Viewpoint

When will equal rights exist for children?

‘Hellen’ is a child care worker in Port Pirie and has struggled with dyslexia which in South Australia is not acknowledged as a disability at all, all through her years at school.  

In primary school she had specialist assistance which saved her from a life of total illiteracy.

Hellen is a vibrant, capable and energetic person with an amazing ability to absorb and utilize knowledge, just because she can’t spell the word it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know how to use the word or to perform the skill needed.

Recently she attended a mandatory training evening for Basic Life Support, the class was to take three hours and she decided that she just wanted to get home so she asked to be tested first, and without even going through the course material she aced the class, and her incident report forms and emergency calls to the ambulance were praised for their detail and accuracy.

Hellen’s goal when she was in high school was to become a physiotherapist, but because there is no recognition or support for dyslexia as a disability in South Australia she did not get the required grades to go on to university.  

What a terrible waste of natural talent.  

In year 10 the teachers did tell the family that they could get extra time on exams for Hellen if they got her officially diagnosed, which in South Australia at the time cost $4000 which the family of 10 could not afford.  (Diagnosis and testing now costs $7000)

I am sure that the physiotherapist who had Hellen’s assistance while she was on work placement in year 10 feels that such raw talent as Hellen displayed should not have been overlooked.

In her work place she is policed overly energetically because of spelling errors in her incident reports, where others who are not dyslexic are not policed nearly so vigorously.   

Hellen used to spend three times as much time as any other child I have known of in her high school.  

One night her mother came into the hallway to find her curled up in a ball crying because she “just can’t do this”, ‘this’ being study for a biology test.  

She was tired and the words kept changing shape before her eyes.  

She was luckier than most with a nurse for a mother and an understanding sibling.  Her mother treated her anxiety and began to read the text book to her; waited an hour and treated her again and her sister took over the reading of the text book to her.

Hellen survived 14 years of school with as much support as her family could give her but none from the general schooling community, the teacher who assisted her in primary school did it off her own bat, and was a true boon to Hellen’s learning.

When discussing the amazing challenges that Hellen was facing with a fellow sporting parent the parent was heard to comment.

“You know my child is adopted and has been here since she was six years old, she is in high school now and the school still gets money to support her learning, money she doesn’t really need. I would rather see them spend money on children like Hellen that really need the help than waste it on my child who is doing fine.”

Hellen has a cousin who lives in New South Wales six months younger than her.  

Katy was taken to the local doctor just at the beginning of year eleven to find out what could be done to assist her through the final years of high school as she is dyslexic.  

The local doctor put Katy through a series of tests confirmed that the child was dyslexic and wrote to the School Katy was attending.  

The school requested from the Education Department that Katy be given assistance through tests and exams throughout year 11 and 12.  Katy is bright but Hellen is much brighter.  

The school requested all the help offered to dyslexic children which are 20 per cent reader (someone who reads the question for the child) 20 per cent writer (someone who will write what the child says is the answer to the question) and extra time on tests and exams.  

All of these assistances were granted for Katy, while here in South Australia the educators even refuse to acknowledge that dyslexia is a disability.

To say that Hellen is wasted in child care is foolish because there are hordes of parents who are exceedingly grateful for the difference Hellen’s care has made to their child.  

But the role she is filling is far below her capacity, she has abandoned the idea of becoming a physiotherapist but hopes in due course when she leaves this state, to get the support needed in her education to qualify herself as a psychologist.  

How come the parents in South Australia have not exercised a strike?  

Where they do not send their children to school for a few days to get this terrible injustice corrected for all the dyslexic children in our future.

Dyslexia is a lifelong disability and even now if Hellen does not read ‘every day’ she will lose the ability to read at all.  

Some wives and mothers out there are suddenly understanding why their husband, or child seem to have lost the ability to read when they were doing okay while they were at school.  

Some who have more mildly dyslexic children are pleased that their child has come up with coping skills that allow them to keep working and earning money to support themselves and their families.  

What are your views?  

What can be done to right this terrible injustice practiced upon our children with this disability?

​(Name and address supplied)