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Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ) was formed in November 2006 to provide a voice for, and services to, the estimated one in ten New Zealanders with dyslexia as well as to those supporting them.

The DFNZ launch was funded through the generous support of principal sponsor, Cookie Time Charitable Trust, which has also funded several key achievements along the way. Just six months after launch, DFNZ was successful in having the New Zealand Government recognise dyslexia for the first time. Since then, it has been working hard to facilitate greater recognition, understanding and action on dyslexia.

These three steps – recognition, understanding and action – are critical to effectively addressing dyslexia, and are based on the following principles:

  • Recognition: identifying and naming the issue
  • Understanding: noticing what this means for everyday life – at school, and within the family, and work
  • Action: adjusting the approach to improve outcomes – at school, within the family work

This three-step process has been mirrored in DFNZ’s own initiatives, with successful awareness and action weeks in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Each of these built public profile at a national level, and represented a significant step forward in the evolution from recognition to understanding to action. Action will remain at centre-stage from now on, as others continue to step up alongside DFNZ to continue this work.
  
DFNZ is a registered Charitable Trust, and New Zealand’s only national organisation focused specifically on dyslexia. It does not receive any Government funding and derives its support from the Cookie Time Charitable Trust sponsorship, as well as private and Community Trusts, along with business and public donations.



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Since its inception, DFNZ has been highly focused on achieving meaningful change for dyslexic individuals. A three-step process of recognition, understanding and action has shaped the DFNZ story, and is outlined below.   

Recognition

In April 2007, after much hard work by the Foundation, the New Zealand Government finally recognised dyslexia for the first time. In an accompanying statement, the Ministry of Education said it would be putting greater emphasis on assisting students with dyslexia, and would be implementing a range of initiatives to increase the level and quality of assistance given to these students. Click here for the Ministry of Education announcement.

Government recognition was the critical first step in the journey for change, providing a platform for further engagement and advocacy on behalf of the estimated one in ten New Zealanders – including 70,000 schoolchildren – who are dyslexic.

Understanding


Having achieved official recognition, 2008 saw DFNZ shift its focus to helping people understand the depth and breadth of dyslexia. This included acknowledging dyslexia as an alternative way of thinking, and one that can offer creative gifts as well as bringing some learning challenges.

Brain research shows that dyslexic individuals tend to think in pictures rather than words, receiving and retrieving information in a different part of the brain to neurotypical, word-based thinkers. Dyslexia can therefore be characterized as a learning preference – as dyslexics think differently, they naturally prefer to receive, process and present information in the ways that make more sense to them.

Crucial to this new understanding of dyslexia was acknowledging that it impacts much more than literacy and numeracy. The most immediate attribute is a problem decoding words and their meanings, but this is just one aspect of a broader spectrum of issues which may include auditory and information processing, planning and organising, motor skills, short-term memory and concentration. Dyslexia’s greatest difficulty in fact is self-esteem – it only becomes a disability if not appropriately addressed.

When Government funding for dyslexia was not forthcoming in 2008, DFNZ stepped up and launched its own comprehensive resource to help schools tackle issues in the classroom. The revolutionary 4D Schools programme and accompanying Guide (now in its second edition) provided clear advice for improving the learning environment for dyslexic students. The programme was a huge success from inception and has become the definitive guide to effective classroom change.

Action


In terms of action, New Zealand is at a crossroads – facing a choice between accepting a disability mentality which treats dyslexic individuals as part of a problem, or learning from mistakes other countries have made and changing to a solutions paradigm.

As a problem, incorrectly addressed dyslexia can lead to disruptive classroom behaviour, alienation, anti-social behaviour, truancy, depression, suicide, drug use and crime. As a solution, dyslexia can become a key driver for creative thinking and produce the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship needed in an increasingly ICT-led world, and in challenging economic times.

DFNZ’s 4D Schools programme is designed to assist New Zealand educators to take positive action to put dyslexic children on the path to success. DFNZ has also developed a number of further exciting evolutions for 4D, extending this thinking to the home and workplace, with great advice for parents, employers and employees. This can be accessed from our main 4D webspace at www.4d.org.nz. These programmes all share a fundamental ‘notice and adjust’ approach to effective change. This is about noticing where issues arise, and adjusting the response.
 

At a Government level, education is a clear priority and a number of recent initiatives have aligned to give New Zealand schools permission to act now and address dyslexia. The new National Curriculum and self-managing schools environment, combined with the Crusade for Literacy and Numeracy, make it an optimum time for action. Overall, these initiatives require schools to create solutions and reduce problem areas, directing funding resources to where they are most needed.

In early 2009, the Ministry of Education also released a key accountability document for improving educational outcomes for dyslexic students. The Teachers Resource: About Dyslexia requires schools to have an inclusive school policy which accommodates dyslexic students’ unique learning differences.

All in all, clear expectations have been set for schools to achieve better learning outcomes. Dyslexic students currently make up 30-50% of the estimated 20% of New Zealand students who are at the tail-end of poor literacy and numeracy results. So, unless dyslexia is at the forefront of thinking and action, it will be very difficult for schools to make progress. Conversely DFNZ estimates that this long tail of poor literacy and numeracy results could be halved with best practice and appropriate classroom interventions.

Into the future

DFNZ remains closely focused on action-oriented activities to champion change for dyslexic individuals, and on providing information, tools and resources to inspire others to do the same. Personal responsibility and empowerment are key to taking effective action, and our ongoing work is designed to encourage and support schools, teachers, support staff, parents, employers and dyslexic individuals to act decisively and do whatever they can to make a difference.

 

 

 
 
 
 

DFNZ was started by three individuals – Guy Pope-Mayell, Suzanne Pope-Mayell and Lorna Timms – who had personal and family experience of dyslexia, and quickly evolved into a nationally respected organisation.

DFNZ has an extensive membership base, from parents, students and teachers through to schools, companies and community groups. Working for and alongside our thousands of members, DFNZ provides an opportunity to build bridges between everyone working with and supporting dyslexic children and adults. This also includes wider agencies such as the Government and Ministry of Education, together with their social support agencies, as well as information and resource providers.
 
 

 
 
Click to view and download our Certificate of Incorporation, Certificate of Registration & Trust Deed.


 
 
 
 

   Guy Pope-Mayell: Chair of Trustees
Director of Cookie Time and eTime Limited, Chair of Trustees of the Cookie Time Charitable Trust, and father of four. His passion for family, cookies, digital technology, and education, combined with his own family experience of dyslexia provides a solid base of experience and passion for making a difference in the education sector.
Email guy@dfnz.org.nz


   
Suzanne Pope-Mayell: Trustee
Years of working alongside children and the experience of having established several Montessori schools, combined with her natural role as a mother of four, has given Suzanne a significant foundation to draw on. As Suzanne discovered her children's dyslexia and autism, she has also discovered her own dyslexic mind, a journey that has provided her with insight, empathy and a passion to help others.
Email suzanne@dfnz.org.nz


   
Lorna Timms (BEd Adult Education): Trustee
Lorna brings to the Trust her experience of helping her dyslexic son navigate school and that of being dyslexic herself. She worked in adult education for 15 years before becoming a Dyslexia Tutor and Presenter. Drawing on these personal and professional experiences, Lorna also presents workshops and seminars on dyslexia and dyslexia correction. Born in the north of England, Lorna and her English husband have lived in New Zealand for more than 20 years and have two New Zealand born children.
Email lorna@dfnz.org.nz

   Esther Whitehead (BSc (hons), DipTEFL, PGLitEd): Managing Trustee
Esther Whitehead is an experienced educator and trainer who has taught primary, secondary, and adult students
with learning differences in a variety of schools and workplace settings in several countries. Her passion is equality and diversity in learning. With a background in Literacy/Dyslexia and EAL (English as an Additional Language), she has led professional development in these domains. Esther has worked as an independent educator and director of Education Centres in NZ, providing literacy and numeracy tutoring for students in consultation with parents, schools and Special Education Services. Esther manages the DFNZ as well as consults with schools on dyslexia practices.
Email
esther.whitehead@4d.org.nz


 

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