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Medical marvel Michael had always been a survivor; but it wasn’t until Easyread that he was able to experience the joy of a life with books in it can provide…

The Problem

It’s fair to say that 10 year old Michael has faced some obstacles to learning in his life.

Having been born with a rare genetic syndrome; he has significant medical problems as well as some learning difficulties, which include short term memory issues, poor executive function and dyslexia. What’s more; before age 8 Michael had lived both in the UK and then in Argentina, where his father is from.

Whilst at school in Argentina, Michael was the only English speaker and therefore he became fairly fluent in Spanish.  He was very happy at the small rural school he attended but soon his reading and writing problems became more and more apparent. Kate did not want to push her son too hard with reading English, given that he was already working so hard on his second language. As such, reading of English books was not something they factored in too heavily, although they did read to him each day.  Upon returning to the UK in 2011, parents Kate and Robbie discovered some further heart treatment was necessary, which involved further major and lengthy open heart operation.

Despite all this, everyone who worked with Michael agreed that he was a bright boy, with a wide range of interests and a clear determination to succeed in life. However, it was inevitable that such environment and remedial shifts would impact on Michael’s learning.

With all this behind him; Michael began at a new school in Scotland at age 8, where he was deemed to be significantly behind with his reading. The school were reluctant to “label” him as dyslexic because he had so many other issues, so no formal diagnosis was sought. Nonetheless, Kate knew that this was the pool they were swimming in. It was a difficult time for Michael; being thrust into an entirely new class, culture and set of expectations. He became acutely aware of his inabilities compared with his peers. He missed his life in Argentina too, where he had been happy and confident.  Kate found it equally hard too. Her son was floundering and she didn’t know how to help him. The school meanwhile were supportive but also quite perplexed by how to help. An 8 year old who couldn’t do the most basic letter blending was not something they had come across before. So they gave him one to one and small group support and hoped they could build things from the ground up.

Kate was on a real budget at the time, given that the move back to the UK had been unexpected and sudden. Following some research online she came across Reading Eggs. It was relatively inexpensive, and so they decided to give it a go. Michael enjoyed doing it for a few weeks but it soon petered out. It also lacked any sense of a clear structure, and so Kate lost hope.

A lot of the coming year was a waiting game for the family, what with Michael’s continuing heart surgery. By the summer of 2012 the treatment was finished and he was almost back to full health.

Not taking into account numerous medical absences, Michael had been at school in Scotland for a full academic year and was still struggling to read books aimed at 4 year olds.  What’s more, aside from obvious concerns about his school work, Kate was increasingly sad at the realisation that her son would probably never enjoy reading, despite the fact that he had a bookshelf full of books, which he loved to thumb through, but never wanted to read. This was important to Kate, for whom reading had been a big part of her life, especially in childhood. She vividly remembered the thrill of being transported to another world and leaving the everyday frustrations of being “just a child” behind. The fact that her son would never experience this was a gloomy thought indeed.

Kate decided to try ‘Bal- a –Vis’; an exercise regime based on integrating the right and left sides of the brain, which is meant to be helpful for dyslexia. Kate didn’t see any immediate results, but Michael did enjoy doing it and so they stuck with it for several months.  Come the autumn however, the long drive to Edinburgh to see the teacher each time became too much. Michael became tired easily on account of his heart, and so they had to abandon the sessions.

Michael was becoming increasingly reluctant to even try to encounter words at school and at home. Kate meanwhile, was at the end of her tether; the more impatient mum became, the more reluctant Michael was, and so every incidence of reading ended with both parties feeling dreadful. They had to break the vicious cycle somehow.

Kate had come across Easyread during her research before. The price had seemed high when she originally came across it; but she now saw that the cost of doing nothing was much greater.  And so they signed up.

The Solution

The first wave of emotion for Kate was that of sheer relief. The explanations from the website and the team on the phone finally allowed her to understand some of the reasons why Michael was struggling so much with something that came as naturally to Kate as breathing! The team clearly cared; and Kate appreciated the regular contact over the phone.

Something which both mum and son liked equally was the fact that the lessons were so short. One of his early comments was “it’s so much better with Easyread because he (David) is always cheering me on”!

Apart from a trip to Argentina visiting dad, Kate and Michael were fiercely loyal towards their daily lesson routine, even after 4 months they were logging in each morning feeling raring to go!

The Result

Just after they began Easyread, Kate had a meeting with the literacy support teacher, who advised her that Michael was highly unlikely to learn to read by the time he finished primary school. They also conducted the long-awaited neuropsychology assessment, which confirmed that he was officially dyslexic. For these reasons, alongside other clear medical impediments, Kate knew it was unlikely Michael would ever read at the same level as his peers.

But on his own terms he has made a massive leap in progress…

His confidence has experienced a huge spurt too, and his teachers have been positively amazed at the transformation. What’s more, Michael had always been intensely reluctant to read story books, preferring factual stuff. But just last week, Kate found him laughing aloud as he worked his way through a Horrid Henry book. He also now works his way through a level 10 book fluently and quickly. Prior to Easyread, he was on level 1, meaning a ten-fold improvement.

So does Kate have any regrets?

If I had one, it would be that I didn’t sign up for Easyread when I first came across it because it is well worth the money – reading & confidence = priceless!”


Laura O’Sullivan has enjoyed watching kids like Chris leap into success for a few years now in her role as Easyread Coach. Easyread is an online phonics course for kids who need support for spelling and reading problems due to dyslexia, auditory processing weakness, highly visual learning styles and more.