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Please visit the Ontario Human Right’s Commission website for details on how to participate in the Right To Read public hearings.
Highlights of Dyslexia Awareness Month 2019
- The Ontario Human Rights Commission launched its Right to Read inquiry into human rights issues affecting students with dyslexia in Ontario public schools. Watch the videos from the launch.
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.
4. Many Canadian cities released official proclamations for the first time. Proclamations in Ontario include: Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Toronto.
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 Gaab).
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 Dyslexia Association.
Decoding Dyslexia Ontario
- Lark Barker, President: (647) 400-6805
- Annette Sang, Founder/Board member: (609) 933-8127
- Alicia Smith, President Elect: (705) 427-9544
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.
Decoding Dyslexia Ontario
Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association
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 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–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 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. 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.
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. 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.
Video: Faces of dyslexia (Stories of Ontario students with dyslexia)
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.
 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
 Parents fuming after 2.5 year wait for learning disability test
 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
 Nancy Young, Ladder of Reading, https://www.nancyyoung.ca/research-and-links
 Harvard Graduate School of Education https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/06/fixing-failure-model
 People For Education 2019 Annual Report https://peopleforeducation.ca/report/2019-annual-report-on-schools-what-makes-a-school/#chapter5
 Highlights of the Provincial Results, English-Language Students, 2018–2019, EQAO