Dr. Norm Forman, Navigating the IEP & IPRC Process – A Decoding Dyslexia Ontario Webinar

Decoding Dyslexia – Ontario held an information session and webinar on Saturday October 28, 2017, at Beaches Reading Clinic, featuring Dr. Norm Forman. We learned a great deal about the IEP/IPRC process and how parents can effectively advocate for their children.

Dr. Forman is a Registered Psychologist with a Doctor of Education degree who has specialized in parent/child advocacy issues for over twenty years. He is also the author of Exceptional Children Ordinary Schools: Getting the Education You Want for Your Special Needs Child. Based on his book, Dr. Forman developed Parent Advocacy Training Programs for the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada and the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario which were made available on the Web.

Dr. Forman was a member of the TDSB Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) for many years. He consults with parents, families and schools.

Read more: http://www.parentsadvocacy.com/parentsadvocacy/who-we-are

Thanks very much to Monica from Beaches Reading Clinic, and Dr. Norm Forman, for working with us to provide valuable information for parents and their children.

This is the recording of the webinar. If you have any questions, or would like further information, message us, or send an email to saydyslexiacanada@gmail.com

 

 

Canada-focused research on education

Through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada* (CMEC), since at least 2009, Canada’s Provincial Ministers of Education have been aware that the lack of identification and interventions for dyslexia is a contributing factor to the problems encountered by students in Canada achieving success in Literacy. CMEC is a good source of Canada-focused research and has many publications with valuable guidance and information.

The following excerpts from CMEC documents highlight a portion of the information that has been available for members of the public, school boards and ministries of education. And yet, the 1 in 5 students with dyslexia, in Ontario and across Canada, are still going without the identification, intervention and support they require.

From the document Key factors to support literacy success in school-age populations – A literature review by CMEC and Statistics Canada (2009):

“Special Considerations: Kindergarten to grade 3 students

Kindergarten and early intervention: Ninety per cent of eligible Canadian children attend kindergarten, which is available but not compulsory in all provinces and territories. Kindergarten is the first school-based opportunity for early intervention with children at risk for reading difficulties. With appropriate intervention in kindergarten, children can enter grade 1 ready to read.

In the K–3 years, all children should be taught to read in their regular classroom. Children who need additional instruction can participate in small groups that are provided in addition to the whole-class instruction they receive in their regular classroom.

Class size and instructional time: Having a small number of students in one class does not guarantee effective educational practice unless accompanied by professional development and planning for, with, and by the teachers, which must be available to support the desired changes”

“Special considerations: Middle and secondary school students

The need for explicit reading instruction in both middle schools and secondary schools

Many of the students who reach secondary school have problems in comprehension, inadequate vocabulary, insufficient background knowledge, poor reading fluency, and little or no motivation to read. These students need to develop appropriate levels of proficiency to learn from the textbooks that include conceptual and technical language in the different curriculum areas. The students who drop out of school as soon as their age allows are likely to be poor readers. (Maughan, Hagell, Rutter, and Yule 1994; Knighton and Bussière 2006).”

“Children with learning disabilities

Research on children with learning disabilities (LD) shows the importance of early identification of these difficulties because if such children fall behind in kindergarten and grade 1, they will, without intervention, fall further and further behind over time (Lyon 1995, as cited in Lipka and Siegel 2007).

The reading skills that are particularly important for students who have reading disabilities to acquire should be taught using direct and explicit instruction — phonological processing (including phonemic awareness and phonics) and reading comprehension. Students should be provided with opportunities to practise these skills through sustained and extensive time engaged in literacy activities. Teachers may support struggling readers in the classroom by having books at various reading levels (O’Connor, Bell, Harty, Larkin, Sackor, and Zigmond 2002) and by using resources such as technology (MacArthur, Ferretti, Okolo, and Cavalier 2001).”

From a 2009 report called An Examination of Barriers to Pursuing PSE (Post-Secondary Education) and Potential Solutions:

“A significant minority of students participating in focus groups reported having learning disabilities, which, according to them, caused them to struggle with school. Students with learning disabilities and parents of these students suggested that many schools are not adequately equipped to meet their special needs. Specifically, teachers are not properly trained to recognize students who may have special needs. A few parents said they had to pay out of their own pockets to have their child tested. When teachers do not take the necessary steps to ensure that students who may have special needs are formally identified (e.g., through the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee), they ultimately prevent them from getting the help they need to succeed. One student with dyslexia, who was not diagnosed until later in secondary school, said that his teachers made no effort to help him, treating him as though he was “worthless”. This caused the student to suffer from low self-esteem and extreme anxiety, eventually making it very difficult for him to perform. A few students and parents of students who had been formally identified as having special needs reported that teachers did not adjust the curriculum to accommodate their students (e.g., alter programs in terms of content, process, product and evaluation). They also suggested that resources were not made available to help these students. Students with learning disabilities who were not given the proper attention they needed typically obtained low grades, suffered from low self-esteem, feared failure  and disliked school. This was a major barrier, not only to PSE, but also to graduating from high school.”

These nearly decade old recommendations fly in the face of Ontario’s newly revamped 2016 Kindergarten Program which is dominated by inquiry-based learning with no requirement to identify, assess, monitor and intervene with our youngest students with possible dyslexia or other reading challenges.

Decoding Dyslexia has been asking Ontario’s Ministry of Education to introduce a province-wide policy which would require that all Kindergarten students be assessed and identified for dyslexia and other reading challenges [i.e. some English Language Learners (ELLs)]. Such policies exist in many U.S. states, most recently Texas. On an individual level, such an early reading assessment policy and intervention would close a reading learning gap before it becomes a chasm. Children with dyslexia would increase their self-esteem and would re-engage a group which over the course of their grade-school education will get bullied at higher rates than average and will drop out of high school at a significantly higher rate than the average student (approx. 30%). In March 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Commission acknowledged the challenges these students face throughout their childhood education and adulthood (For persons with disabilities in Canada, education is not always an open door: CHRC report, March 9, 2017).

*The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) is an intergovernmental body founded in 1967 by ministers of education to serve as:

  • a forum to discuss policy issues;
  • a mechanism through which to undertake activities, projects, and initiatives in areas of mutual interest;
  • a means by which to consult and cooperate with national education organizations and the federal government; and
  • an instrument to represent the education interests of the provinces and territories internationally.

CMEC resources with references to dyslexia:

CMEC > Programs and Initiatives > Literacy > Yukon

… continue to be trained in a specific reading program that addresses the learning styles of students with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.

www.cmec.ca/234/Programs-and-Initiatives/Literacy/…/index.html

CMEC > Programs and Initiatives > Literacy > New Brunswick

Since 2008-09, the New Brunswick Department of Education has recommended highly specific interventions for students with dyslexia, who now receive …

www.cmec.ca/225/Programs-and-Initiatives/Literacy/…/index.html

 Key Factors to Support Literacy Success in School-Aged Populations

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

Page 1. KEY FACTORS. TO SUPPORT. LITERACY SUCCESS. IN SCHOOL- AGED. POPULATIONS. A LITERATURE REVIEW. CANADIAN EDUCATION …

www.cmec.ca/Publications/…/key-factors-literacy-school-aged.pdf

Assessment Matters!

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

the test but unable to access it because of a special need, such as hearing or visual impairment, dyslexia, or physical impairment, the same policy may be …

www.cmec.ca/…/Lists/…/Assessment%20Matters_No%2010_EN.pdf

 Progress Report on Literacy 2009

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

as dyslexia. It may also be beneficial to students who lack basic reading and spelling skills. Yukon is engaged in ongoing professional and community dialogue.

www.cmec.ca/Publications/…/cmec-literacy-progress-report-2009.pdf

An Examination of Barriers to Pursuing PSE and Potential Solutions

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

May 25, 2008 dyslexia, who was not diagnosed until later in secondary school, said that his teachers made no effort to help him, treating him as though he …

www.cmec.ca/…/EKOS-FINAL-16-03-09-An-exam-of-barriers-EN.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Canada-focused research on education

Through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada* (CMEC), since at least 2009, Canada’s Provincial Ministers of Education have been aware that the lack of identification and interventions for dyslexia is a contributing factor to the problems encountered by students in Canada achieving success in Literacy. CMEC is a good source of Canada-focused research and has many publications with valuable guidance and information.

The following excerpts from CMEC documents highlight a portion of the information that has been available for members of the public, school boards and ministries of education. And yet, the 1 in 5 students with dyslexia, in Ontario and across Canada, are still going without the identification, intervention and support they require.

From the document Key factors to support literacy success in school-age populations – A literature review by CMEC and Statistics Canada (2009):

“Special Considerations: Kindergarten to grade 3 students

Kindergarten and early intervention: Ninety per cent of eligible Canadian children attend kindergarten, which is available but not compulsory in all provinces and territories. Kindergarten is the first school-based opportunity for early intervention with children at risk for reading difficulties. With appropriate intervention in kindergarten, children can enter grade 1 ready to read.

In the K–3 years, all children should be taught to read in their regular classroom. Children who need additional instruction can participate in small groups that are provided in addition to the whole-class instruction they receive in their regular classroom.

Class size and instructional time: Having a small number of students in one class does not guarantee effective educational practice unless accompanied by professional development and planning for, with, and by the teachers, which must be available to support the desired changes”

“Special considerations: Middle and secondary school students

The need for explicit reading instruction in both middle schools and secondary schools

Many of the students who reach secondary school have problems in comprehension, inadequate vocabulary, insufficient background knowledge, poor reading fluency, and little or no motivation to read. These students need to develop appropriate levels of proficiency to learn from the textbooks that include conceptual and technical language in the different curriculum areas. The students who drop out of school as soon as their age allows are likely to be poor readers. (Maughan, Hagell, Rutter, and Yule 1994; Knighton and Bussière 2006).”

“Children with learning disabilities

Research on children with learning disabilities (LD) shows the importance of early identification of these difficulties because if such children fall behind in kindergarten and grade 1, they will, without intervention, fall further and further behind over time (Lyon 1995, as cited in Lipka and Siegel 2007).

The reading skills that are particularly important for students who have reading disabilities to acquire should be taught using direct and explicit instruction — phonological processing (including phonemic awareness and phonics) and reading comprehension. Students should be provided with opportunities to practise these skills through sustained and extensive time engaged in literacy activities. Teachers may support struggling readers in the classroom by having books at various reading levels (O’Connor, Bell, Harty, Larkin, Sackor, and Zigmond 2002) and by using resources such as technology (MacArthur, Ferretti, Okolo, and Cavalier 2001).”

From a 2009 report called An Examination of Barriers to Pursuing PSE (Post-Secondary Education) and Potential Solutions:

“A significant minority of students participating in focus groups reported having learning disabilities, which, according to them, caused them to struggle with school. Students with learning disabilities and parents of these students suggested that many schools are not adequately equipped to meet their special needs. Specifically, teachers are not properly trained to recognize students who may have special needs. A few parents said they had to pay out of their own pockets to have their child tested. When teachers do not take the necessary steps to ensure that students who may have special needs are formally identified (e.g., through the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee), they ultimately prevent them from getting the help they need to succeed. One student with dyslexia, who was not diagnosed until later in secondary school, said that his teachers made no effort to help him, treating him as though he was “worthless”. This caused the student to suffer from low self-esteem and extreme anxiety, eventually making it very difficult for him to perform. A few students and parents of students who had been formally identified as having special needs reported that teachers did not adjust the curriculum to accommodate their students (e.g., alter programs in terms of content, process, product and evaluation). They also suggested that resources were not made available to help these students. Students with learning disabilities who were not given the proper attention they needed typically obtained low grades, suffered from low self-esteem, feared failure  and disliked school. This was a major barrier, not only to PSE, but also to graduating from high school.”

These nearly decade old recommendations fly in the face of Ontario’s newly revamped 2016 Kindergarten Program which is dominated by inquiry-based learning with no requirement to identify, assess, monitor and intervene with our youngest students with possible dyslexia or other reading challenges.

Decoding Dyslexia has been asking Ontario’s Ministry of Education to introduce a province-wide policy which would require that all Kindergarten students be assessed and identified for dyslexia and other reading challenges [i.e. some English Language Learners (ELLs)]. Such policies exist in many U.S. states, most recently Texas. On an individual level, such an early reading assessment policy and intervention would close a reading learning gap before it becomes a chasm. Children with dyslexia would increase their self-esteem and would re-engage a group which over the course of their grade-school education will get bullied at higher rates than average and will drop out of high school at a significantly higher rate than the average student (approx. 30%). In March 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Commission acknowledged the challenges these students face throughout their childhood education and adulthood (For persons with disabilities in Canada, education is not always an open door: CHRC report, March 9, 2017).

*The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) is an intergovernmental body founded in 1967 by ministers of education to serve as:

  • a forum to discuss policy issues;
  • a mechanism through which to undertake activities, projects, and initiatives in areas of mutual interest;
  • a means by which to consult and cooperate with national education organizations and the federal government; and
  • an instrument to represent the education interests of the provinces and territories internationally.

CMEC resources with references to dyslexia:

CMEC > Programs and Initiatives > Literacy > Yukon

… continue to be trained in a specific reading program that addresses the learning styles of students with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.

www.cmec.ca/234/Programs-and-Initiatives/Literacy/…/index.html

CMEC > Programs and Initiatives > Literacy > New Brunswick

Since 2008-09, the New Brunswick Department of Education has recommended highly specific interventions for students with dyslexia, who now receive …

www.cmec.ca/225/Programs-and-Initiatives/Literacy/…/index.html

 Key Factors to Support Literacy Success in School-Aged Populations

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

Page 1. KEY FACTORS. TO SUPPORT. LITERACY SUCCESS. IN SCHOOL- AGED. POPULATIONS. A LITERATURE REVIEW. CANADIAN EDUCATION …

www.cmec.ca/Publications/…/key-factors-literacy-school-aged.pdf

Assessment Matters!

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

the test but unable to access it because of a special need, such as hearing or visual impairment, dyslexia, or physical impairment, the same policy may be …

www.cmec.ca/…/Lists/…/Assessment%20Matters_No%2010_EN.pdf

 Progress Report on Literacy 2009

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

as dyslexia. It may also be beneficial to students who lack basic reading and spelling skills. Yukon is engaged in ongoing professional and community dialogue.

www.cmec.ca/Publications/…/cmec-literacy-progress-report-2009.pdf

An Examination of Barriers to Pursuing PSE and Potential Solutions

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

May 25, 2008 dyslexia, who was not diagnosed until later in secondary school, said that his teachers made no effort to help him, treating him as though he …

www.cmec.ca/…/EKOS-FINAL-16-03-09-An-exam-of-barriers-EN.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor – Toronto Star

Letter to the Editor

Toronto Star

Re: “Ontario budget puts focus on children’s well-being,” April 27, 2017

As parents of children with dyslexia, a reading disability that affects 1 in 5 children in Ontario, we were interested to read the TO Star article, “Ontario budget puts focus on children’s well-being,” April 27, 2017.

We applaud the province’s funding for children’s mental health and well-being in the 2017 budget, and their recognition that this support must start early.

We hope that this support will be extended to the many children with dyslexia who struggle to read and write currently with little to no support in Ontario elementary schools. EQAO data shows that without support in the early years, many dyslexic students are not equipped to take academic-level courses in high school nor will they pass the Grade 10 literacy exam on their first attempt. At least 30% will drop out. They grow into adults who struggle to find meaningful work. Many, after spending their childhood struggling to learn, suffer long-term self-esteem, anxiety, and other more serious mental health issues.

There is good news: evidence shows that children with dyslexia can be identified and taught to read with specialized instruction as early as kindergarten — preventing a lifetime of struggle. Many families hire private tutors to get that instruction, while many others can’t afford the expense. Given that the province has pledged some $49 million for children’s mental health and wellness in the 2017 budget, mainly through school-based programs, what better time than now to provide support to all dyslexic children in our schools? Doing so would lead to significant improvements in the mental health and well-being of children in Ontario.

​Annette​ Sang

Decoding Dyslexia Ontario

Decoding Dyslexia Ontario Needs You!

If you are a parent or family member of a student with dyslexia, and want to lend your skills to create change, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario needs you! We are seeking people who have skills in the following areas: finance, law (education, human rights, advocacy), media relations, marketing, research & government relations.

If you are interested, please join us for our open meeting on Saturday the 11th of February from 1-4 pm at Queen Elizabeth Park Community Centre in Oakville, Ontario (2304 Bridge Road, Oakville, ON, L6L 3L5).

RSVP by messaging the page or emailing us at decodingdyslexiaon@gmail.com. Hope to see you there!

Faces of Dyslexia in Canada – 2017

Welcome to 2017!

This year, in an effort to increase awareness about Dyslexia in Canada, Decoding Dyslexia branches across our country are launching our “Faces of Dyslexia Canada” video. We need the country to know about our bright and incredibly capable young people with dyslexia who deserve an education appropriate to their learning needs.

Please share widely. Share with your schools, with your local school trustees, with your MPPs and anyone else who will listen and support the changes necessary so that all children in Canada can learn to read in our schools.

Thanks for your support!

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER KATHLEEN WYNNE – STUDENTS WITH DYSLEXIA IN ONTARIO NEED YOUR SUPPORT

Dear Premier Wynne,

Congratulations on your government’s December 5th commitment to develop an education accessibility standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This is an important step toward ensuring equality of education across our province and as representatives of dyslexia-focused organizations, we are pleased to see this development in Ontario.

 

You see, our children with dyslexia are, by definition, of average to above average intelligence but experience unexpected difficulty learning to read, spell & write. Dyslexia is a neurobiological difference that is hereditary and affects approximately 1 in 5 children in the general population. This means that in any class of 30 children, there will be 4 – 5 children who struggle to learn to read, spell & write because of dyslexia. Approximately 80% of those deemed learning disabled are students with dyslexia.

 

These numbers are shocking. Even more shocking is that the majority of teachers in our province are unprepared to teach reading to children with dyslexia. Children with dyslexia can learn to read but require explicit and systematic instruction utilizing a structured literacy approach (including phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, morphology, fluency, vocabulary, syntax, semantics, as well as oral and reading comprehension). However, our colleges of education do not provide teachers with the type or depth of instruction necessary to allow teachers to effectively teach reading to this large portion of students in their classrooms.

The result is evident in the government’s own statistics. EQAO reports indicate that 51% of children who failed the Grade Three literacy exam went on to fail it again in Grade Six and again in Grade Ten. Children who do not learn to read and write early on continue to fail unless we provide them with the reading instruction that works. The recent consultation report on the Provincial Demonstration Schools highlights the challenges that our public education system faces in supporting this vulnerable population effectively.

 

Reading is the most fundamental skill that children must acquire in order to navigate their school experience. Yet, our organizations hear regularly that parents and their children struggle to receive assessments to confirm a diagnosis of dyslexia and to obtain, on this basis, the necessary interventions that could make the difference between school failure and success for a child. If our public schools cannot teach all children to read, where are families to turn to for help? Private tutoring, where available, costs $60 – $100 per hour, completely unaffordable for the majority of families in Ontario.

 

The social and emotional costs of failing to intervene for a child with dyslexia are enormous. Did you know:

  • Approximately 40% of children with learning disabilities experience mental health issues including anxiety and depression (Integra Program).
  • A recent piece of research out of the U of T indicates that children with dyslexia are five times more likely to experience abuse (Fuller-Thomson et. al).
  • Research in the U.S. and Canada suggests that our prison systems are full of people with low literacy, including many who are dyslexic. 65% of all inmates in Canada have achieved less than a grade 8 level of literacy (Literacy & Policing Project).

 

Consider the case of Quin as described by his mother. He is in Grade 4, has a formal diagnosis of dyslexia and his school in Ontario will not provide help for his reading and writing challenges:

kw-letter-pic-1

A couple days after my little man was formally diagnosed with dyslexia, I found him at the kitchen table creating this poster. “Dyslexia. It’s not a disadilatee. It’s a Super Power. For the pepole who are  Dyslexik, Don’t give UP!” 

 

My heart sang. You see just days earlier my husband and I were so worried about giving him the label of “dyslexia”. But after sitting him down and talking to Quin about all the amazingly different ways his brain works, we said the words… “and it’s called dyslexia.” His face lit up! 

 

We were so worried about labelling him with the word “DYSLEXIA”, that it never occurred to us that he had already self labelled himself as “STUPID”. And by saying the word “dyslexia” we erased the word “stupid”.   

 

kw-letter-pic-2Or so we thought. The sad reality is, nearly one year after Quin created that poster he’s back to calling himself “stupid” and “dumb”, and this time, it’s the educational system’s fault.  

 

You see Quin’s school refuses to provide him with the proper intervention for his reading and writing, and more frustrating than that, our school board is one of the few boards that has an intervention program for kids with reading difficulties. Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have access to it. The school says that there’s not enough of a demand. This confuses me, because if the above stats are true (and they are) and Quin’s school has a population of 440 students, then surely Quin is not the only child in desperate need of a reading intervention program at his school. Children are falling through the cracks and the school system is failing them.

 

So, as Quin’s peers continue to excel and grow academically, my 4th grader sits stagnant at school, feeling ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’.  

 

Premier Wynne, this is just one of thousands of stories of children with dyslexia who are not receiving the education that they are guaranteed to under The Education Act. As a former Minister of Education, you know that this is not fair. This is a violation of human rights guaranteed not only under The Ontario Human Rights Code, but also under The U.N. Convention on The Rights of The Child and The U.N. Convention on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Learning to read for a child with dyslexia is like providing an accessible ramp through the front door of a school for a child who must use a wheelchair – it is the key to ensuring that a child can access an education they deserve. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Moore v. British Columbia (Education), 2012 SCC 61.

 

Premier Wynne, we are hopeful that your efforts to develop an accessibility standard for education in Ontario will address the inequities that our children face in their schools everyday. However, children with dyslexia cannot wait. We ask that you act now to ensure that:

  • All children in Ontario are screened for dyslexia in Kindergarten and identified no later than the end of Grade One;
  • Equitable access to early & effective intervention is provided as soon as identification happens;
  • Mandatory teacher training on dyslexia & structured literacy methods is provided to all pre-service and in-service primary & elementary teachers;
  • The Ontario curriculum is revised to include explicit and systematic classroom instruction in structured literacy; and
  • Equitable access to accommodations & assistive technology is available for all students identified with dyslexia in Ontario.

 

Premier Wynne, let it be your legacy that you ensure that all children learn to read and thrive in the province of Ontario. We are happy to offer you our knowledge and expertise to ensure this occurs for the 1 in 5 students with dyslexia in our province.

 

Sincerely,

Elaine Keenan, International Dyslexia Association, Ontario Branch

Annette Sang, M.S.W., Decoding Dyslexia Ontario