THUNDER BAY — A long-time advocate for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities that affect reading says they are "desperate" for help.
Keith Gray, founder of Dyslexia Canada, hopes hearings being held in Thunder Bay (Tues. Feb 25 at the Waverley Library) and across Ontario will bring changes in the classroom that provide these children with what he calls "a fair and equitable education."
The Ontario Human Rights Commission last fall announced Right to Read, a public inquiry into human rights issues affecting students with reading challenges.
It's selected eight school boards for scrutiny including the Lakehead District School Board and the Keewatin-Patricia District school Board.
The OHRC says it's concerned that the province's education system may be failing to meet the needs of students with reading disabilities.
"This is a major issue. It's recognized in most countries in the world but is not recognized in Canada as an issue," Gray said in an interview with Tbnewswatch.
He said it's not clear why dyslexia has stayed under the radar.
"It's hard to find out. I've been told by Queen's Park under the previous government that it would cost a lot of money to get children assessed and get them the education they need," Gray said.
He said teachers need a lot of help but are not currently trained to work with dyslexic students.
Gray, who is dyslexic himself, is now 84 years old.
In recalling the difficulties he encountered at school decades ago, he said life would have been much better if learning disabilities had been treated appropriately.
"I wouldn't have been strapped in school for not being able to read. I wouldn't have been bullied. I wouldn't have felt alone and outside the normal system. It's just desperate for children who are dyslexic. They feel no hope."
Gray said he feels fortunate that he was ultimately able to find his way, and that others have as well.
But he said for the most part, "children go through a tremendous ordeal when trying to find their way through our education system."
According to Dyslexia Canada, 15 per cent of children struggle with dyslexia, and there are three or four in every classroom in the country.
The OHRC is reaching out for feedback from parents, students and educators about their experiences.
It's also assessing whether school boards use scientific evidence-based approaches to meet students' right to read.
The commission will base the assessment on five benchmarks which it says are part of an effective systematic approach to teaching all students to read:
- universal design for learning
- mandatory early screening
- reading intervention programs
- effective accommodation
- psycho-educational assessments (if required)
The Thunder Bay meeting is scheduled for Tues. Feb. 25 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Waverley Library auditorium.