For dyspraxic Isaac, reading was a game of luck before he started using the Easyread System. Now, he is a thriving reading machine!
Isaac’s difficulties with balance and coordination first became apparent when he was 4 years old. The staff at day care commented to his mum, Julie, that he was generally less able to engage in activities that the other children found very straightforward, such as playing a game with a ball in the playground or holding a pencil. Julie didn’t want to waste any time and so had an assessment done with a Clinical Psychologist and Paediatrician. This confirmed that Isaac was displaying clear symptoms of both an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Dyspraxia. They also saw a Behavioural Optometrist to aid his suspected eye-tracking problems, continued to attend sessions with an Occupational Therapist and as well as hiring a tutor to help with his schoolwork.
Despite all these interventions, Isaac’s biggest problem was the fact that he continued to find it very difficult to decode words when reading, and by the time he was 8 years old, it had become very problematic indeed.
For Julie it felt like they were locked in a vicious cycle. For years their reading routine had unfailingly involved the same formula: first, Isaac would look at the first letter of a word – particularly short words – and then guess what the rest of it might be. This produced mixed results and a downward spiral of confidence ensued with every incorrect guess. He would then painstakingly sound out each word (even if he had seen it only a few minutes before). Next, Julie would cajole, beg and cheer her son to keep trying, even though he would by now be fidgeting in his seat and rubbing his eyes. Finally mother and son would feel so exhausted by the whole experience that they would have to give up.
In the space of fifteen minutes, they were lucky if they managed to get through half a page of the most basic reading book. Sadness and a lot of tiredness were always guaranteed.
Julie was desperate to get them out of this rut and as such they tried a variety of tactics. First they attempted to develop Isaac’s memorisation of certain word lists in an effort to reduce his guessing, but it didn’t help. Next they trialled the Bannatyne Program; which involved a set of workbooks intended to improve reading comprehension. Again, progress was minimal. Also, the eye-tracking exercises they had been offered were simply too complex, and so they were forced to abandon ship on that too.
It was becoming increasingly clear to Julie by this point that her son just didn’t learn things in a conventional way. Every attempt they made to push him towards a standardised learning technique, especially in regards to phonics, was an utter failure. So, she took him along to a Davis Dyslexia Centre for an assessment, where she was told he had clear dyslexic tendencies. Julie believed in this result, and yet she wasn’t totally bought by the approach that the Davis program seemed to take. If they were going to give Isaac a bespoke learning intervention, it had to be just right. So she took this new information and used it to fuel further research.
It was during a routine scout around the internet one day that Julie came across the Easyread System. She was very keen to understand the reasons behind the various systems she was researching, and so it was satisfying to find a site that went into the methodology and reasoning behind it very clearly. It all seemed refreshingly well thought out. And when she saw the unconditional guarantee, she figured it would be foolish not to try it.
Isaac meanwhile loved every minute of the trial lesson! It was so incredibly rare to see him feeling enthusiastic about something that involved reading that Julie signed up without delay.
As Isaac worked his way through his daily 15 minute lessons in the coming weeks, he was approaching the computer with a sense of joy and purpose. It didn’t feel like work in the slightest, he was just having fun!
What’s more, it so easily fitted into their daily routine – despite the commitments they had with the Occupational Therapist and Isaac’s tutor, there was always time for his Easyread lesson. For Julie, this was a massive advantage. What’s more, she knew that even though they were based in Auckland, she could touch base with the support team in the UK and USA over the phone or online whenever she needed to. This amount of support was, for her, utterly invaluable. It lead them to make discoveries and strides in progress that she never would have expected.
One such example of this was when she was in touch with the team about Isaac’s well-documented eye-tracking weakness. They immediately offered her a course of exercises to do with him at home – which were much more straightforward than the ones the Optometrist had given them (not to mention free!). In a matter of days they had seen an astonishing impact. He was no longer squirming in his seat or scrunching up his face in discontent when he read; instead he glided through a page of text totally unfazed. What a breakthrough!
Julie started noticing other exciting changes in her son too. For instance even though his dyspraxia was clearly still a challenge for him, it was now not standing in the way of his daily life as much. His confidence in reading books was at a totally different level as well and some of the symptoms of his ASD also seemed to be abating. Isaac really was coming out of his shell in every way possible!
Of course, this was all just the icing on the cake! As far as reading was concerned, Isaac was in a totally different zone. ‘Two steps forward and one step back’ has been replaced by great strides in the right direction.
Week by week Isaac has moved up through the ranks with his school reading level. Indeed, in less than 6 months, and before he has even finished the Easyread program, Isaac’s guessing habit has been eliminated by 90% and he can read fluently – whether it is with large or small text. He is still behind his peers, but nevertheless the level of personal progress has been phenomenal – having moved from a level 5 to a level 10 in the school’s metric. When we put this in the context of Isaac’s previous rate of progress it is even more remarkable; given that it had taken him almost 4 years to move up to level 5. He has literally doubled his reading ability in just 5 months.
As far as mum Julie is concerned there are no coincidences here – Easyread has changed her son’s life: “I feel quite emotional hearing Isaac read now, and for all the right reasons! After all his efforts it’s such a pleasure to see. I am so excited for our future of reading together.”
Laura O’Sullivan is a Reading Specialist for the Easyread System, an online course that uses innovative Guided Phonetic Reading technique to help struggling readers and poor spellers. Find out more at www.easyreadsystem.com