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What is dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism?


The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ) has a broad spectrum view of dyslexia. Common themes are that it is an alternative or atypical way of thinking; that it has a proven neurobiological basis; and that it occurs across a range of intellectual abilities.

The actual definition used by DFNZ is: “A specific learning difference, which is constitutional in origin and which, for the given level of ability may cause unexpected difficulties in the acquisition of certain literacy and numeracy skills.”

“Constitutional in origin” refers to the fact that dyslexia has a substantive neurobiological basis. Brain research, including studies from Yale and Auckland universities, has shown that while it is common to use the “verbal” left side of our brain to understand words, dyslexic people use the “pictorial” right side, making them slower to process and understand language.


The Dyspraxia Support Group of New Zealand describes developmental dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder and the Clumsy Child Syndrome) as a neurologically-based disorder of the processes involved in praxis or the planning of movement to achieve a predetermined idea or purpose, which may affect the acquisition of new skills and the execution of those already learned.
More specifically, it is a disorder of praxis, or the process of ideation (forming an idea of using a known movement to achieve a planned purpose), motor planning (planning the action needed to achieve the idea), and execution (carrying out the planned movement).

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism New Zealand says an Autism Spectrum Disorder is a life-long developmental disability affecting social and communication skills. People with the disability can also have accompanying learning disabilities; but, whatever their general level of intelligence, everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making sense of the world.
Because of the differing degrees of severity and variety of manifestations, the term Autism Spectrum Disorder is often used to describe the whole range.
This term includes Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism at the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum.

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