Affected: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones left Bermuda so dyslexic son Dylan could attend a special school. *File photo
Affected: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones left Bermuda so dyslexic son Dylan could attend a special school. *File photo
Parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars to send their children overseas because Bermuda’s schools do not cater for dyslexia sufferers.

There are currently no specialist on-island facilities within the school system to teach children with the learning difficulty.

There are about 250 primary school children with dyslexia in Bermuda and some receive extra help from a learning support teacher.

But parents and specialists are calling for continuous specialist education to meet their specific needs.

They say it is “emotionally draining” for children with dyslexia to be taken out of class for extra help.

Being singled out can also affect a child’s confidence and self-esteem.

Parents who have the finances are turning to specialist schools overseas that cost more than $50,000 per year.

Earlier this year, movie stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones left the island because their son was struggling with dyslexia.

They wanted to enroll Dylan, eight, into a specialist school in New York.

Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith yesterday said she will “strive to improve” the situation.

Julie Dunstan, executive director of the Reading Clinic, said parents and teachers need to work together to improve the school system for those with dyslexia.

She added: “Most children with dyslexia would be ideally best suited to a specialist school environment.

Frustration

“This is obviously very costly and maybe not be realistic for somewhere as small as Bermuda but we feel the potential is there.

“We know from our work that there is a cycle of frustration in our schools.

“Children with dyslexia can be very capable and creative but when they are struggling in school they feel humiliated.

“They can feel withdrawn or may act up. It is not healthy for them.”

The Reading Clinic is a parent-based organization that believes in early intervention with dyslexia.

They are currently giving multi-sensory tutoring to about 80 children up to three times a week.

Ms Dunstan, who is also a registered psychologist, said: “There are lots of children in Bermuda not getting any tutoring for their dyslexia.

“What we offer is not always enough, parents are going overseas to specialist schools and we understand why. But parents obviously need the finances to do that.

“Sixty per cent of the children we tutor are from public schools.”

 The Bermuda Sun spoke to two mothers who decided to send their dyslexic children overseas.

Gillian and John Edwards pay for their 14-year-old son John to attend the Gow School in New York because “Bermuda could do nothing else for him”.

Mrs. Edwards added: “Those with dyslexia are not getting the support they need from schools in Bermuda.

“Schools are now businesses — they all want to get their exam results up.

“They try to make everyone mainstream to fit in with the itinerary.

“This is having an emotional effect on the children.

“It’s not their fault but they feel shameful having to ask for extra help.”

Joshua Bucher, 14, was also taken out of his Bermuda school to go to the same boarding school for dyslexic boys in New York.

His mom Karen Bucher said extra tutoring was “just not up to scratch” and was only available if you asked for it.

Issues

She added: “It’s not easy being dyslexic in Bermuda. It’s a challenge for children — they get frustrated and are not encouraged to reach their full potential.

“We can only hope the situation will change.”

Dame Jennifer said she planned to address all education issues but not at the same time.

She added: “At the present time there are no

on-island options for a child with dyslexia and teachers and staff are not in a position to provide extra learning.

“The entire special needs spectrum is an area I intend to bring focus on.

“We constantly strive to improve, to do better.”

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