“We’re in a good place right now.”
“Mitch began speaking much later than his peers; in preschool, he actively avoided reading,” said Jessica, Mitch’s mom. “In hindsight, it’s clear that he avoided those tasks because they were impossibly difficult. But it was also clear that he is smart—he would gravitate to Lego sets that were geared to much older children and could put them together with ease.”
Mitch was in Kindergarten in March of 2020, when schools shut down across the US due to COVID-19, and he spent the next 15 months learning virtually. Jessica sat next to him in his virtual classes, watching his classmates begin to read words, then sentences, while Mitch still struggled to match letters to sounds.
“He would hide under his desk and cry when it came time for reading. He became more and more anxious. His teacher recognized all the signs of a smart kid struggling with a learning disability and recommended we ask for an evaluation through the school.”
Mitch wasn’t alone in his struggles with learning. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that, in 2020-21, 7.2 million students received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or 15% of all public-school students. The most common category for these services, at 33%, was specific learning disabilities.
With guidance from the school district, Jessica gained access to assessments to better understand Mitch’s cognitive and performance abilities. After receiving overall high results for his spatial awareness and fluid reasoning on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-V (WISC-V), the next step was to identify his strengths and weaknesses with the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test. This showed Mitch’s academic achievement was “low average” for early reading skills, and “very low” for word fluency.
“How could an intellectually capable child struggle with literacy?”
The answer: Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a “neurological condition caused by a different wiring of the brain” as defined by The International Dyslexia Association (IDA). “Research indicates that dyslexia has no relationship to intelligence. Individuals with dyslexia are neither more nor less intelligent than the general population. But some say the way individuals with dyslexia think can actually be an asset in achieving success.”
These results gave Mitch’s school the data they needed to set up an Individualized Education Program (IEP)—connecting him with the personalized, explicit, and sequential instruction that he required in order to make progress as a reader.
“I’ve seen a big change in Mitch since we started his specialized instruction. His progress monitoring tests showed that he was closing the learning gap, just in time for third grade.” Now, Mitch is reading at grade level along with many of his peers—an important marker of future academic success—as instruction shifts from learning to read to reading to learn for students in third grade.
“We’re not helpless anymore.”
Dyslexia may require support from multiple places but one critical support is having families, individually and collectively, believe that they can get what they need to make good decisions and find success. Mitch’s success is what our work is all about.
For more information, visit www.pearsonclinical.ca/dyslexia