Chris A., age 13, has gone through all 12 Steps of the Wilson Reading System® (WRS). Recently, we caught up with Chris and his mother, Stephanie, to hear about his thoughts on WRS, his progress, and how he is spreading the word about dyslexia.
Q: What were some of your favorite parts of the Wilson Reading System?
Chris: Well, I like how they try to explain this whole spelling thing. Instead of teaching you to memorize a certain word they teach you the rules to read a word. And just to show you what Wilson can do, here are two WADEs, before and after Wilson. Before, I knew 25% of sounds. After, I knew 100%. Before, I could read 33% of words; now, I can read 93%. Before, I could spell 4% of words; now, I can spell 68% of words.
Q: So we’ve heard that you like to reach out to different groups and speak to them about dyslexia, can you tell us a little more about that?
Chris: So I’ve talked to a whole class of Orton-Gillingham teachers. I’ve talked to all the special ed experts in our school districts and I’m going to go talk to a class of special ed teachers at UConn.
Q: How does it feel sharing your story with everyone?
Chris: So, at first I was afraid to share my story about dyslexia. For the first three years I had dyslexia, I hadn’t told a single person. But, I read this book, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss, and the next day I wrote this paper and started telling people about dyslexia. Some of my goals are to educate teachers, students, and parents and everyone else about dyslexia and what it is and isn’t, change terminology from learning disability to learning difference, make audio books, large print books and spell checkers available to students with dyslexia, and motivate dyslexic students by telling them that they can and will learn to read like I did.
Q: That’s remarkable. I want to ask your Mom what it was like for the family when this journey began.
Stephanie: We realized that Chris had dyslexia when we had him tested. We heard about the Orton-Gillingham method and I found a tutor in our area in our area that did Wilson. At first I was like, “Oh! I just wanted Orton-Gillingham” because that’s all I ever heard that worked. The tutor said that it’s based on Orton-Gillingham, it’s very similar and when we met Jeanne (his tutor), she walked in and she said ‘Wilson Works!” We looked at her like, ‘you’ve got to be crazy!’ because we had tried everything we could think of to help him learn to read. So, we were a little skeptical, and we couldn’t picture it because it just hadn’t happened yet, and she just said “Wilson Works.” So, we started plugging away, and I think within a couple of months we saw a big change.
Chris: Yeah, by the time I got to Step 2 or 3, I had done a lot better. I could go through a paragraph and be able to read it. I can read anything I want now, and that’s important.
Q: Stephanie, what kind of guidance do you think you could share with other parents who are facing what you have faced?
Stephanie: The most important thing is getting what they need. It’s been proven that dyslexia is a physical problem. Just getting these tools to them is just the most important thing. It’s inspiring to see him go from not reading to being able to read. We just wanted him to be able to do anything he wanted to do when he grew up. If he wants to be a doctor, we didn’t want not being able to read to be the problem that got in the way. We just can’t speak highly enough of the Wilson program. It’s been life changing to say the least.
Q: Well you are a remarkable young man. We hear that you are taking a college class right now despite being only 13.
Chris: I’m taking a class on architecture of the world. I had this teacher for one of my homeschool classes at the community college and I liked it so much now I’m taking his other class that he teaches to college students. It’s so interesting the way he runs the class it’s a combination of architecture, history, and culture. It’s just so interesting the way he does the class, it doesn’t even feel like you are in the class. It’s a three hour class and it feels like it’s like 15 minutes!
This interview was edited for clarity and length.