On November 25, 2019, MPP Joel Harden introduced a private member’s bill to proclaim Dyslexia Awareness Month every October in Ontario.
MPP Harden, who is opposition disability and accessibility critic, proposed the bill after meeting with Ottawa families who shared their experiences with the lack of awareness and support for dyslexia in Ontario schools.
“We’re nowhere near full accessibility when it comes to early detection and early supports for children with dyslexia,” Harden said. “Ontario must keep its obligation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to make the province fully accessible by 2025. We want to build a society where everyone, regardless of disability of learning difference, has the ability to be themselves, and that requires government support.”
Thank you to Joel Harden for introducing this historic bill.
2. Across Canada, buildings and monuments were lit up in red lights to show their support for Canadians with dyslexia throughout the month. Check out the photos from Dyslexia Canada’s mark it read project.
Dyslexia community applauds the Ontario Human Rights Commission “Right to Read” Public Inquiry
Toronto, ON – October 3, 2019 – Decoding Dyslexia Ontario and The Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association applaud the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) decision to launch the Right to Read inquiry into human rights issues that affect children with dyslexia and other reading disabilities in Ontario’s public education system.
Dyslexia is the most common reading
disability, affecting approximately 6%-17% of children. That’s at least 2
children in every classroom who struggle to learn to read with little to no
support. These students face many barriers, including lack of access to school
psychologists for timely diagnosis and lack of access to systematic
evidence-based reading instruction.
We know that students who struggle
with reading can be identified as having a reading disability/dyslexia as early
as kindergarten. The science of the reading brain indicates that appropriate
reading instruction and remediation works best – takes less time and will
produce better results – when provided early, before the end of Grade 1.
However, across Ontario, most children are diagnosed with dyslexia after the
third grade and very often are not provided with the scientific, evidence-based
reading instruction they need to become proficient readers and successful
learners in the classroom.
Harvard School of Education reports
that, “Children with dyslexia are less likely to complete high school or pursue
higher education and are at an increased risk of entering the juvenile justice
system. Early identification of dyslexia is therefore critical for improving
reading outcomes in children, and for preventing and ameliorating the
socio-emotional problems that accompany reading failure” (Ozernov-Palchik and
The Ontario Human Rights Commission
has taken the bold step to look more deeply into the structural and systemic
barriers that students with reading disability/dyslexia face on a daily basis
in our public schools.
This inquiry offers an opportunity
to bring to light the challenges our education system faces in teaching all
children to read. We hope the inquiry will also identify solutions needed to
ensure the right to an education for children with reading disability/dyslexia,
which is guaranteed under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
“Decoding Dyslexia Ontario is
incredibly grateful for the commitment of the OHRC to this human rights issue
in our public education system. Generations of families and their children with
dyslexia will be well-served by your work in this area. Our province will be
reminded that equitable access to education is not a luxury, it is a right and
that this right, afforded to all, is the cornerstone for the future development
of Ontario and Canada as a whole,” says Annette Sang, MSW, Founder/Board
member, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario.
“We hear heart-breaking stories from
parents of students with dyslexia all across the province. We know that many
children are struggling to be identified and to get the services they need to
succeed at school,” says Lark Barker, president of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario.
“The wait-to-fail approach for students with dyslexia is not acceptable in a
province that guarantees the right to an education for all.”
“My great hope is that this will be
a moment of reckoning for the culture of education in this province. And that
the findings of the inquiry will lead our education system forward to embrace
the science of reading and ensure that every child realizes their right to
read,” says Alicia Smith, President of the Ontario Branch of the International
Decoding Dyslexia Ontario is a parent-led, non-profit organization concerned with the limited understanding of dyslexia with Ontario public education and education stakeholders. It 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.
The Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association is a non-profit charitable organization founded in June 2004. The branch is operated by volunteers, providing free information and support to individuals with dyslexia, their families and the teachers and professionals who work with them.
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.
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
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–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.” 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 provides clear evidence that
a structured literacy approach is effective
for teaching children with dyslexia, and benefits all students.
However, this approach is not currently available to all students in public
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. 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
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
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. 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.
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.
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.