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Dyslexic Irishman denied SFI assistance

Published: 21 Apr 2010 11:09 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 Apr 2010 11:09 GMT+02:00

When Alan Newsome moved to Stockholm five years ago he signed up for a Swedish for Immigrants (Svenska för Invandrare- SFI) course, only to find that as a dyslexic he was denied support and was forced to quit.

”I couldn't keep up, so I had to quit. I am currently studying a Master's programme at Uppsala University so it is not a question of intelligence,” Newsome told The Local on Tuesday.

Frustrated with what he saw as insufficient understanding for his condition, and a lack of action after more than 40 telephone calls to various teachers and SFI managers, he decided to seek the help of the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) hoping to establish his right to assistance.

But DO told the 40-year-old Irishman that despite the fact that this right is enshrined in the 1994 national curriculum for non-compulsory education – the rules which govern SFI – he had no such right as an SFI student with dyslexia.

Patrik Edgren, the research officer at DO who handled Alan Newsome's case, told The Local on Tuesday that he information he supplied was wrong.

”My response to Alan Newsome was incorrect - I should have told him that he had no right according to the discrimination act but that he does under the schools law,” Edgren explained.

If the local municipality does not provide the support that the schools law requires then the matter should instead be addressed to the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), Edgren said.

Madeleine Edström, a vice principal for SFI in Stockholm, argued however that it was less a question of rights than resources.

”Of course the municipality has an obligation to provide support, but we have no way of diagnosing whether a student has dyslexia with regards to SFI education,” she told The Local on Tuesday.

When told that Alan Newsome has a valid diagnosis from Ireland she continued:

”There simply aren't any qualified special needs teachers, not that are qualified to teach SFI anyway.”

Edström conceded that while not all practising SFI teachers in Stockholm hold qualifications to teach SFI, all are required to have a university level teaching qualification and have completed studies in Swedish as a second language.

”If they are not fully qualified then they can be employed but must be given a plan (for further training). One of the schools did have a special needs teacher once but she found another job,” Edström said.

Alan Newsome explained that at his current seat of learning, Uppsala University, he is provided with the assistance he needs to complete his course successfully, without the need for a special needs teacher.

”It is not high tech stuff – just a question of talking books or computer programmes,” he said, arguing that the teaching methods at SFI did not cater to his learning disability and that his school was not prepared to amend teaching materials accordingly.

”It really is a very basic way of teaching with no visuals, all verbal, and you are not allowed to use the PC programmes outside of SFI premises – due to licensing issues,” he said.

Madeleine Edström conceded that the material used at SFI level is not available in talking book form.

”The book simply isn't made as a talking book, some of the teachers do use material that has a CD accompaniment though,” she said.

When asked whether other material could be found within the field of Swedish language teaching, for Swedish children with dyslexia for example, Edström replied:

”Yes but those are for Swedish children, with Swedish as their mother tongue – on a level far too advanced for an SFI course.”

Despite the problems in recruiting teachers and finding suitable teaching material, Madeleine Edström argued that had Alan Newsome's case been brought to her personal attention then she would have acted to ensure that he be given the support that he needs, and that the curriculum requires.

”We may not have specialist teachers, but we have plenty of teachers willing and able to give extra help. We have a lot of dyslexic pupils studying SFI,” she said.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:12 April 21, 2010 by SeattletoUmeå
This is a bunch of BS. I have dyslexia and Im going to SFI. I have found that the teachers do know about dyslexia and that they will help you with whatever they can. You just have to ask. Also they are linked to komvux which has a dyslexia program. Once a week a teacher will come and help you with ANYTHING and put you on computers to help with your dyslexia. This guy is full of it. He just was lazy and wanted to learn one on one with a teacher. If he is dyslexic then he would have an IEP and he could have given it to his teachers. I stand with SFI on this one.. this man was just looking for the easy way out and someone to blame.
13:54 April 21, 2010 by Rick Methven
My son is dyslexic and had help at komvux
14:19 April 21, 2010 by peropaco
@SeattletoUmeå. I understand the severity of your dyslexia if you moved from Seattle to Umeå :-)))))
14:30 April 21, 2010 by calebian22
Peropaco,

lol, I moved from PDX to Värnamo. Maybe I have dyslexia too?
14:52 April 21, 2010 by Nemesis
I hope this is not true.

There is a dyslexic person in my school, in a seperate SFI class who gets full assistance. I think the person is from Iraq or Kurdish or something like that.

Maybe others here may know something about this, but I thought that materials for dyslexia was available in SFI, for all SFI levels and konvux A & B.

Also in the SFI I intend, there is a special class for diasabled people, with services at a level that I have never seen back in Ireland.

SFI has teachers who deal with mentally disabled people, so should have the resources to deal with someone with dyslexia.

If this turns out to be true, then the only reason for it would be blatant discimination.

I would suggest he moves to a different kommune as it is obvious it kommune is made up of bigots.
14:55 April 21, 2010 by peropaco
@Calebian22. Roflmsao... Not as bad as Umeå though. At least you can drive for an hour and a half to Norkoping if you want to see people. I remember this line from Gimli " Fangorn! What madness drove them in there" LOL
16:21 April 21, 2010 by Frobobbles
Why would Sweden have a need of dyslectic irishmen?
17:07 April 21, 2010 by alan newsome
Well thank you all for your intelligent responses especially SeattletoUmeå. I wandering what kind of dyslexias you suffer from? This not not about my laziness, even though I have a BA in Social studies, Diploma in management and at present am completing a masters degree at Uppsala University which might be hard to achieve if I was as lazy as you think I am.

There are so many different forms of dyslexia and it affects peoples learning in different ways. So SeattletoUmeå maybe you can do some research before you let your fingers loose on your key board again and stop embarrassing yourself. I am open to people that have something interesting to say and I hope that this article makes people more aware of the reality of the situation. The Local would not have published this article without doing research first and sometimes the truth hurts and other times it makes people angry, but without the truth systems will never change. Looking at legislation over the past ten years, disabled people rights have come a long way, and that is through lobbying groups and media pressure groups. People who make a difference and fight for what they and others are entitled to.
18:08 April 21, 2010 by sissygirl
Alan Newsome: Many posters are helpful with their insight but unfortunately some are just here to be jerks. I hope you find what you need.
18:09 April 21, 2010 by ladyontop
why on earth this is even making news?
18:21 April 21, 2010 by Nemesis
@ alan newsome,

I would question the advice you recieved that you do not have the right to complain under the discrimination office.

Have you tried contacting any of the disability groups for advice?

I am very suprised to read this about SFI. Have you tried to find out if you can go to a different SFI which might have the facilities you require?
18:27 April 21, 2010 by byke
Deleted by poster (sorry)
18:54 April 21, 2010 by Puffin
Alan were you at a kommun/komvix SFI school or was it a private provider?

One of the wekanesses of Sweden's free school legislation is that the disableed and those with special educational needs are not guaranteed full support in the private free-school system
19:54 April 21, 2010 by alan newsome
Hi all,

madeleine.edstrom from SFI has asked me to get in touch with her as regards my case so I will follow that line of action and see what happens. I understand that they are a lot of good people working in SFI but it is the system that needs to change and hopefully this is the start of something. It was my shock of the response from Patrik Edgren, the research officer at DO that made me bring my case further and to the attention of The Local. As you can see from the article they have apologised for their mistake but if they can not provide people with the accurate information it leaves citizens very vulnerable to what they are entitlements are or are not as the case may be.
20:15 April 21, 2010 by Nemesis
@ alan newsome,

Please keep us fully informed.

This is a disturbing development, that has happened to you.
20:39 April 21, 2010 by Beavis
Yet another case of people working in Swedish state bodies who dont check what people are or are not entitled to. They just say no, your ot entitled to it without checking. There is a few people working within the system that are great and do actually check things first, but id put them at about 5%

Its the whole "Its not possible" without checking attitude.
00:02 April 22, 2010 by DAVID T
There's a joke in this somewhere
00:09 April 22, 2010 by Puffin
One of the problems is that the Education Act as framwork legislation is rather unclear on these issues as there is a fine line regarding what comes under the provisions of Disability Discrimination and what comes under the parts of the Act relating to Special Educational Needs - these are dealt with by different public authorities which makes even more complicated.

If it makes OP feel any better I have been bounced between DO and Skolinspektionen on an issue relating to my autistic daughter's disability school support since April 2007 and still don't have a final decision in my case yet - although Skolinspektionen delivered a partial ruling in April 2009, My daughter was forced to leave the school because of the lack of support for her disability - so 3 years and no decision!
00:27 April 22, 2010 by kenny8076
SFI is a joke and a waste of time. i started in level C, and i don't think there is an actual level A or B. We are 2 months from taking the national test and they are STILL putting people in the class and we are constantly going back over beginning of the class stuff. There is a guy from the middle east they let in a month ago and STILL cant say ''my name is'' in Swedish. we are always going over for him. and a few other people too. they base level C solely on whether or not you have a high school diploma which is stupid. the entire class is in Swedish and when given very important information at the beginning like, don't come to class tom. because the teacher had to do something, no one understood. i have hung on as long as i can, hopefully i pass and move on with my life. i wish they had English classes teaching Swedish. much easier for learning important rules and grammar. Asking a question about why something is a certain way or how to do something and getting the answer back in fluent Swedish is kind of silly and pointless. My Swedish girlfriend cant believe its even like that.
03:33 April 22, 2010 by Davey-jo
I can only despair at the lack of help a dyslexic Irsihman would get in the KU.

No it's not funny and it's not clever and who deals with this carp in Sweden or anywhere will be feeling very stupid.
04:30 April 22, 2010 by RoyceD
sadly not surprised at all by this.
09:44 April 22, 2010 by spongepaddy
Well why the hell couldn't he just learn Swedish like I did, and like people have always done, by talking to people, listening to people and watching telly? And quit moaning at the state about every setback.
10:27 April 22, 2010 by Puffin
@ Kenny8076

SFI levels A&B are primarliy designed for people who have very low levels of previous schooling - less than 6-8 years to provide a slow and low level start
16:19 April 22, 2010 by koshka
This site might be helpful for people needing to turn text into speech. No Swedish yet but they provide about 8 European languages and I think it's free for personal users - http://www.robobraille.org/rb/subpage187.aspx. Despite braille being in the name it is aimed at people with reading difficulties as well.

For Swedish there's a really good commercial package called Claroread Plus which includes scanning software. It includes various proofreading and study skills tools as well. Not cheap - about 2000kr from the only Swedish distributor that I can see - http://www.claroread.se/products/claroread-plus-v5.php. Not sure if there's any public funding available here but in the UK, university students could get it funded by the Disabled Students Allowance.
11:07 April 23, 2010 by alecLoTh
Get a copy of teletubbies in Svenska
12:39 April 23, 2010 by farnoxo
That sounds pretty fcuked up. Anyway, all one needs to get by in Sweden is Hje and Hje Åd. Mind you, you wouldn't want to get röv and räv mixed up!
11:15 April 24, 2010 by spongepaddy
@alecLoTh

I like the teletubbies option.
11:17 April 24, 2010 by hardonforswedes
Hes a Paddy for crying out loud..we have been saying in England that their thick as shite for years..lol
12:34 April 24, 2010 by spongepaddy
@hardonforswedes:

Speaking as another Paddy, may I just point out that you should have said "THEY'RE thick as shite" and not "there thick as shite". But don't worry, it's a very common error among people who are as thick as shite.
20:39 April 24, 2010 by hardonforswedes
LOL we should start a club then? Maybe the swedes will gives us money??
13:20 December 9, 2010 by Johnny Steping
As a dyslexic he can´t be rejected, this is sick, get him private help instead Personlig assistans Sweden shape up!
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