Interesting release here from the Dyslexia Foundation. New Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Becroft, is speaking at their forum, and clearly he is aware of the implications of learning disabilities.

Does he also know about the chronic underfunding of special education in NZ? Does he know that educators cannot get the support they need to support students with learning disabilities? Will he use his new position to work toward changing the situation?

From the media release:

“Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft will highlight how neurodisabilities have been an ‘invisible presence’ in the court system, underlying some of the most serious youth offending, in a presentation to the 2016 Neurodisabilities Forum in Wellington tomorrow.

“Judge Becroft, who takes up an appointment as the Children’s Commissioner in July, is one of two keynote speakers for the forum.

“Judge Becroft’s presentation will look at the significant prevalence of neurodisabilities in the youth justice system, the importance of knowledge regarding neurodisability to justice system responses, and how New Zealand’s youth justice system is now taking a pioneering approach to focus on recognizing and dealing with neurodisabilities that in many cases underlie the most serious and complex cases of youth offending.

“Guy Pope-Mayell, DFNZ Chair of Trustees, says young people with neurodisabilities – from learning differences like dyslexia, through to intellectual disability, foetal alcohol syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder –  are particularly vulnerable in a justice system geared towards achieving convictions.

“There are well documented direct correlations between neurodisabilities and youth offending and prison populations. Judge Becroft has estimated 65-70% of offenders that come before the Youth Court are not formally engaged within the education system. Results from a Ministry of Education screening tool trialed in 2008 on 197 prison inmates showed that 90% were not functionally literate and 80% were not functionally numerate. British, American and Swedish studies all estimate that 30-50% of prisoners are dyslexic.

“Pope-Mayell says common and shared characteristics of neurodisabilites are often misunderstood in a justice context.

“‘If someone is refusing to make eye contact that can be misinterpreted as guilt or belligerence. In reality, it is just a very common symptom of a number of neurodisabilities, from foetal alcohol syndrome through to dyslexia, autism and ADHD and cannot be ascribed any specific significance.’