was very conscientious and attentive and never gave up, but at home she was more and more angry and frustrated to the point that nearly every night she would have a melt down over the smallest thing. It was frightening: she would be pulling her hair, hitting her head with her hands, scratching, hitting and biting her siblings. Ruby would be in tears and so would I, I didn’t understand it and neither did she.   

To cut a long story short, after talking to a friend who works with dyslexic children, he did some tests to see if Ruby had the warning signs of dyslexia. Low and behold, she did, so we went to have a formal assessment with an educational psychologist at Fullarton House.  This cost alone was $800 and from what I hear that is on the cheap end of the scale. My husband and I have four young children and believe me, the $800 cost was very significant for us, but we would do anything to help our children.  

It turned out that Ruby is dyslexic. The relief of this diagnosis for myself and for Ruby were immense. Finally we could try to understand this dyslexia and get the appropriate help. Ruby felt relief in many ways because she now knew that she wasn’t dumb, it was just her brain that works in a different way. 

So my next thoughts were hopeful – at least now with a diagnosis we’ll get the right help from the school. Ummmm – NO! Unfortunately state schools are not funded for dyslexic children … That’s crazy!  These kids have a neurological disorder and are considered to have a disability according to the Disability Act, but schools do not receive funding!!!  How can this be?  

We are lucky in a way that our school did and still does try to help Ruby, but they didn’t and still don’t have a program specifically designed to help dyslexic learning, so she is still being taught the way her brain doesn’t work.  This year Ruby has a fantastic teacher who understands dyslexia. This is purely because he has a brother with dyslexia and he’s seen first-hand the devastating consequences it can have when not properly addressed. We also now have an amazing tutor for Ruby who is teaching her the way her brain needs to be taught and we pay every week for this.  

In actual fact isn’t it a no brainer that all schools and teachers should be educated in this (Dyslexia) and other learning disabilities? Shouldn’t programs and teaching be implemented that are evidence based and success based for all students including the 1 in 5 with dyslexic type difficulties?  

Now, due to lack of appropriate help, support and teaching, my Ruby’s self-esteem is in tatters, she has huge anxiety and she sees a psychologist to give her tools to help her combat the negative thoughts and feelings she has about herself. This is not OK!!  Children with dyslexia are being let down by the system that promises to educate them and the process of change is happening too slowly for the children that are currently in the school system.    

Ruby is very talented at sports, visual arts, drawing and singing but even now she doesn’t believe she’s good at these things! All we can do it keep building her up in the hope that one day (hopefully very soon) she can see how totally amazing she is. 

Ruby is a fighter and dyslexia has made her so very resilient but there are times when my heart breaks for her…how resilient do these children have to be?  She will succeed in her life but not because of the education system, she’ll succeed because she has two parents that love her very much and will make sure she gets the best possible help. Unfortunately there are many children out there who do not have this level of support, where will they end up?? 

My hope is that my letter and others will bring to your attention the need for a change in programs and teaching in our schools.  My hope is that teachers will be given access and training in the areas of learning disabilities and that others will not go through what Ruby and our family have had to endure.

Kinds Regards,  
Jacinta  

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Maurie Mulheron President NSW Teachers Federation Dear Maurie, Yesterday I spoke to 60 local teachers about my experience with public ...

Gabi's Red Letter

22:09:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

Maurie Mulheron
President
NSW Teachers Federation

Dear Maurie,

Yesterday I spoke to 60 local teachers about my experience with public education. It was at a dyslexia training day at the NSW Department of Education office in Warilla.  It was organised by mothers and teachers. It was the result of a meeting that my daughter and myself had last year with our local state member of parliament about dyslexia in schools. The Learning and Wellbeing Co-ordinator contacted me and we agreed to do something for Dyslexia Empowerment Week in 2016. 

It was a great day. It was proof of what parents and teachers can achieve together. This is only the beginning. This is what I said to the teachers present:

When my child started kindergarten I was happy. I had high hopes for her.

I was and continue to be a true believer in public education

My mother only had 3 years and my father 6 years of formal primary education. 

Unlike our parents, my sister and I had the opportunity to attend high school and university in Australia. Our lived experience demonstrates the transformative power of education. How different our lives have been to my mother’s because we had this educational opportunity. As a working class migrant I felt I did not belong at university but I persevered.  My sister and I are now confident in the written world. We sit at desks at work. 

We wrote plays for fun as children in holidays. We write journals and stories. On her first day of kindergarten I assumed that my daughter would follow the same path to a love of the written word.

How wrong I was.

By the end of kindergarten Emilia’s progress with reading was slow. Her teacher said “I cannot understand why her reading is not taking off.” Every year the gap got wider between her and her classmates. 

I could not understand why.

One year a report written by a monolingual teacher said my child would benefit from reading at home. I have read every night to my children in two languages since they were babies. This comment came after I had paid to get her assessment for dyslexia and had given the teacher the report that explained what needed to be done in the classroom. 

I felt disappointed.

Last week I was given a form about entry to high schools. It explains that there are selective high schools to help students by “teaching them in specialised ways and providing educational material at the appropriate level.”  A high school catering for students with learning differences. 

But not my child’s learning difference.  I have encountered another barrier.

Despite these experiences I still believe in public education.

I disagree with much of what the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) publishes particularly their economic analyses. 

However, the CIS is right about how to teach reading to dyslexic kids.   My daughter’s school experience has taught me that.  

Public education in Finland also offers hope. Finnish teachers read with dyslexics for a long time. Up to three hours a day, five days a week, for many months. Students are given the necessary time to become good readers. The Finnish way is to do whatever works. A country that invests in public education for all has shown outstanding achievements.      

I assume the Australian formal education system will continue to perplex me. I hope my daughter will have some outstanding teachers that will make a positive lifelong impact on my child as some of my teachers have had on me.

I hope that my child’s voice and my parent voice will be listened to as equal partners and not subordinates in education. I hope the evidence base will have an impact on the systemic change required in schools so that all dyslexic children can reach their full potential. 

I was saddened that no teachers from my children’s school were there to hear it. 

I am a true believer in public education. I hope 2017 will be better.

In solidarity,

Gabi

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Dear Senator Simon Birmingham, I have a question for you,  Have you seen my boy, now aged 13, the boy who used to laugh, the boy that wa...

W's Red Letter

21:57:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

Dear Senator Simon Birmingham,

I have a question for you, 

Have you seen my boy, now aged 13, the boy who used to laugh, the boy that was pleasant and a delight to anyone who would cross his path, a boy who was cheerful, full of life, a boy who loved exploring and go on adventures, If you find him, please show him the way back home!

Here is my story, I hope you are able to make things right, as it is so needed for so many children like my boy. 

As soon as he set foot in kindergarten, starting a new world of learning, exploring, meeting his teachers, socializing with other children,  the smiles and laughter started to quickly fade away and seem to disappear into thin air…. Soon there was no sign of that young man, who would brighten anyone’s day, the boy that could make people happy, by even just a simple smile!

For many years, my now 13 year old has been having difficulty keeping up with his peers; I always suspected that something was just not right. He was a late talker… did not say any proper words till he was three, has speech difficulties, stumbles to find the correct words, would repeat a whole sentence, as he lost track about what he wanted to say,  he has been teased a lot from other kids, due to his speech difficulties I knew something was not quite right, I just could not work out what it could be, school was no help either, I suspected that he may be dyslexic and I have spoken to the school, many times, they said I should just read to him more, and practice his sight word too… I did all that and more, still no improvement, I started to ask questions and was looking for answers, the school were not able to answer all the questions I had, I was trying to work out why he was having such difficulties reading, spelling and speaking, writing was difficult too and he is still holding his pen in an awkward grip. 

He could not keep up, In year 1, they suggested he should do the Reading Recovery program and no matter how many times he was practicing his sight words at home and to practice reading, he would simply not pick it up, in year 2, I asked his Pediatrician  if she could diagnose him, She was not able to do so, she is not a developmental Pediatrician , she informed me that school could do some tests that could indicate where the problems would be, but not a diagnosis, she did however diagnose him with borderline ADHD and migraines

In June 2012, I made a request to the school councilor to try and find out why he was having all these difficulties and after I spoke with another mum about my concerns and she too informed me that school can do an assessment,  it is called a ( WISC) and is an individually administered intelligence test for children between the ages of 6 and 16 The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV test), is an IQ test. No writing or reading ability is needed of the child that is taking the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. Once it has been completed, the WISC test produces an IQ score to see where he may be struggling, not once did the school suggest this for my son in the first place.

This report showed a lot of weaknesses in phonological awareness and working memory amongst other things. I spoke with the Principal and she had informed me that school is not able to help with a diagnosis of any kind and to seek help from an Educational Psychologist, These specialists that are very expensive and I am a single mum and unable to work due to my boy’s unpredictable medical conditions. I asked her if she thought that my son may be dyslexic her answer was a simple no and suggested for me to look into dyspraxia, I at the time did not know enough about the symptoms.

I proceeded to explore Dyspraxia, as I thought she would know better, she works with children all the time…. 

I discovered that Lidcombe University was doing research on Dyspraxia and we were invited to do some tests, upon receiving the report, it was discovered that he does not have Dyspraxia and although the test did show again there were some weaknesses found.

In July 2012, He was a victim of an assault by his neighbor, an AVO put in place and the matter went to court, He was seen by Victim support services and received counseling, He has had numerous of nightmares and has been scared to even be alone and finding it difficult to trust adults, He is not confident to ask anyone for help, I believe this scared him for life….

In September 2012, we moved and out of xx and he started a new school entering year 4, I had informed the school about all that has been going on and also gave them all the results of the testing done so far, but they were not able to do anything about the results, although it showed recommendations by other specialists

Soon after starting that school, trouble started occurring again and he was getting bullied, not once but a number of times, one time he was hit on the back with bamboo sticks, so hard it left him with permanent marks and again being teased due to his speech difficulties and some kids were teasing him about his spelling and told him to go back to kindy !

I complained to the school, but they did nothing to help stop it, all they would say to the other kids involved, is to not hurt others and to be kind to each other.
At times he would not behave in class the way that is expected of him, destroying his homework, doing just about anything to avoid having to do the work, he was simply not able too.

In May 2013, the school suggested for him to go to “Stewart House” and to be able for both of us to have a break from everything.

During the stay, children are provided with optometric, dental and medical treatment as well as emotional support. This is balanced with health and educational programs and out of school activities to boost their self-esteem and to promote a healthier lifestyle and is part of the NSW Department of Education 

He attended for 2 weeks, and really enjoyed it, as it was not a structured school setting. It was also a great respite for me as I too needed time out from all that has been going on.

Upon returning to his usual school, things soon became again very difficult and again been having trouble to keep up with his peers…. They just did not seem to understand or want to understand what happens when someone is not getting the assistance required with his learning difficulties, he is so anxious and stressed and his self esteem sinking further into oblivion, the ignorance and understanding of these difficulties in most schools is appalling, you can count yourself lucky if you find a school that is able to assist somewhat. It’s like a lottery ticket.

Every start of the year in Primary, I would hope for a teacher that would understand and sympathize and at least be accepting of information and to follow the simple accommodations within the classroom. 

No matter how many times, I had passed on information to teachers /schools, to suggest strategies, they seem to ignore it, or it was placed in the too hard basket… 

And so again the same behavior and avoidance would start again, he would also be showing strong symptoms of anxiety and feel so sick, that he was unable to attend school 

After yet another meeting  with the school to try and make things work, and  to also let them know that his behavior is due to the lack of support , they did not want to know, , It seems that he was just  too difficult . He was not like the other grade A or B students, this boy who just needed to be understood 

I took him to counseling, to help him with his anxiety and behavior, to help him with school related issues. 

Nothing I did to help him would make things better, as they were not doing the right thing by him. Something is drastically needed to address this within the system. If schools/ teachers were more able to recognize these difficulties, my son would most likely never have become that boy who is in need of seeing mental health professionals and to get medical certificates for his absences.

So yet again they suggested, he should go to yet again a different school… for a few weeks to help with his behavior, they do not seem to understand what it means to have to be in class each day and to try so hard without any teacher understanding, the difficulty these children have, each and every second of the day. 

This school is for children with challenging behaviors and provides an intensive intervention program for up to 20 weeks for students in Years 5 to 8. The program is designed for students who have experienced problems in their ability to access the academic, behavioral and social curriculum of their mainstream home schools. 

PP was small structured school and two /three teachers and all trained in special education and only at most about 8 students He had some great days there, but mostly he would benefit from one on one tutoring.  This was only for 20 weeks and I believe some of his best in years, he came out more confident and ready to go back to school when the time had finished.

Upon returning to his usual schooling, things became quickly to difficult again and although he was getting a lot of support at PP, he was not getting ANY support at school and was thrown into the deep end.. He was drowning so to speak and schools should be more aware what happens with a child that has learning differences and not getting the right support. They become anxious and easily frustrated .. They have been hurt and tried so hard for so long, they give up.. Enough is enough…!

He started complaining about tummy aches, He would wake in the morning, with a migraine, he would feel weak, at times unable to walk, have pains almost daily, In that same month his tummy ache was that bad that the doctor sent us to Hospital, with the suspicion of appendicitis, there they did tests and no, we have the all clear…. 

During that time he had become so frustrated and angry, every time we would discuss anything to do with school, that one day, he barricaded himself into his bedroom and said he wanted to kill himself by placing his hands around his neck and banging his head against the wall, He also had picked up a knife from the kitchen, I contacted his councilor and she recommended I call an ambulance and police came to the house too as I rang 000, the police were able to get him out of his room, that is when I discovered the knife

They took us to the Royal North shore for observation and seen by a mental health team, later to be able to go home and to follow up with a physiatrists at a later date.

A few days later, he was seen by a physiatrists and there he was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and ODD . and I am sure this has been due to the years of struggle and trying so hard to keep up with his peers and for the nonexistent support and understanding in the education system.

In Oct 2014 He was seen by the team of Learning links and there he was diagnosed as having Specific Learning Difficulties, otherwise known as Dyslexia, along with the report from Learning Links and ONLY due to a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, school was then able to apply for funding, although it took a very long time to get everything in place, and even when all was granted, it would still not be enough 

In Feb 2015, we had a week at Coral Tree Family services, just to get some help and guidance with my boy who had simply had enough, his self esteem was at an all time low and no more will power to keep going.

In the start of 2015 The school had applied for funding , and although the first time it was not successful, the education department finally approved it in May, In June I asked the school as I still was not made aware that funding was approved, I then contacted the Education Department myself and was informed school was already getting the funding since May, of course I contacted the school  and organized a meeting  and was asking them how they would help him and.nothing was being put in place immediately, the constant following up and asking what and when he may get some help  It wasn’t till August of that year that only sometimes he was getting a little help from a Teachers Aid , she was not qualified to teach children like my son, this person would just sit and try and help, one day of the week and this was not every week! The school purchased a program called Razkids  A reading program which he was able to access ….. This is all they were able to do for him…  

Now in year 7 and still struggles on a daily basis. Why is it so hard for schools to understand ?  I have lost faith in the Education System and know a lot of parents who pulled their children out of school and are now homeschooling… I thought that every student has a right to an education, is my son not THAT student ?

The difficulties at school will affect things at home too, due to being frustrated and hurt for so long.  Suffering from low self esteem/stress and anxiety. finding it hard to stay focused and even noise is distracting, He already has had numerous days of due to him waking up feeling sick,  too sick to go to school.

This year he started High school, I was hoping for a better start and after meeting with Learning support and the year 7 coordinator, the deputy principal.  I again passed on some useful info and an IEP plan was developed in March, all teachers were suppose to be informed about his difficulties, LS to also adjust his homework/school work, but still he was getting work send home that had not been altered by LS… I contacted the school on numerous times, about this, it kept occurring,   I had given the school a lot of information about my sons difficulties and how to help children like my son with some reasonable adjustment put in place within the classroom and it seems they would have been ignored again.

Frustration anxiety and behavior started building again and I would be notified by letter to explain what was going to be happening the following day, They would use a “step program” and the first step is to place him in isolation away from his peers, That would not be a good idea for someone like my boy, now would it , next step 2 would be to be pulled out of class and working in the deputy principal office.. step 3 suspension !  That certainly did nothing to correct my sons behavior, they could not understand that.

This would happen again and again… 

Just recently this again was a problem at school, as his anxiety and dyslexia were simply ignored,  over and over again. 

When the deputy principal contacted me in late August , she asked me to collect him, as again he was not  behaving the way a student is required to, I asked what other things they are doing to with help, she said that in the last 3 months,  they only focused on the behavior plan put in place ? That was their first priority?.

I was so shocked to hear her say this, I came and collected him, and did not want to return him to the school that were ignoring his needs, I went to the GP and emailed the school with a copy of the medical certificate and then I wrote her an email suggesting the following to the deputy principal 

{email removed by myredletter for privacy}

This was not the response I was looking forward to read, no mention at all about his other learning needs. Needless to say, I recently pulled him out of that high school since they were doing nothing to help… and even when I asked the principal , what do you think children with dyslexia struggle with her answer…  “ It is just a reading difficulty, isn’t it “  ……you should have seen the frustration on my face… if looks could kill !

Nothing was being done even though I gave the school plenty of information as to how to help children like my son… all they were seeing is a child with behavior problems…. That is it… They suspended him a number of times, has had in school detentions, meeting after meeting with me to discuss behavior

I contacted the regional office and mentioned my frustrations and spoke with a new school in the area, where he has just started   The best decision I have made in a while, I explained all that has happened in the past,and they mentioned that my son’s emotional well being is the most important issue right now… once he feels he is supported, he will slowly become a happier boy and will start feeling better and will be able to learn .I already notice a big difference in support.. all schools should be the same with understanding learning differences.

Early intervention is needed now, to prevent the ongoing need for psychiatrists, psychologist, and the use of other mental health facilities, the need for children like my son to have go to seek help from to MSL tutors, because the schools are not able to help.

With years of struggle, children like mine, simply give up, they will then go on and become yet another burden in the system, they will end up in prison …I am determined to keep fighting for what is right for my boy.  the number of people with learning difficulties in prison is astounding, and does not have to be this way… !

So hereby I am asking you, you CAN make things possible, unless drastic action is taken within the education system and teachers are taught how to teach children like my son and how to implement strategies and make reasonable adjustments and to reinforce these on a daily basis, children like my son will only sink further into depression/anxiety and avoidance of anything to do with school.

Thank you for reading my side of the story as part of the “Red Letter campaign”

This too has affected me personally, my own physical and mental health is at an all time low, The need for change is of great importance for everyone affected by the battle we face each and every day!

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The Make it a Red Letter Day Competition began a little over seven weeks ago. The idea was to encourage children to express their feelings a...

Make it a Red Letter Day Competition Letters

21:21:00 Code Read Dyslexia Network 0 Comments

The Make it a Red Letter Day Competition began a little over seven weeks ago. The idea was to encourage children to express their feelings about living with dyslexia. Our hope was to create awareness in the general community and influence those in a position to create change to take action.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our incredible community - you have taken the Red Letter Campaign on board and we have made an impact. It has been a roller coaster of a journey this last seven weeks. Reading these letters has been joyous and heartbreaking in equal measure.

We would especially like to thank the children for participating, as we know the immense amount of strength it took for you to put all your vulnerabilities on the page for the world to see. In our eyes you are all beyond amazing, your voices are being heard and that helps all children. Thank you.

The competition has now closed with an amazing 103 entries, please take the time to look through all these letters if you have not yet. They will touch your heart and soul, and hopefully move you to advocate for much needed change in the education system.


A sincere and heartfelt thank you from the members of the organising committee. Victoria, Julie, Jen, Sarah, Anita, Carolyn, Heidi, Belinda and Maree.


Entry # Link Age State
E001 Christa 17 VIC
E002 Anna 7 NSW
E003 Lewis 16 NSW
E004 Tilly 6 NSW
E005 Caden 9 SA
E006 James 9 QLD
E007 Zoe 10 SA
E008 Megan 10 NSW
E009 Casey 8 SA
E010 Eliza 17 SA
E011 Charlise 10 NSW
E012 Alexa 8 VIC
E013 Scout 10 WA
E014 Harrison 14 NSW
E015 Heidi 11 VIC
E016 Lily 10 QLD
E017 Taylah 12 SA
E018 Ella 10 WA
E019 Hunter 9 VIC
E020 Grace 10 SA
E021 Nalani 9 WA
E022 Jade 7 SA
E023 Grace 8 NSW
E024 Leo 11 SA
E025 Nathan 12 NSW
E026 Fletcher 7 WA
E027 Kate 8 NSW
E028 Olivia 9 VIC
E029 Claire 5 VIC
E030 Liam 12 VIC
E031 Ruby 10 VIC
E032 Harrison 13 WA
E033 Cailam 15 WA
E034 Lachlan 14 WA
E035 Niamh 10 WA
E036 Jasmine 16 WA
E037 Elizabeth 18 NSW
E038 Mackie 12 VIC
E039 Gwendolyn 9 SA
E040 Chelsy-Rose 11 VIC
E041 Tara 10 VIC
E042 Maisie 11 NSW
E043 Jade 11 WA
E044 Bethany 9 NSW
E045 Callie 9 NSW
E046 Kaiya 9 VIC
E047 Ruby 10 SA
E048 Karla 11 NSW
E049 Harry 10 QLD
E050 Amity 8 QLD
E051 Riley 11 VIC
E052 Dylan 10 SA
E053 Jamie 10 VIC
E054 Jayda 11 WA
E055 Rachel 11 WA
E056 Connor 10 NSW
E057 Georgia 10 SA
E058 Jessie 8 SA
E059 Daniel 11 SA
E060 Mason 11 QLD
E061 Samual 9 SA
E062 Alexander 14 VIC
E063 Emily 10 SA
E064 Violet 10 VIC
E065 Jaxon 7 SA
E066 Amelia 10 NSW
E067 Charlie 9 QLD
E068 Tiera 9 NSW
E069 Tyko 10 SA
E070 Amelia 8 NSW
E071 Tully 12 QLD
E072 Soren 11 VIC
E073 Hannah 14 NSW
E074 Belle 13 SA
E075 Tyler 12 QLD
E076 Patrick 8 NT
E077 Sebastian 9 NSW
E078 Mikayla 11 VIC
E079 Imogen 11 QLD
E080 Kris 11 VIC
E081 Lili 11 NSW
E082 Harley 11 VIC
E083 Darcy 11 NSW
E084 Jasper 9 NSW
E085 Menindee 13 NSW
E086 Cloe 14 SA
E087 Oliver 11 VIC
E088 Jasper 9 VIC
E089 Asher 12 NSW
E090 Emily 13 NSW
E091 Aidan 11 VIC
E092 Kieran 11 WA
E093 Jordan 16 SA
E094 Baylie 9 VIC
E095 Lauren 10 VIC
E096 Lucas 9 NSW
E097 Phoebe 18 WA
E098 Alyssia 16 QLD
E099 Milla 9 VIC
E100 Lincoln 9 SA
E101 Elliott 12 VIC
E102 Jack 11 VIC
E103 Tahlia 10 QLD

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