When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to switch to remote education, Nora’s mother Kelly suddenly noticed her daughter struggling with reading difficulties that hadn’t been visible before.
“Sometimes it appeared like she was reading, but she wasn’t,” Kelly said. “If you gave her a list of isolated words, she had a really hard time blending sounds for reading and segmenting sounds for spelling.”
Identifying a Problem
Nora’s teachers hadn’t mentioned any issues with her reading skills, but her mother noticed that Nora was not achieving the same level of literacy skills as her peers.
At that time, Kelly was a reading interventionist working to complete her Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Level I Certification. She knew how to identify students with reading difficulties; what she observed in Nora’s reading efforts seemed familiar. Although Kelly was surprised that her daughter struggled to read, she knew what to do―Nora needed WRS instruction.
One-to-one instruction and support were difficult for teachers to deliver during that period of remote learning. Additionally, Nora’s school didn’t have the resources or curriculum to support struggling readers. However, Kelly had the training and experience to help her daughter learn to read. She immediately began working with Nora outside of school hours using the Wilson Reading System, starting at Step 1.1.
As the pair progressed through the Steps, Nora’s skills improved, which helped her keep up with her peers at school. Fortunately, Nora never realized that she had reading difficulties because her mother spotted them early on—before the young learner could notice she wasn’t learning to read at the same speed as her classmates and become frustrated.
Nora’s milestone moment came while she was studying Step 3.
“By that point, she was experiencing more difficult or complex words at school. In Step 3, we introduced two-syllable words. That was a nice place for her because she saw what she was learning in the books she was reading at school.”
Kelly explained with relief, “I think because I saw what I saw so early and we started lessons so quickly, her teachers never said she had problems. So many of the kids I work with don’t get that kind of instruction, and their needs aren’t identified until later.”
While Kelly studied to become a reading specialist, she noticed her graduate program wasn’t teaching her how to work with struggling readers.
“I tell people today that I finished that program with no mention of dyslexia,” Kelly said. “I left that program not fully knowing how to teach children to read. I just didn’t feel prepared.”
Kelly was a tutor with Educational Advocacy and Consulting and knew she was going to leave the school district soon, so she opted to get Level II Certification on her own.
“I continued my professional development because I knew there was so much more that I had to learn to deliver quality instruction to my students. I wanted to be fully prepared.”
Kelly received her WRS Level II training through LTR Tutoring Associates, a Wilson ® Accredited Training Partner. When she was ready for her practicum, she didn’t have to look far to find her student—Nora was ready to move on to Step 7. Her daughter’s test scores showed that she was a suitable student for the practicum.
“Everything just aligned,” Kelly said.
As the pair kept working on WRS lessons, Nora’s persistence and eagerness didn’t falter.
“She was so committed,” Kelly recalled. “We pushed hard through the summer. We did five lessons a week.”
Nora’s WRS instruction required flexibility and ingenuity. When Kelly needed to practice teaching in a virtual setting, Nora took her tablet to her room for online lessons. They made time for lessons, even when their schedules got busy.
Ever active and engaged, Nora participated in tae kwon do, soccer, basketball, Irish dance, theater, Girl Scouts, choir, and golf throughout the year. Even with all these time commitments, Nora remained dedicated and enthusiastic during her WRS lessons. On hectic days when it would have been easy to forget to do a WRS lesson, Nora remembered.
“She kept me more on track than I did myself,” Kelly said.
Enjoying the Rewards of Literacy
Throughout the Steps, Nora has remained upbeat and eager to learn.
“This is so different compared to students in later grades I’ve worked with,” Kelly explained. “Their confidence has been shot and they feel unsuccessful. I feel grateful that we were in a situation where I was able to help her early.”
Currently on Step 11, Nora is an avid reader in addition to pursuing her many other interests. Kelly believes WRS was the catalyst for Nora’s love of books.
“I think those lessons introduced her to this whole world of reading,” she said.
When Nora was retested with the Word Identification and Spelling Test (WIST), her Fundamental Literacy Ability Index standard score was 122, placing her in the 93rd percentile.
For Nora, the crowning achievement of her triumphant efforts came when she won a spelling bee at her school. She was thrilled and recognized the value of the early intervention that had made reading and writing attainable.
“Immediately, she thanked Wilson,” Kelly said.