Wilson Reading Tutors: What Makes Them Effective?

If you read my blog from last week, or have researched programs used to treat dyslexia, you may be considering Wilson Reading as a solution for your child’s needs.  Wilson Reading is a challenging program, and it is very important to have your child work with a person who is not only well-trained, but dynamic, intuitive, and able to pick up on your child’s feelings and needs.

iStock_000012428708Large blur 50Once you have selected a Wilson Tutor, it is likely that your child will be working with that person for a very long time.  The program is designed for a two-year period and can be longer for students with varying needs, and it requires meetings 2-3 times per week.  Knowing this, you can certainly see why it is so important to have your child carefully matched with the right person!

Although every child responds best to different tutor personalities, there are some core traits that every great Wilson Tutor has.  We look for these traits when we decide to hire Wilson Tutors and also when determining which tutors to train in the program so that we can best serve our students.

Experience Working with Struggling Readers

Although the theory behind the Orton-Gillingham Approach and Wilson Reading Program can be taught, that is only half of the battle in working with a student who is challenged by decoding and reading fluency.  There are certainly individuals who have a natural talent for working with young students and understanding their frustrations, cues, and limits, but for most, this ability comes with experience.

The best Wilson tutors are individuals who have worked with struggling readers in the past and truly understand the many layers of obstacles that these students are facing.  This is not just about the mechanical and cognitive aspects of reading, but also understanding the emotional, social, and academic challenges that these students face on a daily basis.

An experienced tutor will be able to work with the whole student as opposed to just focusing on teaching what letters make what sounds.  He or she will have the ability to identify when a student is becoming frustrated and what internal thoughts that student might be having.  The experienced tutor will also recognize when a student is trying to divert the session in order to avoid working on something. Wilson tutors serve not just as teachers, but also as mentors, coaches, and sources of inspiration.

Organizational and Time Management Skills

The Wilson Tutoring Program has a highly involved curriculum that requires both tutors and students to keep track of several moving parts.  It’s important for tutors to be able to keep track of what each of their students has mastered as well as when they may need additional materials to help a student who needs more practice than others.  The tutor also needs to take daily notes on student progress and keep track of several different versions of materials that are individualized for each of their students.

The tutor also needs to be able to teach these organizational skills to their students since the students will be keeping track of what sounds and words they have mastered and many different worksheets and notebooks.

Lastly, the tutor must have strong time management skills because pacing in Wilson lessons is one of the most important components.  The pace shifts quickly from activity to activity, and keeping a pace that matches the needs of the student is key to maintaining long term engagement.  It is crucial for tutors to complete every section in the Wilson Lesson Plan during their session in order for the student to work on every aspect of decoding, encoding, and fluency.

Wilson reading systemBuilding Phonemic Awareness

One of the most common reasons dyslexic students have difficulty with decoding and spelling is their lack of phonemic awareness, or ability to accurately hear individual sounds within words and sentences.

For some of us, this ability comes very easily.  People with good phonemic awareness might be great at learning to pronounce new words or learn new languages, and may have a good musical ear as well.  For others, discriminating sounds is very abstract and difficult and must be taught directly.

Tutors who are best for working with decoding and encoding are individuals with a strong sense of phonemic awareness.  They must be able to not only break down the words themselves, but to quickly and accurately identify when their student is or isn’t pronouncing something correctly.  This is especially important in the quick drills section of the Wilson Lesson Plan, which is used to build automaticity.  In this case, stopping the student after every sound would defeat the purpose of the exercise.

Understanding of the English Language

If you have ever read to a child who is just learning to read, you may have heard a question like, “why does the word ‘knife’ have a ‘k’ in it?”, or “Why don’t ‘rough,’ and ‘through’ rhyme even though they end with the same letters?” or, “Why do ‘c’ and ‘k’ sometimes make the same sound?”

English is a language that evolved mainly from French and German and also has been influenced by many other languages throughout the years.  To this day, English continues to borrow new words from other languages.  English is an irregular language, but it also has some patterns that can be learned.

A good Wilson tutor will help a student recognize some of these patterns instead of just saying “because that’s the way it is.”  Having a strong understanding of the English language as well as some background knowledge on how it became the way it is can really help, especially in the more advanced levels of Wilson tutoring.

Making the Wilson Tutor Match

If you decide to have your child work with a Wilson tutor, we would be happy to work with you to determine who the best match will be.  Our tutors will certainly have the background required, but we also want to make sure that we get a good fit in terms of interests and personality.  This tutor will have a strong presence in your child’s life, and so it is important to get the right fit!