If you suspect your child has a learning difficulty, you’re not alone! Every year, thousands of children throughout New Zealand are diagnosed with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities (SLD).

Our Assessors and Teachers are trained to assess, teach and support children with a wide range of learning disabilities, including dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. Our qualified teachers work one-to-one with students, creating an individual learning plan to suit each child, based on the findings of his or her assessment.

“In Year 5 his and our world crumbled as his undiagnosed dyslexia took a full grip over our lives.  Thank goodness for good advice, and an amazing SPELD tutor who helped us.  I was in awe.”

Assessment and teaching are just a part of what we do: we also offer a range of helpful resources and courses for families and caregivers of children with SLD/dyslexia.

Services for Children

Students, families, teachers and assessors explain the enormous benefits of SPELD NZ support.

SPELD NZ Teacher, Lynne Ashman, describes the thrill of being able to transform a child’s life

I suspect my child has a specific learning disability such as dyslexia

If you’re concerned that your child may have a learning difficulty, complete this quick checklist. If you tick more than 3 or 4 boxes, we suggest you contact us to discuss a diagnostic assessment.

I want to find out more about specific learning difficulties

Dyslexia is the most commonly known specific learning disability (SLD) but there are others that can have a dramatic impact on a child’s capacity to learn. SPELD NZ also works with children struggling with dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and ADHD.

I know my child has an SLD. What are the next steps?

A SPELD NZ assessment is an essential first step in really understanding your child’s learning needs. It can be a turning point in a child’s life, enabling parents and schools to understand what is going on and organise effective, targeted support.

How do I arrange SPELD NZ tuition?

If your child’s assessment indicates a need for our one-on-one tuition, we can put you in touch with a SPELD NZ Teacher. The teacher will create a highly individualised learning plan, based on the findings of the assessment.

My school doesn’t understand or cope with my child’s learning needs

We highly recommend you share your SPELD NZ assessment report with your child’s classroom teacher and request a meeting with the school’s SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator). It’s important that the school understands your child’s particular learning issues so that they can try to accommodate your child’s learning needs in the classroom.

I want to learn how to understand and better support my child

We run courses for parents and caregivers, and have a wealth of resources you are welcome to borrow. You can also follow our Facebook page for support and advice.

Frequently asked questions by parents and caregivers

What does a SPELD NZ assessment diagnose?

If you have serious concerns about your child’s learning abilities, the first vital step is a full diagnostic assessment. Once we’ve received your SPELD NZ membership fee and enrolment forms, we can refer you to one of our SPELD NZ Assessors.

We use the internationally recognised Woodcock-Johnson assessment. This can take up to four hours and is often split into two sessions. It identifies intellectual and educational strengths and weaknesses, and evaluates the skills involved in effective learning, such as:

  • Language and auditory skills
  • Visual skills and spatial awareness
  • Speed of processing
  • Short and long term memory
  • Reading, spelling and mathematics
  • Handwriting
  • Co-ordination and organisation
  • Attention, concentration and academic fluency

The report is written for both parents and professionals so it includes some technical language. However a clear summary is included and your SPELD NZ Assessor will be happy to answer any questions.

The assessment report will also help educational professionals working with you/your child to target the areas of weakness. It may also help your child access Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) in NCEA and Cambridge exams.

Please note: While the assessment does not diagnose behavioural conditions such as ADHD or ADD or Spectrum Disorders, assessors may note indications of these.

How do I get a SPELD NZ Teacher for my child and what does tuition involve?

If the Assessor’s report recommends one-to-one tuition, the next step is to contact your regional SPELD NZ Office. We have a national network of SPELD NZ Teachers and will aim to refer you to one who is based as close as possible to where you live. Usually lessons are one hour, once a week, during school terms. Teachers normally work from their homes or in some instances, tuition can take place at a child’s school.

All our teachers are qualified classroom teachers who’ve passed our 400 hour, NZQA-approved training course. Based on the assessment findings, they develop an individualised one-on-one teaching programme which uses a student’s strengths to build up their weaknesses.

What does it all cost?

Membership Fees

As a charitable organisation, we ask all members to pay an annual membership fee, which helps to cover our operating expenses. Our membership fees (whether individual or for the entire family) are:

With community services card in name of parent /caregiver

  • $50 for first year
  • $50 each following year to renew

Without community services card

  • $100 for the first year
  • $100 each following year to renew
  • discounted to $85 for prompt

NB: All membership fees include GST.

Benefits of membership include a discounted rate for our SPELD NZ assessments and tuition, our magazine several times a year, free use of our library resources, discounted rates for our introductory courses and the ability to apply for financial support for those with proof of low income. From time to time, we also receive free tickets to children’s shows which we give away to our members.

Please note we receive no government funding. We rely on memberships, donations and fundraising to maintain our services to the community.


A SPELD NZ assessment for members generally ranges from $490 to $650 (plus GST if any). This includes assessment time, materials, the analysis of the results and the full report.

SPELD NZ one-on-one tuition for members ranges from $35 to $90 (plus GST if any) per one hour lesson.

Can I get financial assistance to help cover the cost of assessment and tuition?

SPELD NZ continually fundraises to help subsidise our services for those on low incomes.

We may be able to provide financial assistance for assessment and tuition if you have a current Community Services Card or can provide evidence of low income or hardship. Please call us to find out whether you’re eligible for financial assistance on 0800 773 536.

Why does SPELD NZ assessment and tuition work so well?

Learning issues are often a sign that a child’s brain works differently. We know from experience that the earlier the one-on-one specialised support, the better the outcome. SPELD NZ aspires to very high professional standards and we use proven, research-based methods to greatly enhance learning outcomes for children with dyslexia.

The University of Auckland’s Associate Professor of Psychology, Karen Waldie, noted that SPELD NZ intervention resulted in “vast improvements in thinking ability, cognitive fluency and processing speed”.

What’s more, the New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies published the research findings, noting the improvements were “testament to the ability of the brain to be modified, presumably via strengthened neural connectivity.”

What age should you be to have an assessment?

The Woodcock-Johnson assessment is used to test for dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities in pre-schoolers to those in their 90s. Research shows many benefits of early identification and intervention. However, parents/caregivers of children aged under 7 to 8-years-old should note that it’s difficult to make a definitive diagnosis of dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities for this age group.

However, the assessment can identify where difficulties are likely and the assessor can make suggestions to help future learning. Individual lessons can still help a child under 7 to 8-years-old who is significantly behind in reading. A firm diagnosis can usually be made for children aged over 7 to 8 years, by which time they should have mastered the basics of literacy and numeracy.

How long does the assessment take?

The time taken for an assessment depends on the capabilities of the person being assessed, (e.g. their age, processing speed and attention span) and the purpose of the testing. The assessment may be split into two sessions: your assessor will discuss this with you.

Usually the parent doesn’t stay during the assessment. Please talk with your assessor before the assessment if you feel that, because of special circumstances, you should attend the assessment sessions.

The report should be available within three weeks of the assessment date. The report will be sent to the person who has paid for the assessment, unless other arrangements are made.

What about assessments needed for Special Assessment Conditions for exams (SAC)?

Our assessments are recognised by NZQA for Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) for exams such as NCEA.

Due to NZQA’s SAC requirements, extra testing may be needed and this could mean extra time and costs.
Your SPELD NZ Assessor will discuss these with you prior to the assessment taking place. It is important to note that the assessment report is only one part of the SAC application. The school is responsible for making SAC applications and NZQA makes the final decision.

Are any tests needed before the assessment?

We strongly recommend that vision and hearing tests are done before assessment so that these issues can be ruled out as barriers to learning. Hearing and vision tests may be available free of charge for Community Services Card holders or some audiologists and opticians provide simple hearing and vision tests for free.

If the assessment is needed for SAC (Special Assessment Conditions) for exams, you should ask your SPELD NZ Assessor what information the school should provide.

Personal Stories

Find out how SPELD NZ has helped both children and adults overcome their struggles with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities.

I’ve Been There

As a child, Joan Rusden knew she wanted to be a SPELD teacher, supporting dyslexic learners like herself.

A Passion for Change

SPELD NZ training equipped primary school teacher Katie Knight with “life changing” knowledge.

Rio’s Story

“As a family it was breaking us.” Katie Knight finds the game-changer in her son’s life.

Personal Story - Ryan Attwood

Video: Turning the Tide

Ryan Attwood used to tune out at school. Learning vital skills has unleashed his creativity and motivation to learn.