Monday, March 18, 2013

Dutch Health Insurers clamp down on extra reading help for dyslexic children

Remedial teachers without formal educational psychology training are being sidelined by insurers seeking to reduce the cost of helping dyslexic children learn to read, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The cost of extra help for dyslexic children soared from €11m in 2009 - when such help was included in the basic health insurance package - to €53m in 2011.

The growth, says health insurance industry spokesman Loek Caubo, is due to the increase in demand.

Until January this year, health insurers turned a blind eye to the involvement of remedial teachers.

A qualified educational psychologist determined the diagnosis and then specialised teachers took over, but now hundreds of remedial teachers may lose their jobs because insurers will only deal with, and pay, qualified psychologists.

Most remedial teachers operate as freelancers through specialist bureaux and have taken extra courses to qualify. 'We know the way primary education works,' one 47-year-old told the Volkskrant.

Dyslexic children will now be helped by freshly qualified psychologists, she said. 'And they have no idea about how reading and spelling is taught at primary schools,' the remedial teacher said.

Last month, junior education minister Sander Dekker said psychologists should be slower in branding children dyslexic and the definition rules may have to be tightened up.

Around 15% of Dutch school children are officially dyslexic, a tag which, for example, allows them to take different school exams using a bigger typeface and with more time.

'If we are talking about such high percentages, you have to question whether all these children really are dyslexic,' the minister is quoted as saying by news agency ANP. For example, children could just have difficulty reading, the minister said.

According to academic research, just 3% to 4% of the population is dyslexic, or word blind. Researcher and psychologist Chris Struiksma told ANP it is too easy to get a dyslexia diagnosis. 'Every self-declared expert can hand one out,' he said.

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