“I’m Not a Reading Person”

PicLast week I had the pleasure of testing two very bright and very different dyslexic students.  One was 9.  We’ll call him Chris.

Chris had tremendous confusion with letters.  He not only reversed b and d, but most other similar-looking letters, such as h and n; i and l; and t, f, and j.  He read by guessing at words based on the first and last letter in the word.

When I asked him if it was difficult to look at the words on the page, he said,

“I’m not a reading person.”

He went on to say that if he looks at words for too long, they get fuzzy and that he closes his eyes to make the fuzziness disappear.  Matter-of-factly, he said, “But I can handle it most of the time.”

Chris is definitely not a reading person – at least not at this time.  As a fourth grader, he cannot read, but he certainly makes a valiant attempt at it.

Isn’t it amazing what our kids do to survive – to try to do what’s expected! 

The other young man, Jack, is 16.  He also is dyslexic, but he has managed to maintain fairly acceptable performance in regular high school classes.  He seems to do well on homework but fails most tests.  So the question being asked by parents and teachers, and even himself, is,

“Are the low test scores the result of poor motivation to study, lack of focus, anxiety, poor attention?”

Teenage comes with some attitude.  And if you continually try hard and get a disappointing result, your attitude may indicate that you don’t really care, but here’s what I saw with Jack:

Jack is putting out an exceptional amount of mental energy to manage at school.  He is bright enough and quietly determined enough that the challenges he faces are subtle to others looking on, but for him, the cost is performance anxiety and deteriorating self-esteem.

Working with Jack and Chris reminded me, again, how hard students with dyslexia and other learning challenges work each and every hour in school.  Because they often can’t compete with their peers, even with excessive time, effort, and energy, it may look like they aren’t trying their best.  Coping with a learning or attention challenge day in and day out is exhausting.  In virtually every case, beneath the surface of poor grades, homework battles, and inconsistent performance is a student who is putting out far more mental energy and effort than the top students in the class.

Learning to read and spell easily and automatically depends upon a solid set of underlying learning /processing skills.  The auditory system in the brain has to be able to process the number, order, and identity of sounds inside of words (phonemic awareness).  The visual system has to be able to see and discriminate each letter and word on the page clearly and in the correct order.  The brain has to be able to notice and pay attention to small, common sight words such as the, of, and if that don’t always follow the phonetic rules and don’t connect easily with a concept or mental image.  The language part of the brain has to be able to understand, sequence, and associate the meaning of the words and sentences.

Without these critical auditory, visual, and language processing skills, reading just doesn’t work.  If any one of these areas is weak, learners will struggle more than they should with reading and/or spelling.

At Stowell Learning Center, we identify the underlying skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.  We look at exactly what is happening when a student is trying to read, spell, write, or do math.  Then, through specialized cognitive and learning skills programs, we help students develop the needed underlying skills and remediate the reading, writing, spelling, or math skills.

Students like Chris and Jack can and should become comfortable, independent learners.  They do not have to continue to struggle with dyslexia.  Dyslexia and learning challenges can change.

Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with dyslexia, reading, learning, or attention?  Are you ready for a change?  Here’s your next step:

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com


“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Teas, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers


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