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:
Key Factors to Support Literacy Success in School-Aged Populations
Progress Report on Literacy 2009