Book World Opens Around the Block

Courier AustraliaThis article appeared in the Courier-Mail in Australia on 18 September 1998:

In 15 years, Karusha Kratz had learnt to read only four words.

But after two weeks of a new intensive course, Karusha can now understand 45 words and is beginning to read basic books.

Karusha, who has Williams syndrome and attends Inala Special School, says she found it “aggravating” not to be able to read.

“It’s exciting to learn about books because I want to learn about books, because I have heaps of books in my room and I can’t read them,” she said.

“There’s Video Hits books I want to read because it’s very exciting to learn about stars and what they’re doing.”

Williams syndrome is a rare genetic disorder causing varying degrees of intellectual disability and also can affect the heart and bowel.

Karusha’s dramatic turnaround after years of frustration stunned her mother, Liz Kratz, who described the Audiblox technique as a miracle.

“It’s like we’ve been given what we were searching for for 15 years,” she said.

“We had been disappointed so many times before. To suddenly have her recognize all these words, it’s like a miracle.”

The Audiblox programme was brought to Australia from South Africa by Melbourne-based Christiene Swanepoel under the name Blox.

Audiblox uses coloured blocks to re-teach basic memory, concentration and sequencing skills. Students must remember sequences and shapes of blocks, which becomes the foundation for reading and learning.

Ms Swanepoel came across the programme more than two years ago. She said it helped both abled and disabled students with reading or learning difficulties.

Inala Special School will monitor Karusha’s progress over the next three years.

Principal Ross Miles said the school was very interested to see if the short-term gains continued.

He said the programme revisited and re-packaged techniques used by Education Queensland over the years. It appeared to be a useful tool for increasing students’ memory.

Mrs Kratz said she had been desperate after having tried every reading programme without success.

“At 15, Karusha couldn’t even read ladies to gents, so I couldn’t let her go the toilets,” she said.

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