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.
1. Dyslexia is a specific brain/neurology difference that makes it extremely difficult to read, write and spell in your native language — despite at least average intelligence
2. Dyslexia runs in families and can affect anyone no matter their sex, race or socioeconomic status; dyslexia was first identified more than 100 years ago
3. Children don’t ‘out-grow’ dyslexia. Support at home and at school is essential to helping children build on their strengths and be successful in life
4. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability (about 80% of all people identified with a learning disability are dyslexic); an estimated 6% to 17% of the school age population has dyslexia
5. Learning disabilities are the most common types of disabilities among youth (15 to 24 years old) in Canada; in 2017, Statistics Canada reports that at least 1 in 15 youth in Canada reports having a learning disability
6. In Ontario, students with learning disabilities are the largest category of exceptionality (more than 40%), yet few children with dyslexia receive the early identification and intervention that they require
7. Students with dyslexia are smart and can learn to read with the right support; however they continue to show very sizeable education achievement gaps and outcomes in comparison with neurotypical students in Ontario
the 2019 EQAO shows that only 53% of grade 3 students in special education met the provincial literacy standard in Grade 3 (compared to 74% for non-special education students)
in the grade 10 applied stream, where many struggling readers are found, only 41% of students met the provincial literacy standard (which is 50 percentage points lower than that of students in the academic stream)
8. Research into the reading brain provides clear evidence that:
a structured literacy approach is effective for teaching children with dyslexia, and benefits all students
early identification (preferably in kindergarten) and intervention (preferably before the end of grade) works best, takes less time and produces better results; however, most children in Ontario are not typically formally diagnosed until grade 3 (and sometimes not at all)
9. Literacy is a critical skill. Children who don’t learn to read proficiently are more likely to struggle in other areas of their education, feel less capable than they actually are, and suffer from low self-esteem, depression and anxiety
10. People with learning differences such as dyslexia are more likely to drop out of school, be underemployed and unemployed, and face mental health challenges