Dyslexia and offending

International dyslexia consultant Neil MacKay believes that traditional ways of dealing with dyslexia in the classroom can become a formula for failure, creating low self-esteem and pushing kids towards behavioural issues. He has created an ironic nine-step guide to ‘How to create a criminal’ which outlines what the education system does wrong for dyslexic students.

In New Zealand, Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has identified a “route to offending” which begins with classroom difficulties caused by unaddressed learning issues. Below are the key points regarding Mr Mackay’s nine-step guide and Judge Becroft’s “route to offending”.

Neil Mackay: ‘How to Create a Criminal’: Nine Steps to Failure
Suppose someone was perverse enough to want to ensure that a NZ student ended up in prison. How would they achieve it? Simple, find a dyslexic student and ensure that:
  1. Teachers focus on reading accuracy at the expense of thinking and the other core skills of the National Curriculum
  2. Teachers fail to share any concerns with parents – dismiss parental concerns – tell them “S/he’s young/naughty/not ready yet”
  3. Dismiss/ignore achievements/aptitudes in other subject areas (including, sports, the arts, drama, ICT etc) because of basic skill weaknesses
  4. Put students in "remedial groups" despite average performance in subjects other than English
  5. Treat escalating bad behaviour as something “wrong” with the student, home, background, environment etc rather than looking for causes within his/her schooling (in the UK, school inspectors say the major cause of bad behaviour is an inflexible curriculum)
  6. On transfer to secondary school, ensure that s/he is labelled as naughty rather than in need of support and ensure that none of his/her teachers have any awareness of dyslexia or of how needs may have been identified/met in primary school
  7. If, by some chance s/he gets any support, ensure it is focused on improving reading accuracy at the expense of functional reading with little or no emphasis on learning to learn, planning, organisation etc – “death by phonics” is essential, especially if the student prefers/needs to acquire literacy skills in other ways.
  8. As attendance and punctuality decline, see it as a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than an institutional failure
  9. Absolutely vital – make sure s/he leaves school with minimal/no qualifications, despite being of average ability

Click here to see the alternative Nine Simple Steps to Success - "No Student Left Behind"

Judge Becroft’s ‘Route to offending’

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has identified a ‘route to offending’ which may start with learning difficulties. In media comment in June 2009, Judge Becroft noted he was “seriously concerned as to the number of young offenders who have slipped through the ‘educational net’ because of undiagnosed learning disabilities, especially dyslexia. Overseas a pathway to eventual offending, originating from undiagnosed and unaddressed dyslexia is well-known.”

Judge Becroft advocates research in this area to ascertain how many young offenders in the three youth justice custodial residences in New Zealand suffer from dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

©Copyright Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand. All rights reserved.
Content may be reproduced with permission of DFNZ, contact info@dfnz.org.nz