DFNZ has a twin focus on getting it right in the classroom and in the courts. This stems from the simple fact that the teenage years can be the breakpoint for those with learning differences.

For those who struggle at school, the effectiveness of inclusive learning, accommodations and interventions will determine whether these youth break through to harness the creative strengths that dyslexia can bring or break down and act out.

If youth offending is the dis-ease, education is the best preventative.  Dyslexia is one of the few causes of social dysfunction that can be easily addressed. By prioritising and addressing dyslexia in schools – and ensuring that schools deliver on the legal rights that dyslexic students have to appropriate teaching and accommodations – we avoid flow on adult-related expenses from social services and mental health services through to the huge costs of incarceration in the prison system. 


In the classroom, DFNZ's key focus is on improving the dyslexic student's experience and achievements.

Fundamental to this is the provision of NCEA Special Assessment Conditions (SACs), such as reader or writer assistance, computer use, or extra time, for students with learning differences sitting NCEA level exams; and the provision of similar accommodations for those in the earlier, formative years as they move through the education system.

The DFNZ 'Plus 20' initiative is aimed at lifting the numbers of students receiving NCEA SACs by more than 20% year on year.

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Unlocking difference in the youth justice system

In the courts, DFNZ's focus is on youth justice. In simple terms, this is about ensuring youth with neurodisabilities and/or learning differences such as dyslexia are not entrapped in a system that treats them unfairly as adults. Difficulty with the acquisition of basic skills like reading and spelling, slower cognitive processing speeds and comprehension all contribute to this.

Youth offending is the dark side of learning difference. For a young person with learning differences that render them ill-equipped to understand and deal with the justice system, DFNZ contends the default should be a family inclusive, restorative approach. In line with this, DFNZ’s objective is to raise awareness of how neurodisabilities and learning differences impact the journey of individuals within the justice system and how this translates to over-representation of these youth in custody. And to advocate for key changes in the justice system to better respond to vulnerable youth.

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