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Never Invisible: WRS Student Thrives After Tough-to-Spot Diagnosis

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Some learning disabilities aren’t obvious, which may make it difficult to access needed services.

That was what Alyssa encountered when she started elementary school. At first glance, she seemed to excel in every subject. Despite her apparent success, Alyssa and her parents knew she couldn’t understand what she seemed to be reading.

Alyssa was bright and capable in class, so getting help for her reading difficulties required extra persistence and advocacy. After all, how would school administrators know their student had a language-based learning disability if she seemed to be doing perfectly well in her studies? Her parents knew better and didn’t give up. After initial obstacles, Alyssa was evaluated and diagnosed with dyslexia. Her school offered after-school group tutoring, but her reading still didn’t improve. As a result, Alyssa’s parents put her on a waiting list for services from a local dyslexia center.

In the meantime, Alyssa’s parents didn’t just hope for a spot to become available—they continued to search for ways to help their daughter learn to read. Someone associated with Alyssa’s school district suggested they contact Becky Tress, who teaches the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) to struggling students. The solid foundation of literacy Becky has imparted to her students through WRS since 2005 has led numerous families to contact her for help with their children’s reading difficulties.

Becky, a Wilson® Credentialed Trainer, (W.C.T.) and on-call trainer, explained, “Alyssa was a very bright girl. She was gifted in math and spoke well, but when it came to reading, she struggled a lot.”

Becky and Alyssa began working together once or twice a week, depending on Alyssa’s busy schedule. In addition, her parents and school administrators created a 504 plan that included accommodations such as working with a reading specialist once a week. A 504 plan ensures that a child who has a disability identified under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and who attends an elementary or secondary school, receives accommodations that provide access to their learning environment.

“We really didn’t want her pulled out of all her other classes because she was doing so well,” Becky said.

For a while, the school reading specialist kept up with and supplemented Alyssa’s WRS lessons. Alyssa continued working with Becky when the WRS supplementation at school ended. They met online during the COVID-19 pandemic school lockdowns; Becky was impressed with Alyssa’s ability to focus and learn during online sessions. The naturally outgoing student and her tutor returned to in-person sessions as soon as they could.

Although they progressed through the program’s steps slowly because of limited time for sessions, Alyssa’s reading skills steadily improved. The whole time, Alyssa remained upbeat in her efforts to learn, and her family supported and encouraged her.  

“Early on, she still had a positive outlook on reading,” Becky said. “We were really lucky she hadn’t started to hate it.”

To keep Alyssa interested and motivated to read, her mother frequently bought her new books to enjoy. Now a seventh grader, Alyssa continues evolving into a strong, independent reader who enjoys mysteries and horror stories. Her family’s small farm and its resident animals also foster Alyssa’s love for tales about animals.

By the time Alyssa’s name had reached the top of the local dyslexia center’s waiting list, her parents happily reported that she no longer needed the center’s services. She was thriving with her accommodations and Becky’s instruction.

Encoding, the translation of a spoken word or sound(s) into written symbols, is not Alyssa’s favorite part of WRS lessons, but she has applied herself to the task and shown remarkable growth in her writing skills. She recently wrote a letter to Wilson Language Training® Co-Founder Barbara Wilson to thank her for the program and offer color suggestions for the Student Readers in future editions.

In her letter, Alyssa said, “I have been doing this program for five years and I have grown so much from using it…You did an amazing job with it; thus, your program has helped me and so many other people.”