Dyslexia has traditionally been defined as a difficulty learning to read despite intelligence, education, and motivation. Last month I had the opportunity to attend the International Dyslexia Association Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I had the privilege of sitting next to Sally and Bennett Shaywitz in a session on Neuroscience and having a pleasant conversation with them. I also had the privilege of speaking with them again after the showing of a new documentary in which they are featured about dyslexia: “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.” This film features several individuals who have been able to overcome dyslexia and find success in life despite their challenges with learning how to read. The film is quite inspiring.
As I watched this film, I was reminded of why I do what I do--that the work in which I am engaged is quite significant...teaching individuals how to read, helping them to discover new hope and increased confidence. I was reminded that there are many of us in the world engaged in the same significant effort--to help people learn to read. It's very rewarding work. (Read a great article about dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz here.)
With this lead in, I thought it was time to provide an update on my student in his sixties who I am teaching to read. We've been working together for about a year now. Since he and I first started working together, he has begun reading simple texts. Yesterday when I was working with him, he asked out of the blue, "You're not going to give up on me, are you?" Everyone else who has attempted to teach him to read before has given up, quite possibly because they did not see success in their efforts working with him. He has some pretty intense learning disabilities that have prevented him from learning to read and spell. I assured him that I won't give up on him. He also told me that I have taken him 100% further than anyone else has ever been able to before. Of course, I attribute his success to the method employed...Reading Horizons. When he is reading and he gets stuck on a word, he knows that he needs to decode the word using the strategies he's been taught. I told him that it's time to start writing his story. "What? How a mixed up kid learned how to read?" he questioned with a smile. I am proud of him for his efforts. He is hungry to learn. He finds great joy in small successes...being able to spell and read words independently, which is a skill most of us who have never struggled with reading have taken for granted. Explicit, systematic, sequential word analysis skills are helping individuals with dyslexia around the globe learn to read, as suggested by current research. I'm witnessing that right now with my friend.
(See previous blog posts about my tutoring experiences here, here, here, and here.)