Decoding Dyslexia Ontario welcomes Right to Read Inquiry

Parent-led group welcomes Ontario Human Rights Commission “Right to Read” inquiry

Toronto, ON – October 3, 2019

Decoding Dyslexia Ontario applauds the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s announcement to launch the Right to Read public inquiry into possible discrimination by Ontario public schools against children with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

We hope that the inquiry will bring to light the systemic and structural barriers faced every day by thousands of children, from all walks of life, in public schools across our province. Further, we hope it will bring about increased awareness and support for alllearning disabilities.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, occurring in an estimated 6%-17% of the school population[1]. That’s at least 2 students in every classroom. It runs in families and knows no boundaries: anyone can be dyslexic no matter their sex, age, race, culture, socio-economic status or language. Dyslexia is not related to intelligence—meaning that these children are smart and able to succeed at school alongside their peers. And yet, they are denied access to the basic support and services that they need to learn.

Our organization, run by parents of students with dyslexia, hears from students and their parents everyday who are frustrated with the lack of awareness, services and support in our public education system. Many of these parents are also dyslexic and have experienced multigenerational discrimination.

Their stories are heart-breaking.

They tell us how they are being denied timely identification, assessment and effective reading instruction.

They tell us they are facing long wait lists for identification and assessment, and classrooms without interventions and accommodations to support their needs.

They tell us that they must pay for private psychological assessments, tutoring and private schools just to ensure that their children learn to read, write and spell.

Many others tell us that they can’t afford to pay for these services[2]–and they watch helplessly as their children fall behind their peers at school, and carry the heavy emotional weight that comes with it.

Though Canada considers itself a literate nation, there are too many children who are not learning to read proficiently. In 2018, the Council of Ministers of Education reported that: “…scores in reading literacy suggest some cause for concern. Over one in ten Canadian students do not meet the level of reading proficiency expected at the Grade 8/Secondary II level.”[3] EQAO testing shows a similar pattern.

All children can learn to read. It is the most important skill a child needs to learn to thrive in school and life. We can, and must, do better.

We encourage the Commission to look at the science. Research into the reading brain[4] provides clear evidence that a structured literacy approach is effective for teaching children with dyslexia, and benefits all students[5]. However, this approach is not currently available to all students in public schools province-wide.

We also know that early intervention (preferably in Kindergarten and before the end of Grade 1) works best, takes less time and produces better results.[6] Yet in schools boards across Ontario, most children are not diagnosed with reading disability/dyslexia until after the third grade, if they receive an assessment at all. In fact, most Ontario elementary schools restrict the number of assessments permitted per year[7].

For students dyslexia, “wait and see” becomes “wait to fail.”

These barriers lead to inequitable outcomes that impact the most vulnerable children in our schools.

The province’s own figures paint a troubling picture.

Children with dyslexia represent the majority of children–some 40%–receiving special education services. And yet, the 2019 EQAO shows that 53% of Grade 3 students in special education did not meet the provincial literacy standard[8]. In the Grade 10 Applied stream, where most struggling readers are found, only 41% of students met the provincial literacy standard. That is 50 percentage points lower than that of students in the Academic stream.

Students with learning disabilities are also more likely to drop out of school, be underemployed and unemployed, and experience mental health issues.

The current wait-to-fail approach for students with dyslexia is not acceptable in a province that guarantees the right to education for all.

We are grateful for the Commission’s commitment to pursue this human rights issue in our public education system. Generations of families and their children will be well-served by your work in this area. Our province will be reminded that equitable access to public education is not a luxury, it is a right. This right, afforded to all, is the cornerstone for the future development of Ontario and Canada as a whole.

Finally, for all the families struggling to get help for their children, we hope that this inquiry will help you feel less alone, give voice to your concerns, and lead to recommendations that will pave the way for change.

Related resources

Video: Faces of dyslexia (Stories of Ontario students with dyslexia)

Fact sheet: Inadequate Appropriate Special Education Service = Discrimination

Video: Presentation to accessibility in education town hall

Fact sheet: 14 dyslexia facts and figures

About

Decoding Dyslexia Ontario (DDON) is a parent-led, non-profit organization concerned with the limited understanding of dyslexia within the Ontario public education system. DDON raises dyslexia awareness, empowers families to support their children who are dyslexic, and shares best practices regarding identification, remediation and support for students with dyslexia.


[1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (J. Fletcher et al, 2007, p. 105) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079378

[2] Parents fuming after 2.5 year wait for learning disability test

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.2918462

[3] PCAP 2016: Report on the Pan-Canadian Assessment of Reading, Mathematics, and Science https://cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/381/PCAP-2016-Public-Report-EN.pdf

[4] Guinevere Eden, Dyslexia and the brain, video

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/video-dyslexia-and-the-brain

[5] Nancy Young, Ladder of Reading, https://www.nancyyoung.ca/research-and-links

[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/06/fixing-failure-model

[7] People For Education 2019 Annual Report https://peopleforeducation.ca/report/2019-annual-report-on-schools-what-makes-a-school/#chapter5

[8] Highlights of the Provincial Results, English-Language Students, 2018–2019, EQAO

http://www.eqao.com/en/assessments/results/communication-docs/provincial-report-highlights-literacy-2019.pdf