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Father, Son, and Dyslexia

As a child growing up in Colorado, Steve G. found learning to read a struggle and tutoring lessons a bore. Decades later, given his history and the genetic nature of dyslexia, he wasn’t surprised when one of his three sons showed similar reading difficulties in school. What did amaze him was the “night and day” difference in his son Liam’s reading scores and confidence level following one year of multisensory structured literacy instruction with a Wilson Reading System® certified teacher.

“Back in the 70s, the technique for correcting this was once a week I went to a lady’s house and I read books to her aloud. It was very tedious,” Steve shared. “It was a lot of, ‘here’s a book, start reading.’ I did not like it at all. We did that for a year and a half and then my family moved to Chicago and the lessons stopped. I read. I just cannot read very quickly and reading for educational purposes requires that I read slower.”

With an aptitude for math and science and an astounding ability to memorize words, Liam’s deficits in reading weren’t apparent until first grade. Despite additional reading support in his school through fourth grade, Liam continued to fall further behind.

“He was reading by looking at the word and figuring it out from the litany of words he had memorized,” Steve explained. “He was not really reading, but doing photographic memory regurgitation. He would get the word out, but had no idea what he just read and what the meaning was. He was constantly putting himself down. We tried to build him up, but at the same time, it’s hard when you go to read and it takes an hour to read a page.”

When Steve and his wife, Vicki, sought further help for their middle child, they were relieved to discover that Liam’s experience with tutoring would be vastly different than the lackluster lessons Steve endured.

A colleague of Vicki’s who learned to read using the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) and is now an attorney, recommended the family seek similar instruction through Learning Techniques, Ltd., a Wilson® Accredited Partner in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Wilson® Credentialed Trainer Dawn Hillstrom, founder and director of Learning Techniques, Ltd., evaluated Liam and recommended he be tested to confirm the type of learning disability he had. Following a diagnosis of dyslexia in spring 2018, Liam and his tutor Michelle Egan, a credentialed Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner, began working through the Steps of the WRS 4th Edition.

“I’m just so grateful that we found them,” Steve said. “They were able to explain to him what was wrong, that his brain is wired differently, and they would teach him how to read using his wiring.”

“When I began working with Liam, he struggled with the fact that he was bright but had difficulties decoding and encoding,” Michelle explained. “Since then, as Liam has worked through WRS, he has a more positive attitude and confidence that wasn’t there before. He has come to an understanding of his struggles and has taken on ownership of his learning.”

Within one year of instruction with WRS, Liam jumped from a first-grade reading level in grade five to reading at grade level this spring as he completed sixth grade and WRS Step 4.

“It has been a profound experience for me to witness Liam’s self-discovery of his true potential,” said Michelle, who also works as a special education teacher for a nearby public school district. “This was extremely evident when he came in with his most recent performance on the Iowa Assessment. He had gone from the 22nd percentile to his current composite profile score in the 75th percentile!”

Now 12, Liam will continue WRS instruction with Michelle this summer and during the upcoming school year when he is in seventh grade.

“Michelle has made such amazing progress with Liam in such a short time,” Steve said. “We saw differences within the first two months, to where his self-confidence level was changing. It was a night and day kind of change that has made a huge difference in his life. We can talk about school without him being stressed out. He enjoys going to school again. He likes that now he is able to keep up with his friends in school, because they were excelling and he wasn’t able to read the same books, or read a class assignment in the same amount of time. He’s just a completely different kid.”

Adds Michelle, “Liam is an intellectually gifted young man who has historically struggled with decoding and encoding. I am so happy to see his transformation to a student who has taken ownership of his own learning and has achieved a sense of self pride as a reader.”

Pictured from left, Michelle Egan, W.D.P., Liam, Steve, and Dawn Hillstrom, W.D.T., W.C.T., of Learning Techniques, Ltd.