When I talk with parents of struggling readers it takes me back in time. I know how much they worry and obsess over their child’s reading ability. I know how much sleep they lose because they are projecting into the future, unable to shake the feeling that if their child doesn’t become a proficient reader so many doors will be closed to them. I know because I was there. And, I was my child’s primary educator so I felt like it was all my fault.
My oldest son struggled with reading for years. I tried one program after another. I even ordered a program from the UK that integrated movement into learning sounds to act as a memory aid. Little parts of every program helped some, but nothing gave Julian overall fluency. Reading was frustrating, difficult, and exhausting. I don’t know about your kid, but when mine found out that the phonics rules he had been taught were often incorrect he couldn’t handle it. He was beyond frustrated. Why teach a rule if it doesn’t work all the time? Not only did I have a defeated student on my hands, I had an angry one. “That’s so stupid!” he would yell. I couldn’t disagree.
One day, I stumbled across a different method. Phono-Graphix. Would I once again pour money into a program that just didn’t work, didn’t make sense to my son, and worst of all-make him feel like he was just no good at reading? I took a leap. Our lives were about to change, but I didn’t know it yet.
I began implementing the suggestions in the book, Reading Reflex by the Phono-Graphix creators, Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness and everything I was learning made so much sense. It was so straight forward that I had no trouble teaching Julian these new tactics. Because, we had some underlying dyslexia to work around I wanted to go deeper than the book could offer.
I decided to take classes to become a reading therapist. I practiced every new skill on my child and relearned how to teach him. During this time my two younger children who were between 4 and 6 began reading spontaneously, seemingly with almost no instruction. The reality was they were hearing my instruction with their brother and once in a while they got a lesson tailored to their needs. However, the brilliance of Phono-Graphix is such that if every child began to read with that program I believe reading problems would be few.
The following year I traveled to Florida to become a master therapist (or PG2 therapist) in a course that would give me the final piece to our reading puzzle. There, the program creators gave us extended instruction on working with students who had more challenges than just misguided and frustrating teaching methods. One case study that stood out to me was a child that also had similar issues as my son. I learned that sometimes children have vision problems that do not show up on the regular eye tests given in the optometrist’s office. Vision problems can masquerade as reading problems.
Upon my return home, I scheduled Julian to be evaluated by a vision therapist at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, WA. He had a number of vision problems that were addressed by muscle training. Due to our experience with vision therapy, the instruction I received in Florida, and the opportunity to watch my own child progress, I believe that reading therapy and vision therapy are complimentary treatments needed by some children. In Julian’s case, he needed both to become a proficient reader.
Those tear-filled days were many years ago, yet I remember the feeling of utter failure I had as a parent when my son was struggling. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that desperate ache of wanting nothing more than to help my child and not knowing what to do next.
So, my story is also Julian’s story. (And told with his permission.) We taught each other and we grew up together like all parents do with their children. Happily, I now get to use what I’ve learned to help others.
Since 2006, I have had the pleasure of working with young children, teens, and adults. Your struggling reader has strengths that haven’t been discovered yet, but rest assured they are there. If I can help make reading easier it would be my pleasure. If I can offer reassurance, please reach out. I would be honored to help you in your journey of turning your struggling student into a life-long learner and proficient reader.
In 2017, Julian graduated from Sky Valley Education Center with a 2 year course study degree in Diesel Technology from Sno-Isle TECH. In 2019, he quit his diesel tech job in Seattle in order to start his own mobile diesel service that specializes in fleet maintenance.
While he does not read often for pleasure, he does read well. If you were to listen to him read aloud you would never guess he has dyslexia. Looking back, I could have never imagined that my child who couldn’t read one sentence of instructions on the top of his math page would one day be a successful business owner.
I am proud of his hard work and I’m grateful to the McGuinness’ for creating a program that actually works and for teaching me that some issues can’t be solved by changing the teaching method alone but require other interventions to treat the whole child.