Ottawa

Ottawa dyslexia centre founder charged by Quebec psychology college

The founder of an Ottawa dyslexia centre and a school for dyslexic students is fighting charges laid by the Quebec College of Psychologists alleging that she has been diagnosing mental disorders without proper qualifications.

Screening tests for dyslexia in Quebec office led to charges

The Quebec College of Psychologists has laid two charges against Louise Brazeau-Ward, who had briefly opened an office in Gatineau, Que. She runs an Ottawa centre for people with dyslexia. (CBC)

The founder of an Ottawa dyslexia centre and a school for dyslexic students is fighting charges laid by the Quebec College of Psychologists alleging that she has been diagnosing mental disorders without proper qualifications.

The charges against Louise Brazeau-Ward, who is neither a psychologist nor a physician, stem from a dyslexia diagnosis she made in April 2015 and carry fines of $5,000 each.

In Quebec most mental disorders can only be diagnosed by a regulated medical professional.

Brazeau-Ward told CBC News that she is innocent and has no intention of paying any fines. She said she doesn't agree that dyslexia should be labelled as a mental disorder.

"It's a question of principle. I'd go to jail before I paid that. I couldn't do that, I couldn't live with myself," said Brazeau-Ward.

Brazeau-Ward said her legal trouble occurred when she briefly opened an office in Gatineau, Que. 

She said she only performed a handful of dyslexia tests in her Quebec office before closing it down and concentrating on her business in Ottawa — and that it was those Quebec tests that led to the charges.

Charges followed investigation

According to academic literature on the subject, dyslexia is usually described as a learning disability.

Dr. Christine Grou, president of the Quebec College of Psychologists, told CBC News she cannot disclose information about specific cases.

But she said the college does not lay charges without a full investigation or without proof.

In Ontario someone who is not a member of a regulated health profession — typically a physician or a psychologist — cannot diagnose someone with dyslexia, said Dr. Rick Morris, the registrar at the College of Psychologists of Ontario.

Morris said he could not legally disclose whether Brazeau-Ward was being investigated in Ontario as well.

2 businesses in Ottawa

Brazeau-Ward founded a school on Bayswater Avenue in Ottawa for dyslexic children that she said is now run by her daughter. Her other facility, the Canadian Dyslexia Centre, is located in the City Centre building near the downtown core.

The centre's website describes the business as a source of information, support and training for people with dyslexia. 

One section of the website reads "Possible dyslexia? Our experts are able to determine whether or not you have characteristics."

The site also says that while the Canadian Dyslexia Centre's employees are not psychologists, they "evaluate the characteristics of dyslexia in order to teach to read and write with an appropriate method."

Louise Brazeau-Ward administers a dyslexia screening test to her son John. Brazeau-Ward says her tests are not intended to diagnose dyslexia, but the Quebec College of Psychologists disagrees. (CBC)

Brazeau-Ward showed CBC News some of the testing methods by using her own son John — who said he has severe dyslexia — as a subject.  

Brazeau-Ward placed a series of words like "animal" and "uncle" in front of him and told him to read them out loud. As the words became longer, John seemed to slow down and stumble.

She then placed a series of coloured plastic sheets over pages of other writing, some of it blurry and jumbled.  

According to Brazeau-Ward, this kind of test is a "screening" tool, not a diagnosis, but she conceded that the Quebec College of Psychologists sees things differently.

'I tell people the difference'

"I'm very clear it's not [a diagnosis] and I tell the people the difference. A psychologist would evaluate deficiency for learning disability," Brazeau-Ward said. "I don't do that."

Brazeau-Ward said she believes one of the charges she's fighting stems from a complaint by a psychologist who claims she misdiagnosed a child with dyslexia. The other charge, she said, was laid after the college hired a woman to pose as a client.

She said that when she confronted the woman, she admitted to being an actress taking part in an "undercover" investigation.

Brazeau-Ward said the charges are headed for legal proceedings, but so far a date has not been set.

She said she was not facing similar trouble in Ontario.