Wilson Reading Program Review: Does Wilson Reading Help with Dyslexia?

wilson reading program review

If you have a child or student with dyslexia, you might have heard of the popular Wilson Reading System. Highly recommended by professionals and parents alike, it’s based on the popular Orton-Gillingham approach that is designed for struggling readers. Both approaches take a multisensory approach to learning, aiming to target the skills that many dyslexics struggle with such as recognizing phonemes, decoding language, spelling, and writing. 

In this article, I’ll be looking more closely at the Wilson Reading Program as a speech and language professional. We’ll look at how it works, how much it costs, how effective it is, and whether it’s evidence-based. Keep reading to discover whether WRS could be an effective solution for teaching your student or child with dyslexia to read. 

What is the Wilson Reading Program?

The Wilson Reading System (WRS) is a research-based, structured literacy program designed to help those with dyslexia and other struggling readers build the foundational language skills needed to thrive at school, college, work, and throughout life. It’s based on the highly structured Orton-Gillingham approach that uses a multisensory approach to help build reading, writing and spelling fluency and make that vital connection between the sounds of language and writing. 

With its systematic and cumulative approach to decoding (reading) and encoding (writing) and consistent reinforcement, it aligns with the International Dyslexia Association’s Guidelines for supporting students with dyslexia. The Wilson Reading Program is also endorsed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE).

For these reasons, it’s widely used in Special Needs Education (SNE) and as an intervention for students with dyslexia in public and private schools to help support students who are struggling to read. It’s specially designed materials are tailored to meet the needs and interests of learners of all ages, making it ideal for adult learners who have not been successful when learning to read and write at school. 

How it works

If you decide to use the Wilson Reading Program, a trained instructor will first evaluate the student’s skill level, strengths and weaknesses using the company’s excellent assessment tool. Then they will diagnostically plan each lesson according to the student’s needs, progress and success. The lessons themselves are usually between 60-90 minutes in length with ten skill areas taught in every session including:

  1. The sounds of language 
  2. How the written alphabet corresponds to the sounds of language
  3. Reading and writing
  4. Analyzing words 
  5. High-frequency and sight words
  6. Vocabulary development
  7. Reading fluency 
  8. Oral expression 
  9. Listening and reading comprehension
  10. Metacognition (awareness and understanding of the student’s thought processes)

This means that the WRS sessions are longer than other programs based on Orton-Gillingham (that are usually around 30 minutes). Students are usually taught in small groups with others at a similar skill level or sometimes individually if extra support is needed.

First, they will learn the basics, discovering how to identify and match sounds and letters, recognize syllables and then break down and blend sounds by tapping the thumb and forefinger together. 

Once the students have learned how to separate phonemes (the sounds of language), they gradually learn how words are constructed according to the six syllable types. Over time, their knowledge is reinforced and expanded until the student can read increasingly complex texts, write and spell with greater accuracy. 

This comprehensive approach means that using the Wilson Reading System with your struggling readers can help them achieve mastery, even if they have dyslexia or have struggled to learn to read in the past. 

The WRS curriculum

The WRS Curriculum is composed of twelve units and a further fifty-two substeps, each building on the last to ensure that the learner retains what they are learning and can progress to the next stage. 

Usually, the entire program takes between two to three years to complete. It’s important to note that these twelve units do not correspond to the student’s grade level. 


By using a variety of multi-sensory and interactive materials such as student readers, a magnetic journal with letter tiles, a dictation book, and sound and letter cards everyone can benefit from this research-based approach, regardless of their preferred learning style. 

When working in a group, the student needs to purchase their own materials. Some of these will need to be replaced every year and can be bought from the Wilson Reading System website

This visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactical approach helps reinforce the skills already learned, engage muscle memory and boost overall reading fluency. It’s also ideal for neurodiverse learners such as those with ADHD who need a different approach to the traditional classroom environment. 

Wilson Reading Program: An SLP’s Review

WRS is an excellent reading program for those who are struggling to read, especially those with dyslexia or ADHD. In this section, I’d like to share my professional opinion on the Wilson Reading Approach, looking at the pros and cons of the program. 

Methodology & Process 

According to my own experience and feedback from students, parents and teachers using the Wilson Reading system, there are several advantages to both the methodology and learning process:

It’s ideal for learners of all ages: I believe that one of the main advantages of the Wilson Reading Program is the fact that the curriculum is designed for struggling readers of all ages, from 2nd grade to adulthood. 

The vocabulary itself is divided into two levels – one for younger readers and another for older learners. This means an older child, teenager or adult won’t be forced to read childish texts but can enjoy materials that are easy to relate to and applicable to their everyday life. 

Students cannot be ‘left behind’: The Wilson Reading Program is unique in that it follows a twelve-step structure and learners need to achieve 95% before moving on to the next. I believe this is essential for ensuring that learners won’t be left behind as in many other educational systems. This means that with persistence, the student will learn to read, even if it is a slower process than expected.

The materials are extensive: In my opinion, the materials provided are also extensive and help both teacher and student alike achieve the best results from using the program. This includes an instructor manual, assessments, student readers, dictation books, letter-sound, word, word element and syllable, and high-frequency word cards that help create the foundations for reading fluency and language success. 

WRS is evidence-based: We also need to ask ourselves the question “Is Wilson Reading System evidence-based?” The answer is yes – the content of each program is indeed based on scientific evidence that learning to read requires the development of five individual yet intersecting skills:

  1. Phonemic awareness – the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds of language)
  2. Phonics (also referred to as alphabetics) – the ability to match the sounds of language with their written form
  3. Fluency – the ability to read fluently
  4. Vocabulary –understanding the meaning of words in a text 
  5. Comprehension – understanding the concepts contained in the text 

Further research demonstrates that students need instruction to achieve this, whether they suffer from dyslexia or not and I believe this is essential when teaching reading to learners of all ages and abilities. This is also one of the advantages of the Wilson Reading System. 

Students won’t only learn to read: Another benefit of using the Wilson Reading Program is the fact that learners won’t only learn to decode (to read) but will also learn to encode (to spell), work on their reading fluency and gain a sense of mastery over the language. In my opinion, this provides well-rounded language skill training that will help them excel academically in the future. 

Wilson offers a combined phonics and sight word program: The fact that the program includes sight words is also another advantage, according to my experience in the classroom. Sight words are those high-frequency words that students are taught to recognize by sight instead of decoding and are often omitted in other reading programs designed for dyslexics and the neuro-diverse. This is excellent as, again, it offers further mastery of language and boosts their fluency, confidence and sense of achievement.

It offers a personalized approach: Experience has taught me that a one-size-fits all approach isn’t effective when teaching literacy because every student has their own unique learning style, interests, strengths and weaknesses. I love the fact that The Wilson Reading approach offers exactly this. 

Through initial and ongoing assessment, a multisensory approach, constant feedback and the flexibility to tailor lessons to the learners themselves, students will learn more rapidly and effectively. They will also find it easier to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life contexts, further strengthening their literacy skills.

Cost of the Wilson Reading System

The cost of the Wilson Reading system depends on whether your child will be using the system as part of special needs education, at school or with a private teacher. 

How much do Wilson reading tutors cost? 

If your child needs support with their reading, you can hire an independent teacher. Many offer both private and group classes, designed to meet the needs of your child. 

Prices for Wilson reading tutors can range from $50 to $200, depending on their experience and location. 

How much does the Wilson Reading Program cost? 

Many schools now offer the Wilson Reading Program as part of special needs education or remedial support. 

You can also buy the materials online with the introductory set currently priced at $499 and other supplementary materials like student durables priced around $150 for the set. 

Wilson also offers workshops, courses and full teacher certification that help teachers and parents fully support students on their learning journey, priced at around $3000 for the full certification. 

Although this may seem costly for individual families who must pay for this additional help, the investment is undoubtedly worth it. After all, reading fluency and language mastery are basic skills needed to enjoy academic and career success, build confidence and independence and enjoy life. Therefore I believe that the Wilson Reading Program is well worth the investment. 


When it comes to support, the Wilson Reading Program does allow for peer interaction when learning in a group environment. The teacher also provides extensive support throughout, tailoring each lesson to the developing needs of the student. 

User Reviews

Both educators and parents using the Wilson Reading System have experienced great success with their students. 

Dyslexic students tend to have stronger 3D visual and spatial awareness and working with 2D input like printed text is harder. The fact that this program uses a multisensory approach helps to engage these ‘superpowers’ and promote literacy. 

However, this does depend on the individual – many of those with dyslexia also have other cognitive issues that can make this program less effective if not tackled separately. Primarily, this is because of the multisensory approach that the program uses to help dyslexics improve their reading skills.

Students love the fact that materials are not targeted towards younger learners but offer engaging content for older readers too. This helps them overcome any stigma associated with struggling to read, builds their confidence and helps them stay motivated throughout the program.

Impact & Areas for Improvement

The big question of course is, does it work? How effective is the program for students with dyslexia and does it really help them achieve reading fluency?

The answer is yes. Based on the extensive positive feedback from students, educators and parents, my personal experience with the program and numerous studies that back the effectiveness of the program, the Wilson Reading Approach appears to be the most effective literacy program for dyslexics and other struggling readers. 

However, if Wilson were to supply parents and students with additional resources and support to allow for extra practice during and after the program, we could see even faster results. 

✅ Based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, effective for dyslexics using multisensory methods to improve reading skills.❌ Can be expensive, especially when including private tutoring and annual material costs.
✅ Adaptable for both younger and older learners, making it versatile for all ages.❌ Typically requires 2-3 years to complete, which may be too lengthy for some students.
✅ Endorsed by educational bodies and proven successful in special education settings.❌ Dependence on small group settings may not suit every student’s learning preference.
✅ Ensures mastery at each step with continuous assessments, preventing any learning gaps.❌ Effective learning heavily depends on the instructor’s skill level.

Our Methodology: How We Reviewed the Program 

To provide you with a thorough and accurate review of the WRS program, I have conducted rigorous research, ensuring that all opinions and claims are backed by research, real-life experience, and a thorough analysis of the program itself, based on decades of instructing young people to read. 

This includes: 

  • A detailed breakdown of the key components of the Wilson Reading System.
  • An analysis according to the latest research into literacy, especially for dyslexic and struggling readers. 
  • Consultation with parents who have used the program with their struggling readers.

Forbrain and Wilson Reading as Complementary Dyslexia Tools 

The innovative Forbrain auditory stimulation headset has been designed to enhance those very same skills targeted by the Wilson Reading Program. Using a technologically advanced headset, bone conduction technology and dynamic sound filters, it helps learners hear the sounds of language clearly, improve cognitive skills and working memory and learn to read faster, whatever their age. 

When used alongside WRS, Forbrain can help provide the extra targeted practice that students need to master the five skills needed for fluent reading. It uses cutting-edge technology to harness the power of auditory feedback, making it easier to understand and manipulate the sounds of language, strengthen neural pathways associated with literacy and help your child fulfill their potential.

The Use of Wilson Reading with and without Forbrain

Feature/AspectForbrainWilson ReadingWilson Reading with Forbrain
FunctionalityHeadset that helps with the 3 main challenges of dyslexia: verbal memory, phonological awareness, and verbal processing speed. The combination of the dynamic filter and bone conduction amplifies the speaker’s voice and stimulates the auditory nerve, for better brain processing.Structured, multisensory learning to improve phonemic awareness, spelling, and writing.Using Forbrain with Wilson Reading enhances the program’s effectiveness by improving auditory processing, which can help speed up the mastery of reading skills.
UsabilityMeant to be implemented into daily routines, for 10-20 minutes a day. Individuals simply need to wear the headset when reading or speaking.Requires structured, lengthy sessions (60-90 minutes), typically conducted in small groups or one-on-one settings.Forbrain can be used during WRS sessions, reinforcing the auditory component of the multisensory approach without additional time.
Target AudienceSuitable for 3+ and older individuals with learning challenges such as dyslexiaDesigned for students with dyslexia or reading difficulties, adaptable from young children to adults.Forbrain and Wilson Reading have the same audience, enhancing the program’s effectiveness for those with dyslexia and other learning challenges.
BenefitsForbrain helps to improve:
– speech
– communication
– attention
– focus
– memory
– learning
Increases reading proficiency, phonological awareness, and is effective for dyslexia.Using Forbrain with Wilson Reading combines auditory and cognitive training, potentially enhancing overall cognitive improvement and faster learning outcomes.
LimitationsNot appropriate for individuals with :
– cochlear implant
– severe hearing loss
– epilepsy
High cost, requires trained instructors, and commitment to a long-term structured program.
Cost$299 for the Forbrain headset and accessories, with a 2-year warranty.Material costs can be high, with tutoring ranging from $50 to $200 per session.Initial higher investment due to combining costs of both programs, but the potential for enhanced learning outcomes may justify it.
Support & ResourcesForbrain comes with:
– A secondary microphone that allows support from parents, therapists, or instructors.
– A headphone jack for listening to recordings or participating in online therapy programs.
Extensive support through materials, trained instructors, and structured curriculum.
Clinical Evidence/ResearchForbrain uses neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire and change. Several scientific studies have shown the effects of using Forbrain or auditory feedback to improve the skills of those with reading or other deficits.Well-supported by research and endorsed by educational standards and guidelines for dyslexia.Combining both tools leverages the strengths of each, potentially leading to compounded benefits, supported by principles of neuroplasticity.

Final Words

If your student or child is suffering from dyslexia or struggling to read, the Wilson Reading Program could be the key you need to unlock their literacy and reading fluency. 

Clear, straightforward and targeting each cognitive skill that promotes literacy, it’s an easy-to-use and affordable program that empowers the learner, builds their confidence and lays the foundations for academic, career and life success.

When used alongside the Forbrain headset, you’ll help students learn to read faster and understand that their dyslexia isn’t a weakness but a superpower.   


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Wolfram, P. M. (n.d.). Home. MemberClicks. https://www.casecec.org/ 

Curriculum – Wilson Language Training Corporation. Wilson Language Training Corporation -. (2023a, July 21). https://www.wilsonlanguage.com/programs/wilson-reading-system/curriculum/ 

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/smallbook 

Kruidenier, J. R., MacArthur, C. A., & Wrigley, H. S. (2010, September 30). Adult Education Literacy Instruction: A Review of the Research. National Institute for Literacy. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED521229 

Materials – Wilson Language Training Corporation. Wilson Language Training Corporation -. (2023b, June 15). https://www.wilsonlanguage.com/programs/wilson-reading-system/materials/ 

Fun Hub® – Wilson Language Training Corporation. Wilson Language Training Corporation -. (2023b, September 22). https://www.wilsonlanguage.com/programs/fundations/fun-hub/ 

Team, D. A. (2019, December 11). Thinking in 3D. Dyslexia | Dyslexic Advantage. https://www.dyslexicadvantage.org/thinking-in-3d/ 

Team, F. (n.d.). Tackling dyslexia in children with Forbrain. blog.forbrain.com. https://blog.forbrain.com/blog/forbrain-dyslexia-children-speech 

Charlotte Witts

Charlotte is a linguistics graduate, language and literacy teacher and parent of a teenager with ADHD. She’s passionate about sharing her expertise in speech therapy, ADHD and language acquisition so everyone can reach their full potential.

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