It’s official: Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) a business division of Te Pūkenga, has been awarded the New Zealand Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark (DFQM) at their Invercargill Campus, which acknowledges its capabilities in providing support and improving learning outcomes for students with dyslexia.
SIT Student Accessibility Advisor, Robyn McNaught, began working towards gaining the DFQM in February, and completed the requirements last week. She said of the nine-month process, “It was making sure we had the evidence to prove we operate at this level... we have always supported dyslexic students; this brings recognition of the standard we’ve already instigated.
Provided through Ako Aotearoa, the DFQM is evidence that an institute has attained a dyslexia-friendly standard; criteria range from dyslexia-friendly policies through to practical help provided for the classroom.
Dyslexia affects at least 10% of the population, both males and females equally. Indicators of dyslexia can be poor time management and organisational skills, low short-term memory recall, and poor spelling; positive attributes include the ability to think outside the box, great oral skills, and high empathy towards others, Ms McNaught said.
As a requirement of the DFQM, Ms McNaught trained in testing to diagnose dyslexia, a service which was available for SIT students; other forms of support included: reader/writers, assisted technology: C-reader pens, Irlens overlays for textbooks, Chromotherapy glasses, and more.
“It’s great to have achieved the quality mark,” Ms McNaught said, but she believed it was more important to recognise “it’s for the student”, and being able to transform the student learning experience through providing appropriate support.
“‘Dyslexic students need to know they don’t have to struggle away on their own and they don’t have to carry this as a burden – it can be a gift. It’s not a learning disability – it’s a learning difference,” she added.
Ms McNaught had the privilege of seeing that realisation in people and the transformation which took place, “the moment when they get diagnosed and the penny drops; for the first time it all makes sense to them - that is what makes it worthwhile. Nobody should be put in the too hard basket...”
With some adjustments, students might actually begin to enjoy their learning, said Ms McNaught. She also pointed out that achieving the DFQM wasn’t just for the success of dyslexic students, the practices benefited all neurodiverse learners and supported inclusiveness and equal opportunity in the classroom.
“Gaining the DFQM is important to SIT as it shows that we strive for inclusiveness and equality in education, irrespective of diversity,” Ms McNaught said.
SIT Executive Director, Daryl Haggerty, added “Attaining the DFQM shows once again, the dedication by SIT staff to seek and achieve great outcomes for our ākonga”.
Annette van Lamoen, Manako Programme Manager of Ako Aotearoa, said the DFQM is designed to bring about positive change. “It helps to build awareness and understanding of dyslexia, and changes people’s perceptions, so that dyslexia is viewed as a strength and something to be proud of.”
“Dyslexic learners often experience lots of barriers in their learning journey. They often hide their difficulties, because they sense that people just don’t understand. Sometimes they don’t understand themselves, and feel isolated, confused and frustrated,” she explained.
“Ako Aotearoa acknowledges the hard work Robyn and the team at SIT Invercargill Campus have put in to achieve the DFQM. They have created a teaching and learning environment where dyslexic learners feel safe and supported. They can be truly proud of this achievement and we hope many other organisations will follow their lead.” Ms van Lamoen said.