Chris, now in seventh grade, and his mom Stephanie recently shared with me their story of difficulty and triumph. It was an inspirational encounter that was a perfect way to start the New Year.
Throughout the early grades, Chris did not learn to read. This caused a lot of heartache. Then, an evaluation led to Chris being identified with . He was paired with an expert tutor who had the credentials to help students with dyslexia.
At first, Chris resisted the instruction because so many other things had been tried and had failed. But after a couple of months, he began to see that this was different.
The instruction provided him with phonemic awareness skills in a very thorough and systematic manner. He learned the alphabetic principle—that there’s a predictable connection between letters and sounds. And he was taught to decode through a multisensory approach that connected seeing, hearing and touch.
Now, with three and a half years of intensive instruction behind him, he’s a new kid. He’s reading grade-level textbooks independently! He’s even enrolled in an online course in architecture, something of high interest to him.
There’s a lot to take away from this story. One thing is clear: Family support is critical. His parents, particularly his mom, did two important things. First, they helped Chris develop a love for books even when he couldn’t read. They did this by taking him to the library often, reading to him and getting him books on tape. Second, his mom didn’t stop searching for an answer—and a person—who knew how to teach Chris to read.
And then there are lessons from Chris. He wants to educate the world about dyslexia. He shared with me his four goals (and proclaimed he will likely add more):
- Educate teachers, students, parents and everyone else about dyslexia and what it is and isn’t.
- Change terminology from to learning difference.
- Make audiobooks, large-print books and spellcheckers available to students with dyslexia. Make every textbook available in auditory form.
- Motivate dyslexic students by telling them that they can and will learn to read like Chris did.
It was a joy to meet Chris and Stephanie. I hope that sharing their story inspires you to keep working toward solutions in 2015. I know that I am reminded of an important truth: With the right instruction and the right supports, students with dyslexia can successfully learn to read.
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