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Having ADHD, dyslexia and chronic low confidence, Cameron had the odds stacked against him when it came to reading and spelling. With Easyread he was finally able to begin closing the gap…

The Problem

Cameron was a bright toddler and reached all his speech milestones without issue. But when Mum and GP Natalie thinks back, the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder were there from the start.

At nursery Cameron was very overactive compared with other children his age, and his concentration span was minimal. This continued as he grew older. Natalie was scrupulous in helping her son to manage his attention difficulties over the years. For instance, upon discovering that visual processing problems can cause concentration problems they had an assessment with a Behavioural Optometrist. This lead to the discovery that Cameron was dealing with some pronounced eye-tracking problems. The expensive glasses that followed made some difference, but his level of energy continued to be off the charts.

The main obstacle Cameron faced once he started school was his attitude towards learning, and reading in particular. The eye-tracking difficulties and ADHD combined to make his ability to sit still and focus very limited indeed. This then fed into a feeling of low confidence. As the children around him progressed ahead with their reading, he fell behind. And the more he acknowledged this fact, the further behind he fell. He felt alone, and it was hard for Natalie to watch as this spiral played out in the early years of his education.

Natalie wasted no time in having Cameron privately assessed and as a result, by age 7 he’d been diagnosed by an Educational Psychologist as displaying key symptoms of dyslexia. The school responded brilliantly quickly – referring him to the SpLD unit straight away where he was provided with additional reading and writing support for over a year.

During that time his reading improved a lot. He could identify a wider range of words much more quickly and his guessing reduced. Nevertheless, he was still behind compared with his peers by approximately 2 years. When we consider that Natalie read to Cameron every evening, this disparity seems even more stark. It was like a lid had been firmly placed on his progress.

His writing meanwhile was nothing short of atrocious. At the end of every week when Natalie flicked through his school books she felt like she was reading hieroglyphics, not English! That’s not to say that there hadn’t been some improvements in this area, however – unlike a year ago, Cameron could now spell the 100 most common words and his cursive writing had really progressed. But there was still plenty of room for improvement.

As long as they carried on as they were, Natalie knew that further meaningful progress with both reading and writing was unlikely. In fact, if anything the gap would widen even more, given that pretty soon he would begin the transition into secondary school, which would be challenging enough without these setbacks. Cameron’s problems with motivation, attention and confidence were leaving him feeling angry and frustrated with the world. For Natalie it felt like everything was pointing to the fact that there was a clear need to act now if she wanted to ensure that reading and writing weren’t going to hold her son back during his adult life.

So, Natalie looked on the internet for some ideas on how to confront his motivation and attention difficulties head on. During this search she came cross Easyread. She could see that the structure of the Spellmagic program was aimed at abetting such difficulties. Plus it would mean replacing their painful daily real book reading practice with a session on the computer – a trade that she knew Cameron would be happy with!

Natalie tried the sample lesson. There was a no-nonsense, encouraging and rapid fire feel to it, which she felt he would like. Cameron still only managed to focus for half of it, however he requested to come back to it later on, at which point he proudly worked through until the end. And then, they were off…

The Solution

From the word go, Cameron’s favourite thing about Easyread were the games he got to play each day! They engaged him in a way that a normal reading book had never been able to before. He also enjoyed receiving the certificates and prizes through the post, which motivated him enormously.

Becoming easily frustrated was inevitably still a problem for Cameron given his ADHD and temperament, and so to say that Natalie and her son never argued about Easyread would be a lie! Nevertheless, she was happy to see overall growth in his tolerance and confidence as the weeks went by. Natalie was also grateful that the support team could provide a good deal of flexibility in terms of the content of his lessons. By the final months, they had a quick, simple and effective battery of activities which suited him nicely.

Despite some characteristic opposition along the way, Natalie was determined that Cameron would see the program through until the end. And thanks in large part to her dedication, perseverance and the excellent support she provided during every lesson, they did just that!

The Result

After eight months on Easyread, the most significant change that Natalie can see in Cameron has to do with the mammoth issue of his attitude. He still finds reading hard for sure, and is not quite ready to do so for pleasure. Nevertheless he is definitely a happier learner. Whereas previously Cameron felt that his struggles with written words defined him, now he is willing to give almost anything a go when it comes to producing work and attempting spellings.

He has improved on his reading age by 13 months. His reading accuracy meanwhile has massively improved by 28 months over a 12 month period. And his reading comprehension is now exceptionally good. His spelling age hasn’t changed a great deal, yet the school have remarked on a clear improvement in this area. What’s more, Natalie is confident that it will progress more with time. Although his spelling is still very inaccurate, a clear contrast from this time last year is the fact that it is much more “phonetically permissible” now, which is a huge step in the right direction.

Aside from all the improvements in his confidence, reading and writing, Natalie also feels that she now possesses a renewed understanding of how best to help her son deal with challenges he faces. The excellent support provided by his teachers at Windhill School in Hertfordshire has had a fundamental part to play in recent years too, and she knows that they still have a long way to go. But thanks to Easyread they have now scaled the first in a series of mountains that a year ago seemed unscaleable.

Laura O’Sullivan has had the pleasure of working with Cameron and Natalie over the past year and is thrilled with their success. She works as a Reading Specialist for Morgan Learning Solutions, publishers of the Easyread System. Easyread is an online course for struggling readers and spellers that uses a highly visual approach to phonics suitable for children with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, short-term memory weakness and more.