Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities struggle to find support in BC schools
By Spencer van Vloten
July 1st, 2021
Students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are underreported and undersupported in BC schools. We talked with Dyslexia BC's Cathy McMillan about why the education system's falling short, and the problems this creates in school and beyond.
Spencer: Many people just think of dyslexia as reading words backwards, but what is it really?
Cathy: Dyslexia is an unexpected ability to read or spell. You start realizing that a child is dyslexic around grade 3-4 usually, but sometimes it’s apparent earlier in severe cases.
Dyslexia is not simply reading backward. Dyslexic persons often have high IQs and many strengths, such as in visual and perceptual skills, but they experience difficulties with working memory and have difficulty with certain letters like b, d, c , q. Someone with dyslexia can struggle to distinguish between similarly shaped letters, so they may read 'bed' as 'deb'.
Dyslexia comes in various levels, and is a genetic neurodiversity. Just like being born with brown eyes or blue eyes, if you have dyslexia there’s a good chance your child will, and if already have child with dyslexia, the chances are very high that any future children you have will too.
Spencer: Tell us about Dyslexia BC
Cathy: I'm dyslexic, and have 2 young adult children who are dyslexic.
My youngest, my daughter, was diagnosed in grade 1 and is on the severe side, and my son was diagnosed in grade 7.
When my son was diagnosed, it made such a difference for him to start getting the right support. Up to that point he’d had such anxiety because of his struggles in school, but getting the support he needed made such a big difference, and he just graduated with honours from UBC.
My daughter’s in 2nd year university, and uses assistive technology to read, speech to text technology for writing, and has accommodation in place so that she has extra time to complete exams. She’s doing well, but it has taken years of tutors and other supports to get her there.
Cathy's daughter Tannis talks about her experiences at school with dyslexia
My kids, and what I’ve been through with them, were the motivation to start Dyslexia BC. Seeing how things improved so much for them when they finally had the right support, I want to help other families get this too.
We're a parent-led advocacy group, and are all fighting for a better system.
Spencer: How's BC doing when it comes to supporting people with dyslexia and other learning disabilities?
Cathy: Not very good!