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Māori dyslexia screening tool in the works

There’s currently no te reo Māori dyslexia screening tool available; a trial version is being piloted at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Wairarapa.

Tumaki Pip Rimene was “tired of waiting” for a culturally appropriate screening tool for learning difficulties such as dyslexia, so she created one with consultant Mike Styles.  

The Māori dyslexia screening tool currently in the trial stages at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Wairarapa, with 20 students having been assessed and three showing signs of dyslexia.  

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An estimated one in 10 New Zealanders have dyslexia, which can make it difficult to read, write and work with numbers. The number is based on overseas research, as there is scant New Zealand data.  

Currently, there is no public funding for a diagnosis. Private assessments can cost between $650 to $1000. It’s one of the most common learning difficulties that resource teachers of behaviour and learning see.  

boy with dyslexia struggling to write
AdobeStock by vejaa

Rimene said that Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Wairarapa began looking for a te reo Māori dyslexia screening after one of their tamariki was diagnosed with the condition. Since the age of nine, Zephyr-Hoani Karaitiana was having outbursts in class, which kaiako identified as occuring around reading and writing. Rimene and the kura supported Karaitiana’s whānau through a private dyslexia diagnosis.  

Despite dyslexia screening tools being named as a priority for the Ministry of Education in 2019, “there has been no funding as of yet, said the Ministry of Education’s deputy secretary of operations and integration, Sean Teddy.  

Rimene and other kaimahi (staff) at the school believe assessing children learning in Māori immersion with an English test wasn’t appropriate. After working with Karaitiana and his whānau, Rimene and staff questioned whether an English test for dyslexia would skew results for tamariki learning and working in te reo Māori.  

Rimene said the kura wasn’t able to find any te reo Māori dyslexia resources, even privately and going through other avenues like resource teachers.  

Luckily, consultant Mike Styles was keen to work with the kura on a tool for reo Māori students. By the end of 2024, Rimene wants to have most of their 70 students assessed. This data will give them an understanding of baseline achievement.  

The results will indicate which children require future support, though it will not constitute a formal diagnosis.  

The test is being developed as part of a wider move at Te Kura Kauapapa Māori o Wairarapa, who want to better align their pedagogy with their student needs.  

“I’ve been at this kura for 15 years and we’ve ‘never’ had a dyslexic student so you don’t know what you don’t know,” says Rimene.  

She wants to share the tool with other kura once it’s been fully developed.  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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