Most homeschool parents do not know any more about dyslexia than teachers. But homeschool parents tend to focus on their child’s strengths while they continue to search for answers – as this mom shared.
I have homeschooled all 3 of my children, one of whom is severely dyslexic. It has been wonderful to be able to tutor my son in the Barton System while making every accommodation he needs to excel in all subjects.
Though he struggled with reading and writing for years before we found the Barton System, we always focused on his strengths, so he has never felt like he wasn’t as smart as others. Quite the contrary. He has excelled in math – completing high school geometry in 7th grade, and he is a history buff. He is also in a high school level literature discussion group (he listens to the books on audio), and he is involved in sports and theater.
My other two children are not dyslexic, so he has no qualms at all about asking his little brother or older sister how to spell a word now and then. To him, being dyslexic is really no different than someone being a faster or slower runner, taller or shorter, blue eyes or brown eyes, etc.
I am incredibly thankful to Susan Barton for giving so much of her time to present lectures on dyslexia. I went to one of her free presentations at my local public library about 4 years ago, and it literally changed our lives. I suddenly realized what was going on with my son, and shortly thereafter, had him diagnosed with dyslexia and started tutoring him with the Barton System.
To hear Susan Barton’s advice for homeschool parents (or those who are thinking about homeschooling), watch her free 30-minute on-line presentation by clicking on the following link:
A parent recently sent me this email:
My daughter, Karen, is 8 years old and in third grade. She is full of life and so much fun. She makes friends easily and enjoys having a good time. But she is struggling in school.
She started struggling in Kindergarten. She had a tough time staying in her seat and was always in trouble for pestering others during nap time. She struggled with sight words and reading, and she missed the DIBELS benchmarks. But her teacher said Karen just needed to mature a little more and that she would be fine.
But in first grade, Karen was way behind in reading. She has always been a “social butterfly,” and she still had a hard time staying in her seat. So her teacher allowed her to get up move around a bit and then go back to work. That seemed to help.
Spelling tests were very tough for Karen. Reading comprehension tests were also tough because she couldn’t always read the questions. However, she could orally tell you all about the book. Her handwriting was poor, but legible.
In January, her first grade teacher suggested retention. But by the end of first grade, the teacher claimed Karen had caught up in reading. Karen was just a little immature, but she would grow out of it.
In second grade, Karen was about a semester behind in reading, and she sometimes swapped b’s for d’s. Her handwriting was (and still is) really hard to read at times. She did okay in math. But she often failed the spelling tests – even though we practiced every night and tried all sorts of things when practicing those spelling words.
This year, her third grade teacher knows all the “tricks.” Spelling tests are multiple choice. Karen has to circle the one that looks right, and she gets 95% or higher on that type of spelling test. But she cannot spell any of those words the following week.
Vocabulary tests are given with a word bank, so most weeks, Karen scores 85% or higher.
In math, she is allowed to use scratch paper and her fingers because she still has not memorized her adding and subtracting facts. Now they are starting multiplication. Yikes. Her class recently started to learn to tell time. Karen is struggling in that as well.
The school says Karen is at the 2.5 grade level in reading – but she should be at 3.4. Karen is doing better with being attentive in class, except during reading time. She loves to be read to, but she gets frustrated when she tries to read.
Her teacher doesn’t seem alarmed, but I have this feeling that something isn’t quite right.
Karen started cheering this year. She struggles to memorize the words and motions of the cheers. She often goes left when the group goes right, lifts her left hand when the group raises their right, etc.
She has a hard time memorizing Bible scriptures in her Bible classes. Scriptures that she memorized a week ago, she can no longer recite.
Do you think she might have dyslexia?
Since dyslexia is inherited, any adult who has dyslexia should watch for it in their children.
But adults with only mild or moderate dyslexia may not know they have it because they were never tested for it. But they will recognize these classic warning signs.
Lifelong trouble with spelling is one classic warning sign, as this college graduate shared:
Before the invention of the computer and “spell check,” it would take me forever to write a paper. I NEVER wrote letters to friends.
When I asked my mother how to spell a word, she would tell me to go look it up. How the heck can you look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it? I never did understand that. But my mother was a 1952 spelling bee champion, so she had no understanding of my difficulty.
I would spend HOURS going through all of the G’s trying to find the right spelling of jaguar.
Then an English teacher in college took me aside and asked, “Alice, you can’t spell, can you?” I sheepishly admitted I could not. He then asked me how I would spell jaguar. I replied that I wasn’t sure. He asked me if I could spell cat. I said yes. He then handed me a thesaurus and told me to look up cat. And there, under cat, was jaguar.
He then told me he never again wanted me to hand in a paper that was “dumbed down” because I couldn’t spell a word. He was the one who started the ball rolling to get me tested for dyslexia. I was 20 years old and in college.
Although it took forever to write papers, even with a thesaurus, I did get a college degree.
Another classic warning sign is being a very slow reader and having to guess to figure out the longer words – as this man shared:
At 78, I still struggle with dyslexia. Growing up in Tennessee in the 30’s and 40’s, I was viewed as dumb or lazy.
I may not seem as bad as others because I learned how to cheat, and how to avoid English and other courses that required lots of reading or writing. So I made good grades in college – graduating in the top 20% of my engineering class, and then getting an MBA.
But reading is still a lot of work.
And if you are a slow reader with terrible spelling, and you are also unable to master a foreign language, the odds are pretty high that you do have dyslexia – as this woman shared:
My brother’s kindergarten teacher suspected he might have dyslexia, but it took 2 years before he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia.
When I was 12, I attended a Susan Barton presentation on dyslexia with my parents. During her lecture, I realized I was also dyslexic – but I did not struggle as much as my brother. I was just a slow reader and a terrible speller.
It was not until I had to take a foreign language class in college, and failed every language I tried, that my parents finally realized I might also have dyslexia, and had me tested.
If you know or suspect that you have dyslexia, please watch for it in your children – because it is an inherited condition. Not all of them will have it, but about half of them will.
Parents, if your child’s school does not provide the right type of tutoring, then you need to provide it after school.
Some parents hire a professional tutor for the reason this tutor shared:
The Barton System continues to feed my soul. I am so grateful for having this opportunity to witness firsthand how your program changes lives.
A mother was in my living room the other day listening to her son read the stories from Book 3, Lesson 1. He had gotten this far in only 8 sessions with me, yet his school had threatened to retain him in first grade.
His mother started sobbing and shared that in college, she had failed Freshman English seven times. So she finally dropped out. “Why didn’t they have this when I was a child? I could have succeeded,” she cried.
Naturally, I started crying too.
Thank you, Susan, for changing the world!
Many parents tutor their own children using the Barton System with great success, as this mother shared:
I am replying to your email to share with you our joy.
My 10 year old son, Mike, is at the end of level three. Today I told him to read the end-of-the-lesson story aloud by himself, while I checked for your e-mail.
I quietly noticed he was applying the rules, checking for tricky letters, and moving right along – all by himself. Before he finished, he even noticed his fluent reading.
He turned to me and said, “Mom, I can read. This woman (meaning you) understands me!!!”
It was a moment I’ve been praying for. Thank you for all the hard work that you do.
But I get the biggest thrill of all when the parent gets tutoring, as this Barton tutor shared:
Jerry discovered his own dyslexia at age 50, when his son was diagnosed. Jerry shared that he could not physically keep doing logging, but he had always turned down desk jobs because they involved paperwork. He was always coming up with inventions to solve mechanical challenges, but he could not follow through and market them because of his spelling and writing challenges.
So I started tutoring him using the Barton System. He has been getting tutoring 2 to 3 times a week for about a year.
Six months ago, he was hired by a local technology company. Jerry works with the owner designing new products. He is doing well and has received several raises and promotions.
Just last week, he wrote his first letter ever – to his son Frank in boot camp. His son said he cried when he read it. He wrote back to tell his dad that he was his hero!
By the way, the Barton Reading & Spelling System is not the only system that works. For a list of other Orton-Gillingham-based systems that work, click here.
Technology tools help adults with dyslexia survive. But as the following emails prove, they never stop wanting to improve their reading and spelling skills.
One woman wrote:
I watched your video on dyslexia, and I am exactly like your brother’s child.
I am 48. I am using Naturally Speaking software to write this. Otherwise, I would spend my entire day trying to fix my spelling mistakes.
I’m at the point where my heart is on the floor. I have tried every program in school, out of school, and on the internet.
At the moment, I’m doing a program that is supposed to increase your brain power to try please my mother for the last time.
My tears were flowing as I watched the demo of your program. Your program is the best I have seen in all my life. It makes so much sense to me.
I’m upset to realize that the form of dyslexia I have is complicated. I am also sad because I know this problem will never go away.
I don’t have to tell you the agony that a person living with dyslexia goes through. Because of that, when I was 16, I decided not to have kids. And that was a wise decision.
Things that happen in the classroom also happen at work, as this man shared:
I am 30 years old. I have always struggled with reading. I received extra help in school through Title 1 Reading, Special Ed, and summer school. As you might suspect, I hated school and would avoid going whenever possible.
Recently, I was at a seminar for my work and was asked to read out loud to the group. I was mortified.
Is there anything that would help me – an adult who has struggled for so many years – read better?
Yes. Adults with dyslexia can improve their reading and spelling at any age – so they will not have to avoid careers, as this woman did:
I am a deep thinker. I love learning about different religions and talking about God with my friends. So I would like to get a Masters degree in Theology.
But with that degree, I would end up being a teacher – which I am afraid to do because I would have to write things on the board.
I would also have to grade papers, so I would need to know more about punctuation than just a period and a comma.
And I might even have to read passages aloud to the class.
As the following man shared, companies that employ dyslexic adults are often willing to pay to improve their skills.
I am 56 years old, and I have tried a lot of things during my life to overcome dyslexia.
It started when I was in second grade. I can remember my mom crying when she tried to teach me my spelling words.
I attended summer tutoring for 4 years in a row to try to learn to read. Finally, the tutor said he would not work with me any more because it was a waste of money.
I took phonics in college, but it did not help. In fact, I failed a speech therapy class because I could not hear the sounds.
Many years later, I went to a dyslexia center. But they said they could not help me because I was too old.
Your video nailed me to a tee. When you talked about left and right confusion, that’s me. I always use spell check, and yes, sometimes it does say “no suggestions” or I pick the wrong word from the list because I can’t read them all.
I am in charge of a region with 145 centers that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. My company is trying to find something to help me. Is it too late? If not, what would you recommend?
No, it is never, ever too late to greatly improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of adults with dyslexia. The oldest student I personally worked with was 69 years old when we started. The oldest Barton student I have met was 83.
If adults get at least 2 hours of one-on-one tutoring by someone using an Orton-Gillingham based system designed for adults, such as the Barton Reading & Spelling System or the Wilson Reading System, their skills – and their self-esteem – will get so much better.
Parents often ask me how to build their child’s confidence. Confidence will grow when your child is successful at something that used to be hard . . . as this parent shared:
Both of my kids are dyslexic. But my daughter, who is going into 7th grade, suffered tremendously in school since she is older and was in a traditional school longer. My poor daughter was an undiagnosed dyslexic all the way through 5th grade.
Every year, I spent hours and hours after school and on weekends trying to reteach material she was not understanding at school – and to prepare for all the spelling tests. I did not know anything about dyslexia, so we did what the school recommended and drilled the spelling list every single night, 7 days a week, hoping she would pass the spelling test through constant repetition.
Some Fridays she passed the test, and some Fridays, she did not. But the following Monday, she could no longer remember the sequence of letters. What a colossal waste of our time and effort (hers and mine), and it was so demoralizing to my daughter who began to show signs of clinical depression.
So we began homeschooling this past year, and I found the Barton System. We started it in late fall, and I had to go very slowly in the beginning (mainly because she was so down on herself), but she is now half-way through Level 3.
She took a spelling test from an assessor the other day on the recommendation of a friend. We did not study for the test. It was given to her cold.
There was a time when she would not have gotten a single word right on that list, and what’s more, she would have been utterly terrified at the prospect. But this time, when a word was read to her that she was uncertain of, she would finger spell the sounds, write the word down and study it, sound it out again, then change what she felt might need changing.
She got every single word correct, which was great.
But what was even better was seeing her confidently studying the words when she felt the spelling might be wrong – instead of just giving up in tears. She did not panic going into the test, either. She sat down confidently, and left the test the same way.
When she found out she had not made a single misspelling, she and I looked at each other with huge grins on our faces.
The next morning, she got up early and asked if we could go ahead and start our next Barton lesson before breakfast.
Thank you, Susan. There really aren’t adequate words to express how grateful we are.
It is best to catch dyslexia early.
But even in high school, it is NOT TOO LATE to greatly improve their skills — which will change their entire future.
A high school student gave me permission to share this talk that he gave at a fund raiser for his private Christian school in Idaho.
My name is Michael Warner and I am the first student at this school to fully complete the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Before I knew that such a program existed, I endured many different types of special education plans and teachings. All, however, failed. After enduring nine years of mental, emotional, and social abuse due to my dyslexia, I came to this private school.
For the first time, I wasn’t only trying to match my mental capability, but to exceed it. I say this with my own choice of words… with no help whatsoever.
Although I never thought it was possible, I remember dreaming of the day that it would just click and I would just get it…although it was never coming.
Just to give you an idea about how much I have learned from the Barton System, I have in my hand my FCAT scores. For those of you who don’t know, it is the Florida version of the WASL. In reading, I got a one.
According to that score, I had the equivalent reading level of a third grader. I was in the ninth grade when I took this test. A freshman in high school! Tell me that wasn’t emotionally damaging…a third grader! That test told me that in reading and spelling, I was close to mentally retarded.
My public school in Florida would not let me be in college prep classes. They tried to control what I learned so I would become a construction worker because they thought I was too stupid to do anything else. Everything around me told me I would never measure up to anything.
Then I came here. You found out I had dyslexia, and put me in the reading program. Halfway through that program, students were clapping for me in the middle of class because they could see how much I improved. That shows you the spirit of the students at this school.
After two years here, I wanted to become a programmer. So I had to leave and go to Newport High School to take the classes I needed. Do you have any idea what it feels like to finally pursue your own dreams?
So I went to Newport last fall and I took the WASL. One try and I passed everything — reading, writing, everything.
Some students take three or four tries to pass it, and they take special classes in order to pass it. I passed it on the first try.
I’m here to say how much this private school has changed my life. All I can say is thank you. I can finally be who I want to be.
former student at House of the Lord private school
in Oldtown, Idaho
This long post is worth reading — especially with school starting in just one month.
My husband and three children have dyslexia.
I also teach at the local public school. Recently, during a lunch break in the staff lounge, a high school teacher shared that when she has to teach reading to her students, she has them read “baby books.” When the students ask why, she tells them, “Because you did not learn to read when you were supposed to.”
At that point I left the room, and cried. I was so hurt by what she said. At the time I could not talk about it without crying. (I still can’t). So I wrote this letter. Please share it in your book.
What an inspiring discussion the teachers were having at lunch today. I enjoyed hearing about, and sharing, how hard our students have been working. I am not sure if you noticed, but there came a point when I stopped talking. Probably not, since there was so much going on in the staff lounge. I would like to share with you the reason that I shut down.
You began talking about one of your students. You shared your frustration that she is not reading at grade level. You said her atrocious writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting is so sloppy that you can barely make out the words that she somehow managed to spell correctly. On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems you assign, despite the fact that you just spent an hour teaching that lesson to the class.
You wondered why her parents did not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night. You mentioned how lazy she is, how she could care less about the quality of her work, and how she puts forth zero effort towards improving.
You claimed you had tried everything and you do not know what to do with her anymore, so you will probably just end up passing her to the next grade level like all the other teachers have done.
Believe me, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. If they would just try harder, they would improve. Right?
I would like to introduce you to my daughter. She is excited to be entering high school this year. She is beautiful, polite, responsible, funny, caring . . . I could go on and on.
She participates in 4-H and showed her pig this year at the fair. She made over seven hundred dollars. She put some of the money into her savings account. Some will be used to purchase her next pig, and she can’t wait to go shopping and buy her own school clothes and school supplies with the remaining money.
She also participates in gymnastics, which she started when she was 18 months old.
When children are around her, they gravitate towards her. She loves to take care of babies and toddlers.
She enjoys preparing delicious food for others. Perhaps you would like to come to our home one evening. She will prepare her Pizza Chicken for dinner and Gelato for desert. She really is a great teenager.
Yet my daughter is scared and anxious about starting high school this year. She has dyslexia, and as a result, she is not reading at grade level. Her creative writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting on school work is so sloppy because she does not want her teachers and classmates to see that she has trouble spelling.
On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems assigned to her, even though her teacher just spent an hour teaching the lesson.
You wonder why her parents do not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night.
I love my daughter more than you can imagine. But I no longer force her to practice math flashcards or to write the weekly spelling words over and over every night. I know it will not help her. She will be able to memorize them temporarily, but believe me, she will not remember them the next day.
I know that she puts her brain to the test every day by concentrating so much that it often makes her feel sick. I know that she has put herself down all day long while in school and that she needs to build herself back up at night, so she can go through the same ordeal the next day.
Those are the reasons I no longer fight the “homework wars” every night. Instead, I enjoy the evening with my daughter as she cares for her pigs and rabbits, and as she does front handsprings across the yard.
Children do not want to, or choose to, have dyslexia. They want to learn. They are very frustrated that they can not learn to read like their classmates, that their spelling never seems to turn out right, that they can not memorize their math facts, and that they get lost in multiple step math problems. They can not try any harder than they already do because their brain will not let them.
As a teacher, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. I regret having made some of the same comments as you in the past. I never imagined that I would be the mother of a child with a learning disability. After all, I am a teacher.
As a mother, I am begging you to hang in there and not give up on your students, because if you do, you will be giving up on my daughter. They need you.
So please, let me be the mother who loves my daughter and encourages her to discover all she is capable of, and you be the teacher that encourages her and allows her to show what she is capable of.
A Mother who is also a School Teacher
I do not often hear from a sibling of someone with dyslexia. But a parent just sent me this essay, which her daughter wrote for a school assignment.
I was in 5th grade when my brother Haley was diagnosed with dyslexia.
The first time I heard Haley had dyslexia was on a school night when my mom was reading to Haley in bed. All of a sudden, I heard my mom scream, and I ran upstairs thinking something was wrong. But my mom was just giving Haley high fives and kissing him because had read a sentence all by himself.
At first, I was mad because I felt, “Hey, when I get straight A’s, I don’t get that much praise. Yet Haley read one simple sentence and he got a ton of it.”
About an hour later, I went into my mom’s room to ask why she praised Haley so much. That’s when she told me Haley had dyslexia and dysgraphia. It took her about half an hour to explain what it was, and how it would affect our family. When she shared that, I felt ashamed of my jealousy.
So that night, while Haley was sleeping, I went into his room and gave him a kiss and a hug. I told him I loved him and would support him through everything.
Since then, our life has been a great adventure. My mom and dad have worked so hard for both of us.
My mom starting using the Barton Reading & Spelling System with Haley, and he made so much progress that she started tutoring other kids. Now she runs a clinic called Haley’s Hope where several tutors help children and adults with dyslexia.
My dad has taken over helping Haley and I with our homework.
I am so proud of everyone in my family.