Araura Primary School, Aitutaki teachers and principal Paepaerei Pauka Jnr and Cook Islands Dyslexia Society (CIDS) vice president Jean-Marie Francis. 23090115
Dyslexia is not an obvious disability and very few people in the Cook Islands know of it and how it affects a person.
To better understand people with dyslexia, first start
by recognising that dyslexia does not affect intelligence.
The Cook Islands Dyslexia Society Inc. (CIDSI), states
that those with dyslexia are right brain learners and are often more creative
and better at problem solving.
The organisation acts as a “a bridge” between
teachers, parents, and the education system.
In the Pa Enua, the CIDSI are highlighting dyslexia
and conducting a comprehensive approach to identifying and supporting students
with dyslexia assessments, starting with four schools in Aitutaki.
This proactive approach recognises the unique learning
needs of individuals with dyslexia.
CIDSI have assessors who can assess and identify
students with dyslexic markers.
Vice President of CIDSI, Jean-Marie Francis kicked off
the two week Pa Enua Dyslexia Awareness, Assessment & Advocate Tutors
Programme at Vaitau Primary, Aitutaki.
“It’s a rigorous programme,” said Francis.
“We had an
excellent first day with an information session with Principal Eve (Vaitau
Primary) and her staff, then an interactive reading session with Grades 3 &
“This was followed by identifying staff who wish to
take part in the 2024 workshop for training in one-on-one tutoring for dyslexic
“It was an amazing day, and the staff and children
were so welcoming and very keen to participate in the programme.”
Francis said the focus is to assess the children, but,
more importantly to identify teachers, passionate parents or anyone who is
passionate about children and helping them learn, and hopefully bring them on
board for training next year.
A Rapid or Dyslexic Screener is the initial 30-45
minute online test that shows if a child has dyslexia or not.
An analysis is done on the information from the online
test to see what level of dyslexia a child may have.
“Then we can identify how much help a child will need
with tutoring, writing, spelling, or speech.”
Meetings with the child’s parents or guardians are
also carried out and a permission slip is required to be signed.
Workshops are also being held to teach people how to
teach dyslexic children how to read.
“It also captures any child that needs remedial
“Unfortunately many of the programmes that are in the
schools are for children who need help with reading, but, it doesn’t actually
help our dyslexic students.
“There is a specific way they need to be taught and
they need to master “the code” and then they can decipher words.
“It’s a little different and they struggle with those
programmes which isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just what we have, so we’re pushing
“We are really excited about rolling this programme
out in the Pa Enua because it’s so important that we educate parents and staff about
dyslexia, because a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Francis.
These assessments will also be rolled out in Mauke,
Atiu, Mangaia and Mitiaro.
CISDI are on track with their 2022/2023 Strategic Plan,
and the Dyslexia Awareness, Assessment & Advocate Tutors Programmes are key
things to get children assessed, for the organisation to attain “an inclusive
education plan that’s going to come down in the future which is why the
advocate tutors are so important,” she said.
Making waves nicely, CIDSI have received funding from
the Australian High Commission and UNESCO for the one-to-one tutoring programme
that started at Apii Nikao this term.
Four private tutors have been engaged for these one-to-one lessons for students from across the island.
Thirty students who have dyslexic tendencies on
receiving one-to-one half hour tutoring lessons weekly at Apii Nikao for the
rest of this term.
“It’s nowhere near enough, we have hundreds of kids in
the Cook Islands that could do with that one-to-one support,” said Principal of
Apii Nikao, Michael Mokai.
“We are just so
thankful to UNESCO for providing that support, it’s not something that
Education is able to provide us with, its outside of their scope.
“The only way we could this was through donors and we
are hoping that will continue next term,” said Mokai.
The aim is long term, that every student in the Cook
Islands who requires that one-to-one support will be able to receive it, Mokai
He is hopeful there will be funding set aside to start tutoring in the Pa Enua in Term 4.
Francis said the one-to-one programme is key while
things getting put into place, “it is really important for students to get help
they need now.”
The more students who are identified as having a
learning difficulty through these first assessments, gives CIDSI more
opportunity to access funds for further training and certification towards
local assessors becoming fully qualified.
Supporting dyslexic students through free private
tutoring is a key priority of the society. The assessment report provides the
tutor the information to tailor the sessions to your child’s needs.
The society believes the best way forward is to become
self-reliant by having “our very own assessors” in the Cook Islands.
Contact the Dyslexia society for more information on
dyslexia and there is a form online to register your child for an assessment.
CIDSI would like to thank the UNRSCO Participation
Programme, Australian Government, Inclusive Education Advisor, Ministry of
Education, for their invaluable support.