Updated: Sep 1
Here at The Learning Room, we believe in individualized instruction tailored to each student's academic and social-emotional needs. We utilize several different methodologies, curricula, and programs to help set our students up for success. Today's focus will be on the Wilson Reading System. The Wilson Reading System is one of several programs that use the highly structured Orton-Gillingham approach and is designed for students from second grade through adulthood. The first edition of the WRS was published in 1988 by Barbara Wilson and her husband. Nearly thirty years later, Barbara and her team have certified about 25,000 teachers for WRS Level 1. You can read more about the history of The Wilson Reading System and The Wilson Reading Tutor Training here.
Just like snowflakes, no two learners are exactly the same. Students' struggles span across grade levels, content areas, and skills; however, many learners have similar foundational gaps when it comes to reading struggles. Often struggling readers have trouble decoding or sounding out words while they read. The Wilson Reading System helps fill these gaps to get struggling readers back on track. Wilson is typically used with students who are not responding to traditional classroom reading instruction. The Wilson Reading System is the gold standard in teaching students with language-based disabilities, such as dyslexia. According to their website, the Wilson Reading System "directly addresses phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, decoding, encoding, advanced word analysis, high frequency/sight word instruction, vocabulary development, single word automaticity and fluency with connected text, oral expressive language development, listening and reading comprehension with visualization and metacognition."
Orton–Gillingham is a structured literacy approach. It introduced the idea of breaking reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds and then building on these skills over time.
Today, the Orton-Gillingham approach is used worldwide to help students at all levels learn to read. You can read more about the Orton-Gillingham approach here.
The Results Are In: Wilson Reading System and Dyslexia
Many independent researchers have tested the success rate of the Wilson System. The studies are done with students who have seen no academic changes with other systems and have been diagnosed with learning disabilities like dyslexia. The general consensus of these studies is that students made overall growth in reading. Areas of growth that stood out include phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension. Wilson’s website lays out multiple independent studies and their effectiveness; you can read them in detail here.
What is Dyslexia?
The standard definition of dyslexia is “a condition of neurodevelopmental origin that mainly affects the ease with which a person reads, writes, and spells, typically recognized as a specific learning disorder in children.” When we think of dyslexia, the first thought is typically someone who reverses their B’s and D’s. This happens because dyslexic people think in three dimensions instead of two, causing letters and numbers to flip around in their minds. This can be an advantage in other areas of life and helps dyslexic people be very creative thinkers!
Students with dyslexia do not have a problem with intelligence. They just need reading instruction differently, which is what the Wilson System provides. Students with dyslexia typically read slowly and make frequent mistakes, even on ‘small’ or ‘basic’ words. Typically they can read these small words like ‘when’ in isolation but then within the text struggle to get it right, or they may get the word correctly on one page but can’t read it at all on the next page of text. When the text is read aloud to these students, they (typically) do not have any issues comprehending.
Dyslexia is strongly linked with other diagnoses including ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, speech/language disorders, executive functioning disorder, and/or anxiety. A description of each of these can be found here.
Let us help your child learn to read
Some words from our founder, Jessica:
"I started The Learning Room to teach the individual child. I believe in providing my teachers with the best training and curriculums to choose from when crafting a learning plan for each student. I start by assessing students reading ability to determine what obstacles are preventing them from succeeding. Then I match them with a teacher and long-term plan that addresses those obstacles. I use the Wilson Reading System for our students in 2nd Grade and above who need extensive phonics instruction or who have a diagnosis of dyslexia (or we suspect has dyslexia). It is one of the many tools at our disposal at The Learning Room." There are many Wilson Reading Tutors to choose from, but our advantage is that we are not committed to just one program and instead are committed to the student, which yields far greater success.