Courses offer teachers advice for often misunderstood pupils

Speld NZ course director Eleanor Boyce (centre) gives guidance on educating children with dyslexia and specific learning disabilities to teacher Maura Bunnol (left) and parent Naomi Dohnt.  Photo: Supplied
Speld NZ course director Eleanor Boyce (centre) gives guidance on educating children with dyslexia and specific learning disabilities to teacher Maura Bunnol (left) and parent Naomi Dohnt. Photo: Supplied
A group of Otago teachers will become pupils again for two days later this month, when they attend two Speld NZ introductory courses on children with specific learning disabilities (SLD).

The courses, to be held at Dunedin Community House on March 19-20 and the Cromwell & Districts Presbyterian Church on March 26-27, aimed to help teachers recognise the signs and symptoms of SLD in their classroom.

Speld executive officer Jeremy Drummond said there had been a huge increase in demand for Speld’s services in recent years, due to the growing awareness of dyslexia and other SLDs.

‘‘Growing numbers of parents come to us distressed and confused.

‘‘Their children may have suffered years of failure and despondency. It’s an uphill battle daily, because their brains are wired differently.

‘‘Often, they have been labelled stupid, lazy or dumb when they are bright, creative and intelligent individuals who just need to be guided to manage their disability, and be taught the best way they learn.’’

Speld is a not-for-profit organisation that has been supporting children and adults struggling with SLDs for nearly 50 years.

Ms Drummond said the NZQA-approved introductory course covered why dyslexia and other SLDs occur, how to recognise the signs and symptoms, and would give insights into what it was like to have an SLD.

Behavioural issues, including disruption, bullying and truancy — or conversely, isolation, depression and self-harming behaviours — could develop as a child lost confidence and self-belief.

The programme worked on children’s learning issues by teaching them in the way they learned, and celebrating the child’s unique talents to give them confidence in their abilities.

She said there were still spaces on the courses, and scholarships were available for teachers throughout Otago, to subsidise the cost of attending the workshops.

‘‘Teachers who come to our introductory courses are often fired up with enthusiasm to learn more and make a real difference in the lives of the dyslexic students,’’ she said.

Further training was available as a pathway to becoming a Speld NZ teacher who would enjoy the ‘‘enormous rewards’’ of nurturing pupils one-on-one to success, she said.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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