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Children on dyslexia spectrum can now be assessed here

Friday 3 February 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Health, National


Children on dyslexia spectrum can now be assessed here
ANZ Bank Cook Islands country head Jason Murray (left) cuts the ribbon for the Cook Islands Dyslexia Society’s new office at Chilli’s in Tupapa. He is suppored by Bob Kimiangatau (second left), ANZ relationship manager government Bronwyn Clarke, Dyslexia Society chairperson Jean-Marie Francis and Angelique Elisaia. 23020201

Parents with children who are struggling with reading, writing and spelling are encouraged to make an appointment with the Cook Islands Dyslexia Society Incorporated (CIDSI).

Yesterday morning, the CIDSI proudly announced the opening of their new office premises upstairs at Chilli’s in Tupapa. The office will be used for administration and meeting children to help identify “Specific Learning Differences” and support them to reach their full potential.

The CIDSI assessors Kimiora Ona and Madeline Cowan have recently completed a course tutored by principal Rebecca Elias and headteacher Kayleigh Harvey of New Zealand Summit Point School (SPS). The School specialises in “Structured Literacy and Multi-Sensory, Discovery teaching for amazing dyslexic minds”.

Treasurer of CIDSI, Jennifer (Jenny) Henry said being able to have on island assessors “is a really big start”. It gives the Cook Islands a home grown start to get the initial markers and get them addressed immediately, adds Henry.

“The key message is that if any parent has noticed that their children maybe needing extra help in reading or writing and want to find out more, they can contact us,” she said.

“What we are providing with the office is the assessments to determine whether they have dyslexic markers and once we identify that we are looking at how we can put together programmes to have one on one tutorials for students to help them.”

Figures worldwide show that between 10 and 20 per cent of people are on the spectrum of dyslexia. Severe cases – those who can’t read or write – is a much smaller amount but a lot of people struggle in some way with some aspects of reading and writing.

Henry explained if children were to go for an assessment offshore, the airfares, accommodation and everything else would add up to around $2500 per student.

With around 4000 students in the Cook Islands, and about 650 odd students looking at getting assessed, she said it would cost over $1 million to just fund the assessments.

CIDSI chairperson Jean-Marie Francis urges parents to get in touch as soon as they can.

“Don’t be shy, contact us through Facebook, we can send out some forms to be filled in or you come into our office and have a chat to Kimiora or Maddy (Madeline) and go through the assessment forms,” said Francis.

“It’s very simple it’s just a permission slip letter for the parents outlining what we do and what we offer … we take all the hard bits out so it’s just a few basic questions to give us a fair idea of where your child’s at.”

Having an office near town is more convenient for families, said Francis adding “if anyone has a child who is having difficulties, we can help. We need the funding and we need to prove and get the data that these assessments are needed to help these kids immediately”.

Having worked with the kids at Apii Avarua and Apii Nikao, Francis recognises “just how wonderful and amazing our children are and that sometimes they just need a helping hand or just a hug”.

Thanks to ANZ Bank, CIDSI has six month’s rent taken care of at their new office with support also from Vodafone, Vaka TV, BCI Bank and the Ministry of Education.

ANZ Bank Cook Islands country head Jason Murray was given the privilege of cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony assisted by ANZ relationship manager government, Bronwyn Clarke.

“If there’s anyone out there that can help us, we would appreciate it,” added Francis.

The Cook Islands Dyslexia Society Incorporated executive board members are: Founding Chair - Niki Rattle, who stepped down when she took on the role of Ombudsman; Chairperson Jean-Marie Francis, Vice Chairperson - Kimiora Ona, Secretary - Angelique Elisaia, Treasurer - Jennifer Henry, Assistant Treasurer - Taputu Mariri, Committee Members: Jessie Sword and Sammy Mataroa.