Film shining a light on the darkness of dyslexia

Jamie Redford
Jamie Redford
It is ''inevitable'' that the number of applications for special assessment conditions under NCEA will increase when a documentary directed by the son of a Hollywood actor about dyslexia is made widely available, Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand chairman of trustees Guy Pope-Mayell says.

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia had its New Zealand premiere in Arrowtown on Saturday, attended by an audience of schoolteachers, dyslexia service providers, tutors, parents of dyslexic children, people with dyslexia and the film's producer, Jamie Redford.

Redford is the son of Robert Redford and Lola Van Wagenen. Mr Pope-Mayell helped host the red-carpet event and said the New Zealand Qualifications Authority processed a high number of special assessment applications for last year, which shows an effort by schools to close the learning gap.

''With our plans to make this movie available to New Zealand schools and parent groups it is inevitable that the number of applications for special assessment conditions will continue to increase,'' Mr Pope-Mayell said.

''Trials have also shown that extra time does not benefit other students and often works against their results, whereas for a dyslexic student extra time simply levels the playing field.''

The documentary first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012 and has since screened on HBO.

More than 10% of the global population has some form of dyslexia, which typically affects a person's ability to read, write and spell, though many dyslexics excel in other areas.

Redford's son Dylan, who has dyslexia, features heavily in the documentary and Redford said with such a large percentage of the population having dyslexia, he was surprised there was such a low number of films.

''You could think there would be 50 films, not five.''

He said there were three things dyslexics needed: more time, assistive technology, and to be allowed to express their intellect in optional ways.

''More dyslexics than not need extra time [and] there were plenty of times where my son was denied that.''

Redford regularly comes to New Zealand to holiday as his mother lives here for part of the year.

He had been in the country since December 24 and was due to fly back to San Francisco today.

Mr Pope-Mayell said Dorothy Brown's in Arrowtown was chosen as the premiere venue by the Dyslexia Foundation because of the positive advances made in Central Otago schools.

These could include not putting pressures on dyslexic students and providing notes in a photocopied format rather than copying from a board.