With estimates saying employees in the primary sector are twice as likely to have dyslexia, the Primary ITO says an award from Diversity NZ for an innovative programme for people with dyslexia highlights the gains to be made from providing the right support to differently abled people.
Diversity Works NZ has named Primary ITO as Highly Commended in the Diversability category of the 2018 Diversity Awards NZ for its programme to support staff and trainees with dyslexia and other learning differences.
Primary ITO national literacy and numeracy specialist Mike Styles says dyslexia is over-represented in the primary sector, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. Experts put the figure around 20 percent, compared to 10 percent in the overall population.
“In New Zealand, we’ve had a long history of dyslexia denial but we know that if people get support earlier, then we can level the playing field and these people can achieve as well as anyone else.”
The programme Primary ITO was recognised for uses five steps to support workplace learners – dyslexia screening, providing quality dyslexia information, encouragement and coaching for learners, providing proper information to tutors, employers and colleagues, and access to technology like “reading pens” and voice-to-text apps for smartphones.
Mr Styles says dyslexia is the elephant in the room when it comes to literacy and numeracy issues and Primary ITO wanted to make a difference. “Without adequate literacy and numeracy, people can’t achieve their qualifications, perform in their jobs or seek and achieve promotions. And the biggest single cause of literacy and numeracy issues is learning differences, particularly dyslexia.
“It’s a critical issue for the primary sector where we estimate 20 percent of people may have dyslexia. That’s likely to be because people tend to move to jobs and sectors where they can either hide their problem or achieve in spite of it.”
Primary ITO chief executive Linda Sissons says the primary sector needs smart, innovative people and supporting those with dyslexia and other learning differences is one way to help. “The evidence suggests that people with dyslexia tend to be creative and innovative in different ways. These are some of the skills the primary sector will need – especially given we’ll need another 50,000 qualified workers by 2025.
“If we can address dyslexia, and in turn address literacy challenges, we can play a part building successful careers and successful businesses.