Many children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services – not even if a parent brings in a diagnostic report.
In that case, fight hard for classroom accommodations – and get the right type of help after school.
This parent did not do that – and regrets it.
Dyslexia runs in my family tree. My father, who is 60, can still remember being in second grade and having the teacher call him up to the front of the class to read out loud. The teacher would force him to stand there and “do it until you get it right” – despite him crying in front of the entire class.
I have a degree in Elementary Education, but we never had a single solitary course – not even a single lecture – on dyslexia.
Yet when my daughter struggled in kindergarten, her teacher suggested the possibility of dyslexia because:
- On DIBELS, she was not meeting benchmarks in nonsense word reading
- She had terrible spelling and could not retain her spelling words — not even the high frequency words like “some”
- She already had 2 years of speech therapy for R’s and L’s, but was not improving
- She constantly confused left and right
- And she still could not tie her shoes
At end of first grade, I asked the school to test her for a possible learning disability. The school said they wouldn’t test her until at least 3rd grade.
So during second grade, when she was not making progress in Tier 2 of RTI, I hired a highly qualified private professional to test her. She was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dyslexia.
But when I shared that report with the school psychologist, he stated that dyslexia does not exist, that Susan Barton’s website was not a valid resource, and we could not even get a 504 Plan because he felt our daughter did not need it. He claimed she displayed no difficulties and would prove to be a good student.
Her teachers and even the principal were at that meeting, and they went along with the psychologist’s assessment – leaving us to wonder if we really knew what we were talking about.
We were so confused that we decided to follow the school’s advice — and regret it.
Our daughter is now at the end of third grade. Despite another year of phonics instruction and more RTI, she still struggles with spelling, sounding out longer words, and cannot comprehend her science textbook when she reads it herself. (But she has no trouble comprehending it when I read it TO her.)
The school did eventually test her, but her scores were not low enough to qualify for Special Ed services. And her report card grades are not too bad. She gets low B’s or C’s.
We have shown our daughter’s diagnostic report to other dyslexia professionals and organizations, and they have all agreed that she definitely does have dyslexia.
So what do I do now?
One mother’s journey to help her son
by Debbie Copple
Shared with her prior written permission
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s kindergarten teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. Don’t worry. He just needs to work harder,” she reassured me.
My bright boy, who had eagerly waited for the day he could go to school to learn to read, had begun to tell me that reading was stupid, and school was stupid.
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s first grade teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He just needs to work harder,” was again the response that I received.
This was after he had become so frustrated one evening that he cried, “Reading is stupid. It makes my brain hurt,” and “I am stupid.”
I sought help for my son and was told that Vision Therapy was what he needed. Over $6,000 and 1 year later, he was even further behind. “Could it be dyslexia?” I asked his Vision Therapist. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He could do better, he just chooses not to,” she told me.
In second grade, Casey attended a public school. His teacher told me that he was reading on a Kindergarten level. I was shocked. “Could it be Dyslexia?” I asked the teacher and the reading specialist. “No,” was their reply.
Meanwhile, my bright boy was struggling, his self-esteem suffering, and he had behavior problems at school. Casey was heartbroken to see the U’s on his progress reports.
“Do you test for dyslexia?” I asked a psychologist. “Yes,” he told me. While waiting for the results, I searched the internet for information about dyslexia. I found a very knowledgeable woman, Susan Barton. She told me what areas of weakness (indicators of dyslexia) I should look for in his testing report.
When the psychologist shared the results, the weaknesses – the indicators – were there. I asked if my son had dyslexia and was told, “Dyslexia cannot be tested. Dyslexia is an all-inclusive term for learning disabilities.”
I stopped asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” I knew the answer. With God as my guide, I learned to tutor my son using an Orton-Gillingham based system, the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Casey’s grades quickly improved from U’s to A’s and B’s. His DIBELS scores improved from “High Risk” to “Above Average.” After only 4 months of tutoring, he was reading at a third grade level. Reading and spelling finally made sense.
Dyslexia is NOT determined by how great a parent you are, how much education you have, or how much money you have. Dyslexia does not discriminate.
Parents, you must listen to your gut instinct and listen to your child. Professionals can be wrong. They may have a big heart and a higher education degree, but they can still be wrong.
For professionals reading this (teachers, doctors, principals, reading specialists) my hope is that you will take the time to learn more about dyslexia, so that you too can spot the warning signs.
It is NOT my intention to discredit any of my son’s teachers, private schools, or public schools. My intention is to increase awareness. We need to do more to recognize and understand dyslexia.
Parents, if you have ever found yourself asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” the answer is “Yes, it could be.” Please do not wait another moment to get them help. It is their life, their future, their self-esteem.
Most schools do not yet test or screen for dyslexia. So parents should watch for these classic warning signs in third graders.
My son is a month into 3rd grade, and last year – somewhere in the middle of second grade, he hit a brick wall in reading.
He was always one or two levels behind his peers, and we worked very hard to stay that close to grade level. But in the middle of second grade, as other classmates reading took off, his just flattened out. He ended the year reading at level 18, and he was supposed to be at 28.
So I spent the summer at the library with him, having him read aloud to me. I also had him write 6 or 7 sentences on everything he read, and I was struck by the following:
1. He does not always see the start, middle and end of a word – especially bigger words.
2. He misreads simple words, like those for these, them for they, and who for how — and he substitutes words that mean the same thing at an alarming rate (like every other sentence).
3. He guesses at words by using pictures and a predictable story line.
4. He still confuses b and d.
5. Punctuation might as well not be on the page at all.
6. He reads very slowly, without any fluency or comprehension. It is all he can do to actually read the words and get them right, so he has no chance of understanding what he read. In fact, on his first reading comprehension test ever, he scored a 0.
7. After an entire summer of having him read aloud to me every day, and after an intense first month of school, (I mean reading so much at home that he does not have much time to do anything else), he is only reading at level 20. His peers are 32 and higher.
8. We studied for his first social studies test this past weekend. He had so much trouble memorizing the terms: region, culture, agriculture, climate, artifact, adaptation – that at first, I thought he was joking around. It was not until he began to cry that I realized how hard he was working.
I strongly suspect he has dyslexia.
I also suspect my husband has it. My husband does not read beyond a 3rd grade level, and this is forcing him to relive the hell of his school years.
I feel so stupid for not researching this sooner and for trusting his teachers and the school.
I feel like I have failed my son.
No, you have not. You can change his entire future by taking action now.
If he gets the right type of tutoring after school, plus accommodations in the classroom and during homework, you will be amazed at the improvement in his skills – and self-esteem – by the end of this school year.
Dyslexia is genetic. It runs in family trees. So if you see the warning signs in your child, you may also start to identify other people in your family who have it, as this parent shared.
I just watched your on-line video which had so many “ah-ha” moments in it. You might as well have used our son’s name, Sam. Sam has every symptom you described. I feel like you know him personally, and finally, there is someone who understands him.
I have to give credit to his reading tutor, as she is the one who warned us that he “may” have dyslexia.
I now understand my mother better. She’s one of those who gets tongue tied when saying multi-syllable words, hates to write (and no one can read her handwriting), is a terrible speller, skips over the big words when reading, did not learn to talk until age 3, struggled in school – even though she is a very bright and creative person who thinks outside the box, gets lost easily, cannot remember left from right, and the list goes on and on.
And I think I have have a mild case of it as well. I bothered me that I was always in the lowest reading group in my class, and that I had to re-read things 2 or 3 or 4 times to understand them.
I even took a speed reading course in high school to try to improve my ACT college prep results – because there was such a big difference between my reading test score and all of my other scores. But the speed reading course did not help my reading score at all. Now I know why.
To watch that dyslexia video, click on this link:
I get the most heartbreaking emails from adults who are still ashamed of their spelling.
Here is what one had to do to pass her weekly spelling test:
I HATED spelling and am ashamed to admit that I even cheated on my spelling tests.
In fourth grade, my teacher would always ask the words in the same order they were in the book. So I would have a sheet of paper with the words already written out underneath my blank paper on which I “took the test.”
I would then turn in the prewritten sheet. I even purposely wrote a word wrong now and then to make it more believable.
I have never gotten over being ashamed of that.
Or this one:
If you were standing in front of me right now, I would hug you. How different my life could have been if you were around 40 years ago.
I’m 48 years old, dyslexic, and working (I should say struggling :) on a Master’s degree in Communication. I am trying to create a teaching module that will incorporate dyslexia and empathy. During my research, I came across your website and just finished watching your lecture.
It was as if you had been sitting on my shoulder during my entire childhood.
I completely forgot about having my full name written on a piece of paper that my mom tucked into my sock each day — so that I could pull it out and copy it any time I had to write both of my names in elementary school.
Or this one:
I am 42 years old, and I have dyslexia and ADHD.
I have taught myself to read pretty well, but I still have a very hard time writing and spelling. It takes me hours to write a paper.
I was diagnosed in 1976 but never got the right type of tutoring. I graduated on a 3rd grade reading level, and I was in Special Ed classes for years.
Do you think I still have a chance to become a good writer with the right kind of teaching? I still have a very hard time writing and spelling. It takes me hours to write a paper.
In the time it took me to write this email, I could have written a small book. And I never send anything out without checking it many times.
If I could have overcome dyslexia when I was younger, I would have become an attorney or a legislator.
Or this one, from the president of a small company:
I am sending you this letter with spell check off just so you can see what I am deeling with. I am 44 years old I have ben diganocsed with dyslexa when I was a child I was in special classed when going through public shoole. I have allways been able to read slower of corse but I have great compratintion of what I read.
I know own my own mechanical contractiong companie and employ 25 people. I have always been embarsed about my spelling and gramer up untill about 10 years ago. Now I have my office manager proof read everything I send out and half the time I cant read what I wrought down myself. I have gotten to the point in my carrear that I am have been sucsesfull enogh that I don’t care what others think about my spelling and gramer well I guess that is not 100% true or I would not be sending you and email.
The sipelist words through me off have had there were where when I always seem to miss use them I must spell has 50% of the time hase and the same thing with had I spell hade.
It is so tyring trying to send out email that I don’t have time for my assistant the check the spelling and gramer so I send it out after reading it 5 pluss times just to see the next day when I read the email back I left out words completely. I don’t understand how I can read the same thing over and over again and not notice I lift out the or ‘s I seam to do it all the time. My spelling is so bad most of the time there is not another word close enoghf tha spell check can figure it out.
Do you think your program would haelp me deal with this issue or shoud I just have anything I right be proof read?
Yes, the Barton Reading & Spelling System will greatly improve the spelling of children, teenagers, and adults with dyslexia.
And adults with dyslexia are more ashamed of their spelling – than their slow and inaccurate reading.
Susan Barton loves getting emails like this:
My son, Tom, is about to turn eight and has been struggling with reading since kindergarten. Even at that age, asking him to sit down and read for ten minutes resulted in tears. But we forced him to try.
In first grade, kids in his class were correcting his reading mistakes. He felt very bad about himself. He would often come home sullen and exhausted. He was unable to read anything on his own. He needed help with even the simplest of books.
But he was a great guesser and could figure out a lot from picture clues and context. In fact, the school actually encouraged children to guess at words. But Rick had no strategy to figure out a simple word or sentence, so if there were no pictures, he would simply give up.
By the time he reached second grade, it was obvious that all the hours spent reading at home (and at school) were not helping. He still had no clue how to sound out words.
So last January we took him out of public school and enrolled him in an online charter school in a desperate attempt to help him here at home. That’s where you come in.
That charter school asked us to watch your dyslexia video, which explained things so clearly. We then realized Tom has dyslexia – as does his father. Thankfully, that online charter school had a site license for the Barton Reading & Spelling System, so we were able to get it through them.
Your program has been a miracle for us. We are finishing level 3, and Tom is starting to read on his own. He chooses books for himself and delights in reading them to us. He is so happy and proud of himself.
Thank you for the time and effort it must have taken to develop your program and create those training videos.
Susan Barton is thrilled that so many virtual charter schools – which support home educators – are now providing parents with the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
If you are homeschooling, or thinking about it, watch Susan Barton’s free 30-minute video with advice for homeschoolers by clicking on this link:
Emails like this make all of my hard work worthwhile.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for developing the Barton System.
My children are homeschooled. My youngest of 5 just could not learn to read no matter how hard we tried. I kept thinking we just weren’t putting in enough effort. So I told him last spring that if we tried harder, he would be reading soon. He was in 4th grade and 9 years old. Well, despite our best efforts, he still could not read.
He did not have the pressures of being in public school, and he seemed not to care that everyone else in the house could read. But when I talked with him privately, he broke down crying and said he felt stupid. Of course, this broke my heart. A friend suggested he be tested for dyslexia.
He’s doing so much better now. He was just retested using the Peabody (PIAT). He scored at the 95th percentile for reading recognition and comprehension. His spelling was at the 53rd percentile — right where he should be for his age.
Considering he was at a preschool level just a year and a half ago, that’s a great result !!!
Your system has made my son realize how intelligent he is — despite having to learn to read in a different way. He no longer feels “less than.”
We are very open about our son’s dyslexia and encourage him to be open as well. It is amazing how many people right around me had similar struggles that I knew nothing about.
Janet Yates, Homeschool Parent
Winter Haven, FL
Many states have recently passed, or are working on, a “Third Grade Guarantee” law, which includes mandatory retention for third graders who do NOT pass the reading portion of the end-of-year statewide exam.
Pam Collier, a parent in Ohio, gave me permission to share her email that explains why that law is as bad for students withOUT dyslexia as it is for those who do have dyslexia.
From: Pam Collier
Date: August 19, 2014
Subject: Third grade guarantee
Dear Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Ohio Department of Education:
I am writing out of concern for my three children and Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee. I have three very different children, and the guarantee will effect each of them differently.
First, I have a 10 year old daughter who is accelerated. She has tested in the gifted range on her Terra Nova, and has scored well above the cutoff of the guarantee scoring — in the Accelerated range for math and reading.
Now you are probably wondering how the guarantee could have any effects on this student. Actually, it has had a huge impact. My daughter spent her entire third grade year being “taught to the test.”
Teachers are terrified of poor test scores which negatively impact their evaluations. Instead of challenging bright young minds, the system is telling these students, “We don’t care whether you have a special gift. We just need you to do well on this test.”
My daughter was afraid of failing the test because teachers are creating so much anxiety and placing way too much pressure on our students.
Now, I have a second daughter who is a twin. She is 7 years old. Because she is a twin, I started to notice differences in her learning very early. At the age of 4, I began asking if she was dyslexic, citing she was having trouble remembering letters, numbers, rhyming, etc. I was assured that she was fine, and that her twin (my son) was just advanced.
Fast forward to kindergarten, and first grade. I asked the same questions.
In my gut, I knew I had to do something. So I pursued outside professional testing for my daughter. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and a visual processing disorder.
We tried getting help through the school on several occasions, and were told, “We don’t do one-on-one tutoring, we don’t have the funds for that, we don’t have anyone trained to provide the remediation your daughter needs.” So I hired an Orton Gillingham tutor who was recommended by the International Dyslexia Association.
Now, because she is not on an IEP, she is not exempt from the guarantee. Not exempt!
A child with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder is not exempt from retention because of a single test? A child whose parents are paying over $5,000 a year to a private tutor because her public school cannot meet her needs? A child who was not identified by the school, but was identified because her parents paid for private testing?
A child who works 5 times as hard as a student without dyslexia to learn, who is also working outside of school with a private tutor, may be retained because of a single score on a single test on a single day, in a single year?
Now, mind you, if she should fail and be retained, the state has mandated that she receive remediation “from a qualified instructor, trained in the remediation of students with a disability in reading, from a program that is approved by the state board of education.” This, from the same school system that said, “We don’t have the time, funds, or individuals with training to help your daughter.”
The same school system that told my husband and I that our goals “were too high” for our daughter. Our goals were that she meet the same benchmark as her non-disabled peers by the end of her second grade year. Our goals were too high? That is what we were told. We are being told that we should not hold our daughter by the same standards due to her disability, yet she will be held to the same standard when taking the OAA.
The Third Grade Guarantee is not serving our children’s needs. Research has shown that retention will lead to higher dropout rates. Teaching to the test is devaluing our greatest young minds. We need to have teachers who can challenge our most gifted students, and specialists who can remediate our students with learning disabilities.
We are doing the very best we can for our daughter. My husband and I are both professionals, and we know what is working for her. What recourse will we have if our bright daughter with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder, fails the OAA? She will get held back for what purpose? To receive the “extensive remediation” she is already receiving privately?
Why is it a mandate to retain some of our brightest individuals based on a single test?
Why are charter schools not held to the same standards?
Why do public school students have to undergo more than a dozen standardized tests, while private school students do not?
When will educators from the Ohio Department of Education realize that retention is not the answer?
Tracie Luttrell, the principal of Flippin Elementary School in Arkansas, just posted this – and gave me permission to share it.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students who attended summer school everywhere made such great gains.
Before school ended, we screened all K-12 students in our district whose teachers felt had markers of dyslexia. We found 107 students who “fit the dyslexia profile.”
So we hired 13 teachers to provide each student with one-on-one tutoring for an hour, twice a week, for 7 weeks during June and July using the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
These students made TREMENDOUS gains. The difference in their writing and spelling from the beginning of summer to now is unbelievable!
It got really exciting when their parents noticed the difference. Many parents did not understand the science and logic behind the Barton System, so they did not know what to expect. Parents shared their child’s confidence and reading skills improved, and their children were starting to read billboards and items around the house.
During those 14 one-on-one tutoring sessions, none of our students finished Level 3. But they all made amazing gains. In fact, some of our youngest students are now reading words WAY above their grade level.
These 107 students now feel smart and successful. They are going to SOAR this year in school because they will continue to receive Barton tutoring during the school year.
As soon as school starts, we will screen all students in 1st and 2nd grade who have not already been screened. We will also screen all of our kindergarteners after they have had some instruction.
The key to helping dyslexic students is to catch it early and INTERVENE.
The only requirement of our new Arkansas Dyslexia Law this first year is to screen. But we can’t stop there. We must also provide the help that they need!
When schools and teachers know better . . . we DO better!
I get emails like this all the time, and they always bring me to tears.
When I heard you speak on Thursday, I cried. I wish I had that information when we began our journey.
My 17 year old son, David, is dyslexic. He was diagnosed when he was 8, and he has had lots of tutoring at Sylvan and from retired Reading Specialists over the years, which has helped a little bit.
David is a really smart, handsome, and well-liked young man. He hides his dyslexia well. Yet it is still there. After your presentation, I asked him, “What letter comes after S?” He quickly responded, “R.” I shared that was “before,” not after. He then said, “I know what you’re doing. Don’t even ask me about the months of the year.”
When he played PeeWee football, he always wore a wristband so he could tell left from right.
David recently gave directions to our house to his new girlfriend. But he frequently told her to turn left instead of right. After 45 frustrating minutes, he finally handed me the phone and begged, “Please get her here.”
He is a gifted athlete and would like to play football in college. But his grade point average is only 2.65 due to his failing French (a D) and algebra (also a D). He must also pass the ACT (college entrance exam). We paid for an ACT prep course, but after the course, he only scored 13. He needs at least a 17.
He needs extra time on the reading portion, and he dreads math. He was so nervous because he knew he was not going to have enough time to finish the test. How do I go about getting him more time on the ACT?
He feels he is not smart enough to make it in college. The many days of sitting in the hall, being put in “the dumb class” (as he called it), and being teased by his peers does not go away.
But I want him to be able to follow his dream. I do not want him to join the military, which is his backup plan.