A new support centre for dyslexic children has been surprised by the unexpectedly high number of inquiries from parents, prompting concern that the extent of the learning disorder in Hong Kong has been seriously underestimated. 'When we began promoting our new service last month, we had at least one or two phone calls a day from parents who wanted to know more about the disorder,' said Wendy Leung, head of the centre, which is run by the charity St James' Settlement. Ms Leung called for more public funding to promote awareness of the learning disorder, which causes difficulties in reading, writing and spelling that begin to show up around the age of five. She said dyslexia was often mistaken for laziness, moodiness or anti-social behaviour. She said dyslexic Hong Kong students faced the additional hurdle of learning two languages - Chinese and English - plus the added complexity of the pictorial nature of Chinese script. St James' Settlement said it would hold talks on the subject for parents and provide assessments of suspected sufferers. Children assessed as dyslexic can enrol in a one-month course designed to help them cope in the classroom. Ms Leung said parents might opt for longer-term training, as the difficulties associated with dyslexia could take years to overcome. A number of government-funded organisations already conduct classes to help young students with learning disabilities, and some teachers have been trained to spot dyslexia. But Ms Leung said the limited resources allocated to deal with the problem typically meant most children had to wait up to nine months to get help. The Social Welfare Department said it treated 980 dyslexic students last year, up from 948 the year before. In the current academic year, 599 students have been confirmed as dyslexic, with 323 suspected cases still being evaluated. Children in the first intake in the St James' support programme include seven-year-old Primary Two pupil Ken. His mother, a 32-year-old secretary, said her son was assessed as dyslexic in May. At the time, she knew nothing of the disorder. 'When my son was in kindergarten he always took hours to do his homework,' she said. 'But it got really serious in Primary One when he just could not keep up with the rest of the class.' She said Ken's learning disabilities made him moody in school and prone to disobey his teachers. Parents seeking more information can contact St James' Settlement at 2186 8451 or visit online at lmc.sys.org.hk.