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From “I Can’t” to “I Can”: Unwrapping Zoe’s Love of Reading

Instructor Maria-Cecília proudly stands next to her WRS student Zoe who is holding her WRS Certificate of Achievement

In March of 2020, Zoe was a knowledgeable second grader with a large vocabulary, but she read at the kindergarten level. With dual diagnoses of severe dyslexia and nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary eye movements, she thought reading was beyond her grasp.

Thanks to Zoe’s natural gifts, supportive family, Wilson Reading System® (WRS) instruction, and visual impairment accommodations, she was able to change her mindset and unwrap her true reading ability.

Zoe’s independent school offered small-group WRS instruction. Given the severity of her dyslexia and visual impairment, however, Zoe’s mother knew her daughter needed one-on-one instruction. She contacted Unwrap and Learn Educational Therapy and connected with Dr. Maria-Cecília de F. C. Buckley, an educational therapist and Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner (W.D.P.).

Maria-Cecília immediately began WRS instruction with Zoe. Even though Zoe thought she could not learn to read, her parents and Wilson instructor knew this was not true. Her parents encouraged her not to give up.

Maria-Cecília recalled, “When she started working with me, she would look at a page and say, ‘This is too hard. I can’t do it.’”

Maria-Cecília prioritized helping her student recognize the difference between needing accommodations for sight and needing help decoding words. “She had to say, ‘I can’t do it because of my eyes,’ or ‘I can’t decode the word.’”

Zoe’s strength of character kept her working even when lessons were difficult. “Her desire to succeed and her stamina were amazing. She’s a hard worker,” Maria-Cecília said. “She would not give up when there were challenges. This kid had a drive because the family believed in her.”

Zoe’s parents adapted when the COVID-19 pandemic closed school buildings and forced educators and students to resort to remote learning. They purchased WRS materials to use at home so their daughter could work with the manipulatives as Maria-Cecília virtually guided her. Zoe’s mother sat with her through four hours of lessons each week; she helped her use the Magnetic Journal, Word Element and Syllable Cards, and other materials in combination with assistive technologies such as special glasses and an iPad to enlarge Zoe’s view of the WRS Card Activity on Wilson Academy®.

“Zoe’s mom was fantastic. She was my hands during the pandemic,” Maria-Cecília said. “There was so much investment from her. She sat beside her daughter for a whole year, so her mom learned a lot, too!”

Due to Zoe’s hard work, her parents’ dedication to helping their daughter read, and Maria-Cecília’s instruction while accommodating vision impairment, Zoe achieved what she never thought she could—she became a strong reader.

Zoe progressed through the WRS Steps when she had met all the criteria except for Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM); this is because nystagmus slows down word recognition. They worked together for one hour, four days a week, year-round, for two and a half years. The words “I can’t do it” disappeared from Zoe’s vocabulary. She completed all 12 Steps of WRS in two years. She now reads at grade level. Her “I can’t” became “I can.”

“As she advanced, she became much more confident,” Maria-Cecília said. “What changed most is her confidence and her joy. She is now reading for fun.”

Zoe is also more self-assured at school. The fourth grader has become an increasingly independent writer because she knows spelling rules. She also can read with fluency and comprehension.

Maria-Cecília discovered Wilson® programs as she sought an effective program to teach students with dyslexia in her former role as a private school learning specialist. She has been a WRS Level I Certified instructor since 2010 and a W.D.P. since 2016. The educator sees herself as someone who helps children “unwrap” their natural gifts. “Zoe didn’t know she could work hard, had stamina, and could learn to read,” Maria-Cecília explained. “She didn’t know she had a great vocabulary and background knowledge. Now she does.”

Congratulations on discovering your reading abilities, Zoe!