Tackling bad behaviour

  Neil MacKay Workshop Video Links

We could be politically correct and talk around this issue but, to be quite blunt, it is well known that bad behaviour can be a side-effect of learning issues. It is also a sign that immediate action is required.

New Zealand is at a crossroads on this. It has the choice of viewing dyslexia from a disability perspective, or making the shift to a solutions paradigm and focusing on positive action that unleashes potential. The 4D Edge and the new teaching paradigm firmly embrace the latter, in the awareness that correctly addressed dyslexia can become a key driver for creative thinking and produce the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship needed in an increasingly ICT-led world, and in challenging economic times.

As a problem, incorrectly addressed dyslexia can lead to disruptive classroom behaviour, alienation, anti-social behaviour, truancy, depression, suicide, drug use and crime. Not only is there is a significant body of international research on this, click here to read more, but New Zealand Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has also expressed concern about links between learning difficulties and offending. And Neil Mackay has a powerful take on this, identifying nine steps to ‘creating a criminal’ that schools often unwittingly follow. Click here to learn more on both of these.


Dyslexia is also one of the few causes of social dysfunction that can be easily addressed. And the costs of doing so are an investment that will return huge dividends. By prioritising and addressing dyslexia in schools we avoid flow-on adult related costs – social services, criminal services, mental health services etc.

Fundamentally, all of us can be affected by dyslexia, which is why addressing dyslexia in the classroom, and through into the workplace, can be a very effective way of improving life for the whole community.

Stepping back into the classroom, problems often arise when teachers equate weak basic skills with some sort of inability to think. If students are put into groups that are appropriate for basic skills but not for their thinking levels, they can quickly become frustrated and act out. This is because dyslexic students often think faster than they read – so putting them in low-ability groups and measuring them solely on reading ability wrongly labels them as ‘failures’, impacting self-esteem. Stress and anxiety most often caused by the learning environment is 80% of the problem, compounding insecurities and consequent bad behaviour.

The solution is about placing students in thinking ability appropriate groups while supporting them with basic skills. This empowers them to develop high level subject knowledge and skills while their basic skills are catching up. All this requires a flexible approach to teaching, but this is perfectly in tune with the new National Curriculum which empowers and challenges schools to do things differently.

Fundamentally, effective action comes from adopting a ‘notice and adjust’ strategy. This is the underlying principle of the new teaching paradigm, and involves noticing children who are getting stuck and making reasonable adjustments in the way they are taught and assessed. Click here for detailed information on classroom strategies and accommodations to achieve this.

This ‘notice and adjust’ approach also underpins the Dyslexia’s Foundation’s revolutionary 4D | 4 Dyslexia programme for schools, providing access to national and international expertise to improve classroom life for both teachers and students. Find out more at www.4d.org.nz/school


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