Dyslexia Support Southland aims to support family as a whole

Dyslexia Support Southland coordinator Chris Cole.

Dyslexia Support Southland coordinator Chris Cole.



A new charitable trust established to help those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties in Southland has hit the ground running.  

Learning Differences Aotearoa was established in 2016 to oversee and support the activities of parent support group Dyslexia Support Southland, and its new family programme, Growing Stars.  

Having the trust in place, with its ability to seek donations from funding bodies and sponsorship from businesses, meant Dyslexia Support Southland could look forward to the future with confidence, support coordinator Chris Cole said. 

"With its robust structure and with funding support from the community, we can continue to run our innovative new support programmes for both children and parents."  

With 10 per cent of the population experiencing dyslexia, there were potentially 1700 schoolchildren in Southland who could benefit from the organisation's activities, Cole said.  

Dyslexia Support Southland had been working hard during the past 18 months to train facilitators and support staff for its new "Growing Stars" programme aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds and their parents, with its first sessions taking place in October 2017.  

Growing Stars had been developed to help families cope with the emotional impacts of living with a learning difficulty. 

"Anxiety and low self esteem resulting from a learning difficulty has a significant impact on a child and their learning. 

"It's been estimated anxiety and low self-esteem resulting from a learning difficulty can account for up to 80 per cent of a child's learning difficulty. Anxiety physically stops the brain from working at its optimum so a child's ability to take in new learning, or show what they know, is compromised."  

Cole said that could become a vicious cycle – with low self-esteem causing further frustration, and discouraging children from trying new activities – and end up having a greater impact on their ability to learn than their actual learning difficulty.  

Growing Stars workshops were effective in breaking this cycle, she said.  

"Growing Stars works because it supports children with learning differences emotionally, alongside their parents. Tying the anxiety to the learning difference makes this workshop unique as it helps the children and parents understand why and what is happening.  

"Parents attend a separate workshop to understand what their children will learn, and how they can continue to support them thereafter. We want the positive change to be forever."  

The group planned to run quarterly workshops, with costs to families kept to a minimum thanks to the work of its new trust, Cole said.  

"Making the Growing Stars workshops affordable is an important aim so there is equal opportunity for children to attend, and cost doesn't become a barrier."  

Cole said longer-term ambitions included expanding the programme with further sessions and other age groups, once additional facilitators had been trained.  

"We'll also be looking to establish children's interest groups, such as robotics and coding, and to hold more parent information evenings.

"By supporting the parents as well we hope to make these positive changes sustainable."

Abridged, taken from an article in the Southland Times, 22, February, 2018