The Learning Key story

The Learning Key was started by Don Neill (B.A., Grad. Dip Ed., Slingerland Certification) who has over ten years’ experience working with students with dyslexia, dyscalculia and other learning differences. Don has worked in both the public-school system in New Zealand and at private schools in the U.S. specializing in dyslexia education. He has worked in one to one, small group and classroom environments and is trained and experienced in the Orton-Gillingham and Slingerland approaches to teaching language as well as The Making Math Real approach for children who have difficulties in maths.

After returning to NZ Don was determined to make a difference to children struggling with dyslexia. “I was fortunate to teach at a private school focusing on children with dyslexia and other learning differences; it was a tremendous experience. Children would often come in with a lot of emotional baggage. It was great to see the transformative effects of an environment that focused on these student’s educational and emotional needs. It’s so important that young people with learning differences get the teaching they require as early as possible.”

Throughout history people with dyslexia have made tremendous contributions to society. “It’s important that these children are understood and that their strengths are recognized. They are an incredible resource to New Zealand. And they have every right to feel good about themselves and their learning.”

Children with specific learning differences such as dyslexia need focused teaching that addresses their needs. A multisensory approach that emphasises reading skills and fluency, spelling, and writing is very useful for these children. As a former classroom teacher I have great respect for the work teachers do. Working in classrooms with 20 – 30 students of varying abilities and a full curriculum to deliver it is difficult to take the time to teach children with dyslexia an explicit approach aimed at meeting their needs.

“The structured, multisensory approach is not a quick fix. It is very thorough and proceeds at a pace determined by the individual or group. The success I saw in the U.S. convinced me this was the correct way forward.”