Colour reform tests HSC student's resolve

Not-so tickled pink: Wollongong High School's year 12 student Brayden Kennedy is worried his dyslexia will affect his HSC results if the Board of Studies does not let him use coloured paper. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Not-so tickled pink: Wollongong High School's year 12 student Brayden Kennedy is worried his dyslexia will affect his HSC results if the Board of Studies does not let him use coloured paper. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Wollongong High School student Brayden Kennedy has made one simple request of the Board of Studies - he wants pink paper for his Higher School Certificate exams.

The year 12 student, who has been dux of his grade a dozen times, has been using coloured paper for exams and schoolwork since he was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia called Irlen Syndrome as a seven-year-old.

But Brayden has become anxious after the Board of Studies decided to dispense with coloured paper this year, and instead is providing coloured overlay filters on top of white paper.

"If that's what it's like for the HSC I'll fall apart," Brayden said, adding that an overlay was "impractical" and "adds confusion".

"Reading stresses my eyes and it can give me migraines, blur my words and I find it hard to follow from the end of one line and go to the next.

"On coloured paper scanning becomes easier."

The 18-year-old has twice submitted an application to use coloured paper for his exams but was rejected both times. Instead, he was asked to sit a test by the Board of Studies to determine whether the new provisions would be suitable for him.

But the test, he said, was unnecessary and its results did not accurately reflect the impact of using an overlay because it was much shorter than a usual exam.

"I had already submitted an application with written support from an Irlens [sic] diagnostician, an optometrist and a learning support teacher," he said.

"They wanted me to do a test that would make me feel physically ill to believe what the professionals say."

The student said his confidence plummeted after he sat the board's test.

"By the end of the exam I was feeling sick," he said.

His mother Linda O'Connor said her son could have easily cheated on the Board of Studies test, but had too much integrity to purposefully further diminish his results to make a point.

"He remains distressed about what happened to him during this totally unnecessary assessment and has lost so much confidence in his ability," she said.

Co-founder of the Australasian Associate of Irlen Consultations Incorporated, Dr Paul Whiting, said though the test measured reading accuracy and speed, it was not suitable for everyone.

"The test [is not] long enough for those students for whom visual fatigue sets in after a while," he said.

"For some people, if they look into the sun they will get visual stress. These kids get it from the reflection off a white page when they are trying to concentrate on the black writing."

Board of Studies spokesman Michael Charlton said students had to show evidence they needed coloured paper, but he could not comment on specific cases.

"All they need to do is go through the process," he said.

"There are students I know that have been approved for coloured paper."

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