If you call the SPELD NSW Infoline on a Monday or Wednesday you will likely speak to Vanessa, one of three SPELD NSW Information and Referral Officers.
Vanessa’s calm and considered approach is a breath of fresh air for families who are thankful to speak to someone who ‘understands’.
Vanessa says that navigating learning difficulties can be an isolating experience for many families and it’s reassuring for them to speak with someone who can empathise with their experience.
As a grandparent, parent, teacher, tutor and advocate for students with disabilities Vanessa has a sympathetic ear and lots of evidence based information to support parents.
“I’m very proud to work for SPELD NSW, I think it is a great organisation. I know what I went through with my daughter when there was no help. I would have loved to have someone to give me the support we give parents now,” said Vanessa.
This month Vanessa celebrates an incredible ten years with SPELD NSW. The team estimates Vanessa has helped around 10,000 families during this time.
“Vanessa has achieved a great milestone with SPELD NSW. Congratulations Vanessa and thanks for your dedication to those students who struggle to develop literacy and numeracy skills and their families and for being such an amazing team member,” said Georgina Perry, Executive Officer
Teachers Certificate Course
As a teacher Vanessa first discovered SPELD NSW when she was searching for professional development courses to support her transition back to work after raising her family.
“I thought I needed to update my knowledge so I rang the NSW Department of Education and they had no courses at the time. That’s when I found out about SPELD NSW and the Teachers Certificate Course which taught me more than I had ever learnt in my initial teacher training,” said Vanessa.
To complete the Teachers Certificate Course participants are required to do a number of hours with a student which launched Vanessa’s tutoring service. Her role at SPELD NSW grew to interviewing prospective tutors and developing the Referral Database.
“Certainly with tutoring there is nothing more gratifying than seeing students learn something, move forward and have some self confidence. It’s what I was meant to do in life, I found it by chance, and I think it’s my calling.
The parents really are grateful and it’s nice to be able to make them feel not so alone and give them some resources and advice,” added Vannesa.
A decade of positive impact at SPELD NSW
Over the last decade Vanessa acknowledges the significant advancements to the way reading is taught in New South Wales schools and happily supports teachers with the increasing knowledge available. Vanessa has enjoyed many milestones with the organisation including:
- Celebrating 50 years of SPELD NSW
- The introduction of SPELD NSW educational psychologists to support families
- An all new online store with exciting and engaging resources
- A growing team with dedicated staff and leadership
- New online professional learning for professionals, parents and educators
- A new Parramatta location to support more training and a growing team
- Social media’s influence to help educate and inform evidence based practice
“I love the work we do and I love being able to help people through the Information and Referral Service. We get such good feedback and lots of thank you’s which is lovely,” said Vanessa.
The number one recommendation to parents
Vanessa’s first recommendation to parents is often sharing the AUSPELD Understanding Learning Difficulties Guide – a fantastic resource for parents and teachers.
“In nearly every email I send to parents I include the Understanding Learning Difficulties Guide to help parents feel more empowered,” said Vanessa.
Additional great resources include AUSPELD and the state SPELD organisations, Sounds Write, Talk 4 Writing, Five from Five and the Dyslexia Support NSW Facebook group. “So many parents feel alone and isolated. It’s nice to connect people through social media with groups like Dyslexia Support NSW.”
SPELD NSW Infoline demand increases
Vanessa works alongside Belinda and Melinda who each have outstanding knowledge about dyslexia and learning difficulties. Together they field many enquiries through our SPELD NSW Infoline to directly support families.
“After ten years, we are getting the same sort of calls but now we are getting more. Our advice is a lot better now because we have more information and resources available.
Everyone is very appreciative. I had a caller today who said it’s just nice to talk to someone who understands. It’s important for parents to have someone who listens and understands.”
The SPELD NSW Infoline is open five days a week and the team power through the increasing number of calls received by the service. They share their wealth of knowledge with parents and teachers looking for information to support children with learning difficulties.
‘We always leave a message and we always give people two calls and send an email to follow up. We are getting so many illiterate high school students and it just shouldn’t happen. Sadly every second call I have is also about anxiety,” adds Vanessa.
“Then you get parents who are in tears on the phone which is really hard. Parents are just at their wits end and that’s really sad, but also gratifying to know that we can help ease their sadness with positive feedback.”
To support families in recent years SPELD NSW has hosted affordable online parent webinars to give them the skills to support spelling, reading and writing at home.
Shining a light on student success
“One of my early students had dyslexia and ADHD. She came twice a week and never missed a beat. She came for a number of years and did really well and now she is doing a science degree. She’s my star student and has gone on and done really well. That’s the joy. We encourage parents to get the tutoring in place as that’s where their money is best spent.”
Vanessa is positive about the number of schools using Decodable Readers for the whole school at every level and getting good results. “The research is there, that’s the way to go. Synthetic phonics has been identified overseas and here as the most successful way to teach reading.”
Vanessa said ten years have flown by and she is looking forward to supporting more parents and students into the future.
The SPELD NSW team and Board congratulate and thank Vanessa for her 10 years of service with SPELD NSW as an Information and Referral Officer, Tutor and her role in developing the SPELD NSW Referral Database of Tutors and Professionals. Thanks Vanessa.