Parents campaign for learning disability programme

18:57, Oct 15 2014
Michele and Fraser Tempero
NEW START: Michele and Fraser Tempero. "Learning disabilities don't just leave you when you leave school," Michele says.

When Michele and Darryl Tempero saw their son falling through the gaps of mainstream schooling, they went on a hunt to get him the help he needed.

Fraser Tempero, 10, has expressive and receptive language disorder, which means he has trouble with reading and writing, and has memory and comprehension issues.

He was slow to start talking, his mother said.

"I knew when he was 18 months old that something wasn't right.

"Things weren't looking good for him."

She read Canadian Barbara Arrowsmith-Young's book "The Woman who Changed her Brain" two years ago, and recognised traits of her son. She heard Arrowsmith-Young talk in Auckland, then brought her to Christchurch to speak to about 160 parents and educators.

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From then on Tempero campaigned to get a Christchurch school to take up the author's Arrowsmith Programme - which "rewired" neural pathways in the brain to overcome learning disabilities.

After a joint effort with other advocating mums, Seven Oaks School now joins three in Auckland and one in Wellington taking enrolments for 2015.

It was a "dream come true", she said.

"I'm convinced that there's nothing else out there like it."

"For kids like Fraser they fall through the gaps, [schools] just don't have the funding for them."

The programme cost more than $5000 plus the school's normal fees per year but it was investing in her son's future, she said.

"The cost is secondary to Fraser's future, because this is the rest of his life we're talking about.

"Learning disabilities don't just leave you when you leave school."

Seven Oaks was now seeking more enrolments to ensure it met the minimum 10 pupil to one teacher ratio, principal Owen Arnst said.

"We're really quite excited about it.

"Certainly, there's great testimonial reports. It's been going for some 30 years in Canada."

Arnst had heard of two Canterbury families moving abroad in order to access the programme. "It's [easier] for us to implement it rather than a larger school."

The school would select a teacher to travel for three weeks' training in Canada. The children would then have two days of assessment, before the data is sent back to Canada to create personalised learning programmes.

The Press