SPELD (SA) along with the Dyslexia Action Group – Barossa, Gawler and Surrounds have gained some much needed recognition in parliament through Member for Light, Tony Piccolo. Below is a speech made by Tony Piccolo MP to the South Australian parliament on the 28th of March 2012.
Mr PICCOLO (Light) (16:09):
Today, I would like to bring to the house’s attention a public meeting
which took place last week in my electorate. The public meeting was organised by the Dyslexia
Action Group, Barossa, Gawler and surrounds. At the outset I would like to acknowledge the
wonderful work undertaken by Dr Sandra Marshall and Ophie Renner. Ophie was the Gawler Citizen
of the Year this year and also the South Australian Citizen of the Year. These two people, with a small
group of volunteers, have been very active in bringing the issue of dyslexia to the attention of the
local community and also ensuring that particular children with dyslexia are given a fair go in the
I had the honourand the privilege to be asked to chairthe forum, both last week and an
earlier forum late last year. The forum was attended by a number of parents, teachers and other
community members and both forums have had capacity crowds, so there are a lot of children in our
community, and obviously families who are concerned about their children’s development because
they have the disability of dyslexia.
The forum, apart from myself who actually chaired the session, was also attended by the local
mayor, mayor Brian Sambell, who spoke about some of the positive outcomes for young people in
addressing the issue of dyslexia. Ms Angela Weeks, the Clinical Director of Specific Learning
Difficulties of South Australia (SPELD), gave a presentation on the importance of goal setting for
students with dyslexia and also provided some explicit strategies that teachers could implement to
support those students. Ms Sandy Russo, a teacher at SPELD, presented information about assistive
learning technologies that were available to assist students with dyslexia to access and participate
successfully at school and also in the home environment. She talked about the use of MP3 players,
digital recording devices, computers, software, etc., which actually help students learn.
The local Barossa regional director for education, Kathryn Bruggemann, talked about the need
for teachers to have an understanding of dyslexia and the impact of the condition on their selfesteem
and learning outcomes for young people diagnosed with dyslexia. She spoke from personal
experience. She has a child who actually suffers from dyslexia, so she has quite a passion to address
this issue. Julie Aschberger, who works in the department, talked about some new initiatives that
the department was introducing to roll out a greater awareness of dyslexia in the classroom and also
how teachers can actually support students and how they can just change their teaching style, which
not only helps students with dyslexia but the mainstream class as well because those styles are
adaptable for both.
lngrid Alderton, again another person from the department, spoke about dyslexia-friendly
school packs, which is a UK initiative to support students with dyslexia in the classroom. The point
was made that education is actually managed differently in the UK, where local authorities have a lot
more say. Therefore, there is actually a different approach to students with disabilities. Mr Dave
Pisoni, the opposition spokesperson, also attended the meeting. He provided, if you like, a Liberal
Party’s opinion on where education is in this state, and I will let him talk about that more. I do not
need to use my time to discuss it here.
At the end of the meeting, as chair of the session, I was asked to have a discussion with the .
people present and talk about what sort of things they wanted at future meetings. The people who
attended indicated they wanted more information about other learning difficulties, ways of
supporting students with dyslexia and special provisions particularly around the SACE program to
ensure that their children have the best opportunities through not only education but also training.
There were suggestions about some smaller specific interest groups being formed to explore and
address issues and to build the knowledge of attendees. There were a number of parents who would
like to know what they can do to support their child in the home.
There was a really positive mood in the forum; in other words, a focus on what we can do to
help our young children, particularly with early intervention, how to support them and how to help
them maintain their self-esteem so they do not actually lose interest in their education, which has
been a problem in the past. Kids who have not coped with the mainstream program have actually
opted out, which is unfortunate because, obviously, those children would have had a lot of potential
which has not been realised.
The students also talked about how we actually help with transition because, in private
schools, children often have one teacher and, in secondary education, they might have multiple
teachers. A whole range of issues was raised but it was a very well-attended forum. I also indicate
the government’s support to help these children.