The experiences of parents of children who have dyslexia in Victoria, Australia: a social justice perspective
AuthorLevi, Katherine Sarah
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Katherine Sarah Levi
This study aimed to shed light on the experiences of parents in Victoria, Australia with a school-aged child diagnosed with dyslexia. Utilising a mixed method research design, the study examined the experiences of parents as they navigated the pathway to their child’s diagnosis and attempted to gain support for their child’s learning disability post diagnosis. Applying a social work, social justice lens, this study examined the impact of the current social policy status of dyslexia on parents and their children as they sought recognition and support within the education system. Nancy Fraser’s theory of need recognition (1989) was utilised to provide a theoretical lens with which to analyse parents’ experiences and provide insight into the current status of the recognition of dyslexia in Victoria. The findings provided insight into the struggle by parents for the recognition of the needs of children who have dyslexia. The experiences of parents presented in the findings of this study illustrated the complex terrain parents traversed in order to have their child’s dyslexia identified and to obtain support for their child’s learning needs. The findings demonstrated that parents of children with dyslexia in Victoria navigated, largely unsupported, the domain of the educational system and were predominantly responsible for identifying early signs of their child’s dyslexia and funding resources to meet their additional learning needs. As parents encountered this landscape, they negotiated many professional terrains in a largely unregulated marketplace of services and resources. Despite the existence of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005, the findings demonstrate that neither the state, nor the Catholic nor the independent school sectors consistently recognised or addressed the needs of children with dyslexia. This was largely a consequence of the absence of a mandated overarching educational policy framework and the consequent lack of comprehensive provision of pre-service and in-service teacher training in relation to dyslexia and resources for the identification and remediation of dyslexia. The failure of the state to provide resources resulted in an over-reliance on parents to support their child’s learning needs. This contributed to social injustice in the form of inequity for children, as the provision of resources was dependent on factors associated with children’s family of origin, economic context and the extent to which the child’s school was prepared and able to allocate resources to children with dyslexia. This study demonstrates that the lack of structural recognition of dyslexia results in a paucity of knowledge relating to dyslexia which is exacerbated by the lack of allocation of consistent and comprehensive provisions and resources to accommodate the learning needs of children with dyslexia. These deficits lead to discrimination in relation to the provision of education to children with dyslexia. Recommendations from this study include policy recognition of dyslexia, mandated teacher education relating to dyslexia and the allocation of resources for the identification, remediation and accommodation of students with dyslexia in the education system.
Keywordsexperiences of parents of children who have dyslexia; social justice; social work
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