Overcoming Dyslexia: Maddie’s Diary (A Live Case Study)

Meet Maddie, a 10-year-old who has been diagnosed with severe dyslexia, moderate dyscalculia, ADHD, and low IQ (low 80s). We have chosen Maddie to be a live case study. Starting in March 2018, we will post a weekly update.


Maddie’s Diary – The Beginning 

.
Maddie was in public school for kindergarten for two years, but because her reading was so low she was retained. The school offered her no additional or specialized help, so she was pulled out of school and homeschooled. Eventually she was diagnosed as profoundly dyslexic. In fact, people who have evaluated her have said that they have never seen dyslexia as severe as this before. Her parents have been told by more than one professional that Maddie will probably never read, and that they should try to find things that Maddie can be successful with outside of academics, because she will never be successful in academics.

 

Her mom, Kimberly, refused to accept this and has worked tirelessly to try to help Maddie, with little success. Many interventions later, including an Orton-Gillingham-based program, specialized tutoring, speech therapy and visual therapy, Maddie is now able to sound out words, but she does it slowly and painstakingly, and even though she works on fluency every day, she has very little to no fluency, even with simple CVC words. She continues to guess at words, even when reading words that she knows phonetically how to sound out, so she makes a high percent of errors when reading. Also, there has been very little improvement in directionality issues, BDPQ reversals, naming problems, and overall language, vocabulary, and verbal skills.

 

“At this point, I have tried so many different things with little to no success that it is hard NOT to believe the professionals telling me that she is just never going to be able to read,” Kimberly told Edublox.  

 

Below is a video of Maddie reading unprepared from a book, a Second Grade Reading Word List, as well as a Third Grade High Frequency Word List.

 

 

Below is a sample of her writing:

 

 

Maddie wrote this story a few days ago:

 

The hunt

The mom cheetah (her mom spelled that for her) and her cud (cub) is going on a hunt. they are going to hunt for mise (mice). The cud (cub) has fond (found) a mase (mouse). She is going tor (toward) it. She is going to ete (eat) it. her mom is qrod (proud) fo (of) her cud (cub), but she must len (learn) hou (how) too (to) rely (really) hunt..

 

An example of Maddie’s math work:

 


Maddie’s Edublox program

A program has been customized to address Maddie’s deficits. Kimberly will be working with her for 2 hours per day, 5 days per week X 13 weeks. Part of Kimberly’s work will be to supervise the Edublox Online Tutor Reading exercise. An Edublox tutor will teach Maddie via Skype for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week X 13 weeks, and 40 minutes per day, 5 days per week X 13 weeks will be spent on the cognitive exercises of Edublox Online Tutor — Maddie will do these cognitive exercises on her own. After the 13 weeks the amount of work will be reduced to one hour per day. To improve Maddie’s vocabulary a language exercise will be implemented, which does not require any active time.
.


Our first official day of the Edublox system, and Maddie really enjoyed it! Her favorite parts were the online system and learning new words! She said learning the “new, hard words” was fun. Her least favorite part was math. She said it was “really hard”, but I liked it because I could tell that it was really making her think.

 

I love the directionality exercises and the bdpq exercises. We have done some similar to these in vision therapy (which we did for almost a year), but not to this extent, and they never reached the point of automaticity that we will be achieving here.

 

The exercises are very well designed, they are multisensory, and I am very hopeful that they are exactly what we have been missing. I am SO excited that we have finally found something that I think is really going to work after having tried so many things that have failed!


Today went even better with all of the activities and exercises. Maddie is really working hard, and it shows. She has been interested in reading EVERYTHING today! She is even trying to read over my shoulder as I am typing this  and that is a first! She was recognizing words all over the place when we went shopping today.

 

The only problem is that she is still not attending to small differences in words. For example, she noticed the word “Women” and was really excited, but she read it as “woman”, which is one of the words she is working on. She also noticed the word “vegetable” but she read it as “vegetables” for the same reason. I pointed out the difference between the word and what she read it as (and I told her the correct word), but I am concerned that she did not notice the difference herself. Later today, she noticed the word “oranges” and read it correctly, and she was very excited as she pointed out that she could read it.


Our first week of Edublox has been an adventure! We are trying and doing new things, and they all seem to be just what we needed. So far, I haven’t seen any huge results, but Maddie does seem to be a LOT more interested in reading. She also is noticing the words that are all around her, and have been all of her life, though she has taken little notice of them. Most of the time, when we are driving or walking through stores, she takes no notice of signs or anything, but this week, she has been interested in so many of them. I have been very surprised! A lot of them she has been able to read, though some she has needed help on. I think that it is just a confidence and awareness that maybe she COULD read those words now, whereas before, she felt like there was no use in trying.

 

Maddie has always been a hard worker, and she is working very hard at all of the exercises in Edublox. She LOVES the computer portion of the program, and she loves how supportive and encouraging it is. She is always telling me the nice things that it told her about how well she was doing, and I think it really boosts her confidence to see how much she is progressing from day to day. She actually seems to enjoy almost every portion of the program, but I think her other favorite part is when she is learning new words with Susan. I would say that her least favorite part of the program is math, but she still works hard and does her best, and she loves seeing how far she has come and how much she is learning!


Our second week of the Edublox program has gone well, though this week has been quite hectic. We were having some construction done on our house this week, so it has been a little bit of a struggle with all of the noise and commotion going on. Despite the distractions, we have been progressing in all of our exercises. This week we added subtraction for math, and that went quite well. In fact, though Maddie thought she would have a lot of trouble with the subtraction facts, she actually did better than she did with the addition. She has also progressed to the next step in the counting exercise, the directionality exercise, and the beanbag exercise. She actually really likes doing these exercises and is always trying to see if she can do it better in order to progress to the next step.

 

I am starting to see some improvement in her BDPQ confusion. She has not written any of these letters backwards this week! She also made much less mistakes in reading these letters as well. In her sessions with Susan, she is up to 100 words, in just two weeks! She has also been more interested in reading this week. She picked up a comic paper and started reading it one day, and she also started reading the book we were reading at bedtime, because I was taking too long, and she got tired of waiting on me to read it.  Though she did make some mistakes, overall, there seems to be some improvement in her reading, and especially in her interest in reading. We have also started the language exercise this week as well, and I am already seeing some new vocabulary that she has picked up just in a few days of doing the exercise. We are looking forward to learning more and excited about what this next week will bring!


Our third week of Edublox has gone well. This week we started a new spelling exercise that went surprisingly well! We also added multiplication to our math program this week, and it has gone better than I expected. We are progressing in most of the other exercises as well. I am also still noticing an increasing interest in the written word, and she quite frequently tries to read things that she would never have tried before. Also encouraging is that she is also increasing in accuracy when trying to read these things. She is also advancing in most of the EOT program, and she still enjoys this part of the program the most. Maddie is working very hard, and she is looking forward to all of the new things she can learn!

 

Compare the “before” with Week 3, when taught by her live tutor:


Somebody asked me this week about the differences between the Edublox program and Orton-Gillingham. They are very different, like night and day really. To be honest, it has been a little scary stepping out and trying something so drastically different from what I am used to!

 

Edublox does a lot of work on all of the underlying issues that cause dyslexia, while Orton-Gillingham focuses on intensive phonics and phonemic awareness only. Orton-Gillingham is very explicit and systematic in teaching phonics, to the point of an extraordinary number of rules (and all of the exceptions to the rules), while Edublox just teaches very basic phonics, and seems to focus on building visual memory, auditory memory, visual spatial ability etc. through multisensory exercises, repetition, and building a foundation of skills that are practiced to the point of automaticity, not just until the child is able to do the skill.

 

There is very little repetition built into the Orton-Gillingham program, though we did quite a bit of repetition due to difficulties in retention and lack of fluency. Though, looking back after starting the Edublox program, we did not do anywhere near the amount of repetition as we are doing now, and we were trying to do too many words at once. In just this short time of doing Edublox, she has already forgotten the rules that she learned doing Orton-Gillingham, even though she has known many of them for over a year! I thought some of them were automatic by now, and thus stored in long-term memory, but obviously they weren’t. So I guess that shows that it takes a lot more to get to the level of automaticity (and long-term memory) than I thought. I think that is the key in the Edublox program. We don’t just practice something until she can do it, we keep going until whatever we are working on is automatic and effortless, which takes much more practice and repetition than I ever thought!

 

On that note, this week has been mostly working on building this foundation through lots of repetition. We did not advance on most of the parts of the program this week, though we did add a new spatial exercise and she did advance in one exercise of Online Tutor that she had been unable to before this week. We also advanced on reading and did a lot more work on spelling this week, and that went well. We are continuing to work hard, and we are looking forward to next week!


This has been our fifth week using Edublox, and we seem to be at a plateau in most areas of learning. We have been drilling a lot of the same things this week, but I am hoping that we will start seeing more rapid progress soon. She is progressing in the Edublox Online Tutor in some more areas that she was having difficulty with, so I am hoping that more progress in those areas will start to show more in her reading, spelling, and math.

 

She did start a new reading exercise with Susan this week, and she has done really well with it. Not only that, but she also thought it was a lot of fun! She also seems to be improving some on BDPQ confusion. This week, if she wrote any of them incorrectly, she caught them herself! I also think that I am seeing some improvement from the language exercise, because I have noticed several new words in her vocabulary recently from the language exercise. Overall, it has been slow progress this week, but hopefully we are laying the foundation for improved learning in the future.

 

Compare the “before” with Weeks 3 and 5, when taught by her live tutor:

 


This week, Maddie has gotten over the plateau that we were on last week. She also read a book this week just for fun, the first time this has every happened! She needed help with the big words, but overall she did pretty well. It was a book about lions, so she enjoyed learning about one of the animals from Africa!

 

Lately I have been contemplating all the difficulties and challenges of having a child with severe dyslexia. When Maddie was first diagnosed, I was relieved to finally have an explanation for her struggles, but at the same time I was worried, anxious, and disheartened by the difficult journey ahead. There were several people telling me that she would probably never read, that she would need special assistance for the rest of her life, and that I should try to steer her away from career choices that involve success in academics. It was hard as a mother, who had wonderful visions of her child’s future, to think that it might not be possible, to think that her options were diminished due to something as seemingly simple as reading. Now, I am not a quitter, and I don’t usually give up on things, so I resolved that this would not be the case with my daughter. I resolved that I would do everything I could to help her become an accomplished reader. The problem was, no matter how great my resolve and no matter how hard we worked, we were still getting nowhere. I researched all of the best programs for dyslexia, and we diligently worked at all of them. I did everything that I could think of to help her, including speech therapy and vision therapy. With every new thing we tried, I had hope that maybe THIS one would work. However, over time, I began to lose hope. I began to doubt that anything would work, and I began to view anything that claimed to “treat” dyslexia as nothing more than a scam to take the money of a desperate parent trying to help their child. I had come to the conclusion that maybe this WAS a lifelong struggle that would never go away. Maybe they were right, and I should start steering her toward things in which she could be successful outside of academics.

 

If you do not have a child with dyslexia or know anyone who cannot read, you cannot imagine the feelings of hopelessness, disappointment, and desperation to find something, anything that will work. You cannot imagine how limiting it is in the life of a child to be unable to read anything, to be surrounded by the written word and it being forever out of your reach. Think about all of the things around us that are in written form: signs, pamphlets, instructions, cereal boxes, recipes, sewing patterns, worksheets, movies, electronics, the internet, the Bible, board games, birthday cards, schedules, the buttons on household appliances (such as dishwasher, washer, dryer, oven, etc.), and the list goes on and on. We live in a world that revolves around literacy, and those without are so limited that it hurts to think about it. I literally hurt for my child every day because of all of the things she is missing out on in everyday life. Think about going through life depending on others for even simple things such as reading the buttons on the washer to choose the right cycle to wash your clothes, or getting a new toy and having to wait on a parent to have time to read the instructions to you, or wanting to know more about a subject that interests you but being unable to look it up or find more information on it, or wanting to make a recipe on your own but being unable to even read simple instructions and ingredients, or wanting to do a sewing project independently and not being able to read even the simple instructions in the kids sewing book, or believing in God and wanting to study His word, but being unable to do so because you simply can’t read it.

 

I think about all of the times I read something, anything, throughout the day, and sometimes it makes me cry just because I know it is something, seemingly so simple, that my daughter cannot do. In fact, I am crying as I write this just thinking about it. The gift of reading is something so precious and crucial to modern life, but it is something that most of us take for granted. I desperately wanted to give this gift to my child, no matter what it took. So I started looking at the latest research on dyslexia, instead of just reading websites from “experts” on the subject. What I found surprised me. It appeared that, in America at least, there isn’t a lot of actual research going on about dyslexia. Most of the research I found was from other countries. I also found that the “gold standard” of treatment for dyslexia, which was supposedly Orton-Gillingham, actually did not have the research base that I had been led to believe. I discovered that, despite all of the information out there on dyslexia, there is actually no consensus in the scientific world on what dyslexia actually is and what causes it. There are many theories, but no consensus. My first thought was, if they don’t even know what it IS, then all of our efforts are hopeless, because you can’t treat something if you don’t know the cause. Then, in my research, I stumbled upon the Edublox website. The website seemed to have answers to so many unanswered questions, but I was still afraid to hope. When I contacted Susan, I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get, but I never expected the depth of knowledge and patience to answer all of my questions. I am still somewhat afraid to hope about the future, but I have found myself contemplating all of this over the past week. I have inadvertently found myself dreaming again about what the future may hold for my daughter, and starting to hope that maybe her future isn’t filled with limitations, but with possibilities.


 This week we have started seeing some real gains in pretty much all areas. I have noticed a great improvement in her spelling during her tutoring sessions this week especially. She doesn’t seem to just be writing down random letters anymore, and when she does make a mistake, it is usually a small one. If my count is correct, she is up to about 150 spelling words with EOT, and about 50 more challenging words with Susan. She is almost finished with the first portion of the EOT reading and spelling program. She is getting along very well in math now, and she will be ready for division next week. She seems to have really gotten over her plateau this week and is starting to plunge ahead. I am feeling great about her current progress, and I am encouraged by the improvement we have seen this week!

 

I am feeling rather ambitious, so I went ahead and ordered her homeschool curriculum for next year. In the past, I have usually gotten something well below her grade level, because she just couldn’t function at the appropriate level, but I went ahead and bought regular 4th grade curriculum for next year. I am very hopeful that she will be ready by the time next school year starts!


Her tutoring session on Monday was incredible! It actually brought tears to my eyes watching her spell all of those difficult words. I was so impressed! Then she actually spent some independent time studying the spelling words throughout the week for her test on Friday, and she got 100 percent correct on the spelling test. She was so proud of herself, and we are as well!

 

She is also improving in her naming skills, and we are working on quite a few different things for that, including her address, city, state, country, continent, and planet, as well as pertinent information about our country. She is also feeling much more independent and confident in herself as she is branching out more and doing things herself. She wanted to buy something online, and she used the computer to find what she wanted all by herself, without any help! She also stayed up late one night reading a book. We were reading a book at bedtime, and she wanted to know what happened, so she kept reading. I have wanted her to WANT to read for so long, that I just didn’t have the heart to make her stop and go to bed, so she stayed up for about an hour reading. She read more than I think she has ever read at one time. I had to help her with some of the words, but she really surprised me with some of the words that she could read. Many were words that she has not been taught yet. We are definitely heading in the right direction, and it is exciting to watch all of the changes!

 

Maddie writing her first spelling test!

 


I believe we are on week 9 of our journey with Edublox. Maddie is certainly making a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go. We have started long vowels with EOT this week, and she has had some difficulty with it. However, she is making a lot of progress in other areas. She is progressing in the other exercises on EOT, as well as the exercises we do at home, such as the spatial exercise, the beanbag exercise, the directionality exercise, and the BDPQ exercise. She is also making a lot of progress with math and counting.

 

Maddie wrote a story about the broadway play Wicked that we went to see. She used the playbill to spell the names. I did not help her at all, so everything else was spelled on her own. Her handwriting and spelling has improved a lot! I had her read back through it herself after I took this picture, and she caught a lot of the mistakes herself. I helped her to correct it after that, but they were mostly grammatical mistakes because she hasn’t done very much writing at all before now. I love how she is feeling confident in her ability to write on her own, and how that confidence is giving her courage to try new things!

 

 

Maddie is also making good progress on the cognitive exercises of Edublox Online Tutor!


We thought that Maddie might be on a little bit of a plateau, so we did not add any new words this week. She is doing better with the long vowels this week, but for some reason, BDPQ issues are still giving her trouble in her reading this week. However, by the end of the week, she had improved quite a bit. She is making excellent progress with her home exercises, especially the spatial exercise and the beanbag exercise, and she is getting much faster and more accurate on the directionality exercise.

 

We went to the library, and she picked out several books to READ (not for me to read TO her). She couldn’t wait to read them, and actually read one in the car. It was a beginning reader, but she did pretty well and only needed help on a few words. She was excited that she was able to check out books from the library for her to read by herself!


This has been a great week. I have seen a lot of progress in all areas, and she seems to be picking things up quicker than she has before. I believe we are seeing the effects of “building a pyramid of repetition”, as our Edublox tutor has told us. I think we have laid a good foundation, and the new information is becoming easier to lay down.  She now has around 400 words that she knows instantly by sight, and she can reliably spell about 150 of them! She has also learned many new spelling patterns that she is able to use correctly. It’s been an exciting week, and we are still looking forward to continuing to learn more!


This week has been a great week too, even though we were gone on vacation for part of it. We went on vacation to the beach for a few days, and everyone had a great time! It was amazing to see how many things Maddie was reading on our vacation, things that she never would have attempted before: road signs, informational plaques, brochures, pamphlets, signs of all kinds. It does take her a minute to read them, and she still does make some mistakes, but nevertheless, she is reading them!

 

Also, Maddie is REALLY wanting to read a lot more now! The desire to read is just continuing to increase more and more. I think her brother and sister are getting tired of sitting and listening to her read, since that’s what she wants to do most of the time 🙂 She is also asking to take books to bed to READ, not just look at the pictures like she has done in the past, and the books she is wanting to read are not beginning readers. She is not interested in those. She is picking up grade level or beyond books and wanting to read them, though she is still somewhat slow and is still making some mistakes. I am absolutely thrilled that she is choosing to just sit around during the day and read! I am so glad that the good people at Edublox have created this program that is making all of this possible!


We did an unprepared reading on Monday, and Maddie did brilliant. I have never seen her read so well. I did not immediately realize it, but she read the whole 4 pages without using her finger as a guide! She only lost her place once, whereas before, she often lost her place, even using her finger. She also made very few mistakes, and her fluency was SO much higher. Before starting Edublox, she was reading at a rate of 12 words per minute (and was reading very short passages), but she read the 667 words in this passage at a rate of 48 words per minute. That is a huge improvement in only 13 weeks!

 

We have now finished our original 13 week plan, and we have seen amazing results, as seen in the many updates, videos, etc. that have been posted along the way. Her reading fluency has quadrupled in speed, and she is able to read so many things that she never would have attempted before. She also has close to 500 sight words if I am not mistaken! Not only that, but she is taking what she knows about these words (such as spelling patterns), and applying them to new words, so the number of words that she can read by sight is much more than 500. Her spelling has greatly improved, and, though she still has more to go, it is amazing to see how much progress she has made in a few short weeks. As far as the rest of the program, she has made tremendous progress in all areas. She has progressed wonderfully in EOT (Edublox Online Tutor), which is specifically working on auditory and visual memory, logical thinking, directionality, and visual sequencing.

 

Before starting Edublox, Maddie struggled greatly with math facts, and she quite frequently forgot them and had to figure them out laboriously over and over when doing math work. Long addition and subtraction took her forever, because she did not know the math facts, though we had worked on them over and over for years. It would take her 5 minutes or so to do a problem such as 952+236. She has now mastered 75% of all addition and subtraction facts to 12 by memory, meaning she can answer them in only a few seconds. She has also started on multiplication and division, and she is still getting addition and subtraction right. Before Edublox, every time she learned a new concept, she would lose all of the previous information that she had learned, and we would have to start over again with everything. Now, when she learns a new concept, she just adds the new concept, and still retains the previous information, so it is much easier for her to learn new math concepts such as multiplication and division. She also had trouble counting consistently, especially in the higher numbers, but now, not only is she counting fluently, but she can count backwards and is starting to count by multiples too!

 

As far as the other additional exercises that we do alongside the online program, she is now on the final step of the beanbag activity, whereas before, she could barely even catch the beanbag once or twice using both hands. She has made huge strides on BDPQ confusion and is almost always catching it herself if she writes one incorrectly. The directionality exercise is going very well, and I can see in daily life that she no longer hesitates on left vs. right. When we first started the spatial exercise, I was sure that there was no way she could do the activity with her directionality and spatial challenges, but she is progressing VERY well in this activity. I think she enjoys the challenge of the spatial activity, and she is proud of herself when she gets it all correct. I have also noticed an improvement in her vocabulary and naming issues with the activities that we are doing for both of these issues. Her handwriting is also much improved, as you can see in a previous update. Everyone who knows her is thoroughly amazed at her progress, and we get comments like, “Whatever it is you are doing, KEEP doing it, because her progress is phenomenal!” In all honesty, Maddie has made more progress in the past 13 weeks than she has over the entire course of everything we have tried for the past 5 years! (Read Maddie’s story to see all of the different things we have tried.) In my book, Edublox is nothing short of a miracle, and most definitely the answer to our prayers.

 

We are continuing the program throughout the summer, but we all need a bit of a break, so we are decreasing to 8 hours per week for the next couple of months. Since we are scaling down over the summer, I will only be writing an update every two weeks. We then plan to keep going to reach our ultimate goal of Maddie reading fluently on grade level. This first part of our journey with Edublox has been incredible, and though there is still a lot more work to do, I am looking forward to what the future holds for Maddie!

 

Unprepared reading: Compare the “before” with Week 13, Day 1:


We are now on week 16 of the Edublox program. Maddie is enjoying her summer, playing outside, swimming, etc. She is still doing an abbreviated version of the Edublox program for the summer.

 

Maddie has now completed all of the steps of the beanbag activity. Like I said in a previous update, when she first started, she could barely catch it with both hands, so that is a huge improvement. She is progressing very well through the EOT reading program. The words in the program have gotten increasingly more difficult, but she is doing well with it. She is surprising me with the words that she can remember how to spell! Instead of having to practice a word over and over, she is starting to pick up the spelling of new words more quickly. Maddie will be at a drama camp at our church all week next week, so we will not be doing much of the program until the following week.


We are all still enjoying the summer as well as trying to get some projects done around the house. We went to the library last week, and Maddie was so excited that she couldn’t wait to start reading her books. I took a picture of her reading a book to herself while we were walking around running errands. She only occasionally asked my help for a word here and there, and she seemed to really enjoy reading the books that she got. They were not beginning readers either. She has been carrying a book around with her all week since then and reading whenever she gets the chance.

 

Maddie reading a library book

The last couple of weeks, I have been giving her more responsibility to get her school work done on her own. I am expecting her to do certain things on her own and be responsible for getting it done. I think it is time for her to take ownership of her education, so there have been a lot of changes around here. I have also started expecting her to do her own reading and writing when it is required. I had noticed that, when we are doing things together, like watching a movie for example, that she will not try to read words that come up on the screen because she is just expecting that someone else will read it for her. I realized that this was holding her back, so I am no longer reading and writing things for her, though I will provide assistance if necessary. For example, if she needs to read the instructions for a toy and brings it to me, I have been telling her that she needs to read it herself. She had also been using the voice to text feature on her iPad if she wanted to write something, but I have turned that off. If she wants to write something, I hand her a piece of paper and pencil and tell her to go for it! 😊 She is doing really well with writing and spelling, but I go through it with her and correct mistakes as necessary. I think since she has been relying on others to read and write for her, it has been enabling her to not have to try or be motivated to learn to read and write on her own. So by taking that away, it is forcing her to draw upon what she is learning and really put it to use instead of taking the easy way and just asking someone else to do it. She doesn’t really like all of these recent changes, because it requires her to work harder, but I think that she will thank me for it later! I am hoping that this is the push that she needs to take her to the next level in her learning!


 

Kimberly, United States