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.
A child with dyslexia needs 3 things: to be identified, the right type of tutoring, and accommodations until the skills gap is closed.
I just received this email from a parent whose child got all 3.
Susan, nine years ago you screened our son, David, for dyslexia. As you may recall, when my husband and I heard the results, we were both extremely concerned for his future.
Well, through years of Barton tutoring and some wonderful administrators willing to implement the accommodations you recommended, David will be graduating and is going to attend Emory University.
David has been in all general education classes and will be graduating with a 3.74 GPA. A monumental achievement for a young boy who could not read nor remember his ABC’s in third grade.
Thank you for being committed to helping children such as David. We are forever indebted.
I get emails like this every single day.
I have been trying to get my son’s school to test him for dyslexia or a learning disability. But they refuse. They say my son gets good grades, and I should be proud.
I am proud of my son, but he struggles with reading and spelling. Homework that takes children without dyslexia 30 minutes takes my son over 2 hours – with lots of frustration, yelling, and tears.
I also had dyslexia as a child.
What surprises me is nothing has changed in our schools.
Parents, if you think special education services are the answer, read this.
My son is going in 4th grade but is reading on a 2nd grade level. His spelling is also very low, and he is dysgraphic.
Although he has an IEP, I have seen very little improvement over the past 2 years.
The worst part is he has given up on learning. He claims he just doesn’t care. It’s very hard to engage him in any kind of learning at school. He would rather act up than learn.
Many children would rather be thought of as “the bad kid” . . . than “the stupid kid.”
The worst part of struggling academically for years . . . is what it does to a child emotionally, as this mother shares:
Susan, I just watched your video. It made me cry.
I have known for months now that my youngest daughter probably has dyslexia. She has been devastated by school and her inability to read. This bright child is sinking deeper and deeper into despair … about school … and about herself.
I cried because I realized that my brother probably suffered from this as a young boy, I probably have this to some degree, and so does my oldest daughter. I did not realize there was such a strong genetic link. How could I have missed this?
I know my daughter needs specialized teaching, and I am trying to get this help from her public school. She has an IEP, but they don’t seem to be giving her the right kind of teaching to get her reading on track. They seem satisfied in sending her on to 3rd grade “with support.”
I do not believe support is going to solve the problem. She needs to be taught in a way that she can actually learn.
Parents, stop waiting for the school to change.
If your child’s school does not provide intervention using an Orton-Gillingham based system by someone who is well trained and uses it properly, then hire a private tutor to provide it during the summer – or get the Barton System and tutor your child yourself.
To learn more, go to:
A child’s skills can improve tremendously over the summer – if they get the right type of tutoring.
Schools often tell parents of struggling students to wait, as this parent shared:
I need some help to decide what to do for my eight year old son. He is finishing second grade, but he has never read at grade level.
The principal wanted him to repeat first grade, but my husband and I refused, so he was sent to second grade. He has worked with the reading specialist one-on-one for two years with no improvement.
I asked his teacher last year if he could be dyslexic. She told me that was not possible. She claimed he just had a behavior issue. I disagree and feel that he lost a year because of her poor attitude.
He was diagnosed with visual acuity issues and Irlen Syndrome, but after eight months with no improvement and horrible migraines, we decided to involve our pediatrician. He sent us to a pediatric ophthalmologist at a university who said my son does NOT have a vision problem it all. His said my son has dyslexia, and he felt my son’s headaches were caused by the tension and stress of not being able to do the work.
Yet he recommended we wait until he is 9 to be tested by the school because the gap will be greater.
His school has promised they will test him for Special Ed services next year.
The problem is I don’t want the gap to get any larger. I want to help him now!
What should I do?
If you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, waiting is the worst thing you can do – because it will not go away. Your child will only get further and further behind.
Every parent who has contacted me during the past 20 years wished they had started providing the right type of tutoring sooner.
So do not wait for the school to test him. Start tutoring him now using the Barton Reading & Spelling System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system. Tutor him every day during the summer – while the pressure of school, homework, and tests is gone. You will be amazed how much his skills can improve with daily tutoring.
And if you think that qualifying for special ed services is the answer, read on.
A school psychologist shared:
From what I see, the biggest hurdle for these students is what happens AFTER the students are placed in special ed.
This parent shared:
I have a 12 year old son who is in 6th grade.
He attended a private Christian school until 4th grade. They noticed his reading struggles in second grade and put him in a reading lab. It was worthless.
We got his eyes checked, and the doctor said he had a tracking problem. We spent more than $ 2,000 on vision therapy and eye exercises that did not help with his reading.
He has gotten private tutoring, speech therapy, and gone to a number of tutoring centers. We have spent countless amounts of money on him. Everyone told us he would either grow out of it, or he would learn to compensate.
In 4th grade, we moved him to a public school, hoping to get more services for him. He did qualify for special education due to his reading. We thought we finally had the answer.
Wrong. He is now in 6th grade, yet he is still reading at a 2nd grade level and is a horrible speller.
They work with him one-on-one in the resource room, and they allow him to listen to books so he can keep up with what his classmates are reading. But he still is not learning how to read, write, or spell. I am soooooo frustrated.
I have cried. I have been angry. I have been humbled. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. God finally gave me peace about not pushing him so much and not being too hard on him. But he is not getting any better. He studies the weekly spelling list for hours and hours, yet he forgets the words by the following week.
Yet he gets A’s and B’s on his report cards, which amazes me. Our public education system has become a joke. He is in 6th grade and can’t read or write anywhere near grade level, yet they are giving him A’s and B’s.
There must be so many other children who are also slipping through the cracks, and so many parents at a loss.
I would like to start tutoring him using the Barton System, but he absolutely refuses to try one more program or tutor – because in the past, they have all done more damage than good.
So, parents, get your child the right type of tutoring yourself – as early as possible. It makes a huge difference, as this parent shared:
Dear Mrs. Barton:
Thank you so much for helping us help our daughter. We learned about Learning Ally through you. We learned about classroom accommodations through you. And we found a great Barton tutor through you.
It has been a joy to watch my daughter grow from being a reluctant 3rd grader to an engaged 4th grader. She still has a lot of work with her tutor, and we will have many other challenges, but knowing there are resources that we can use to help her be successful is an unbelievable comfort.
And this parent shared:
Susan, I have to thank you for all you do. The support and knowledge you have shared has helped me with my daughter in so many ways.
Two years ago (after we gave up on the school) we had her tested privately and discovered she has dyslexia and ADD. That’s why she would never read out loud in class, or even to us.
That was then…..
Yesterday (after two years of Barton tutoring and appropriate accommodations) she stood in front of the entire school …classmates, teachers and parents … and delivered an amazing (and confident) speech about why she should be SCA president.
She WON the election!
I knew she was special and had many gifts, but yesterday she proved it to herself and her school. She said “challenges make you stronger and wiser” (which is what her speech was about).
My husband and I sat back last night thinking of the last two years, and we realized how hard she has worked…but she never gave up.
Kids with dyslexia are tough. I am not sure I could do what she has done, but I am glad I was there to encourage her along the way.
Thank you for all your help and guidance. We couldn’t have done it without your support!
College for adults with untreated dyslexia can be a nightmare, as this man shared:
I am 38 years old. A friend urged me to attend a talk you were giving in Ohio.
What I learned astounded me! I have many of the problems you shared.
In grade school and high school, I struggled SO hard academically, was called names and told “You’re lazy,” “You’re not trying hard enough,” “You’re stupid,” etc. I failed second grade, and time after time, I failed math and spelling.
Hours upon hours were spent trying to teach me how to tell time. Homework sessions all ended the same way . . . with me in tears, my father yelling, screaming, and pounding his fist on the table. You have no idea what it was like.
After high school, I did a variety of jobs, but I wanted more. Friends told me, “College will be easier now that you’re older.” So at age 36, I enrolled in college, put my heart and soul into studying and homework, but it was just like elementary and high school all over again.
I have been struggling in college for two years. I have failed basic math 3 times. My spelling is atrocious at best. And I spend so much time doing homework because I have to read things multiple times to get the meaning.
I have no idea what to do. Can you help me?
With accommodations, they can often succeed, as this woman shared.
My dyslexia was not discovered until I was a junior in college. That year, I broke the thumb on my writing hand. During my recovery period, when I could not write, I was provided with a copy of lecture notes, and I was allowed to take tests orally.
For the first time ever, I made the Deans List.
Yet most colleges require current testing before they will provide accommodations, and testing is expensive, as this Certified Barton tutor knows:
I have been tutoring a severely dyslexic boy who is being raised by his grandmother, who is also dyslexic.
One of her sons had many problems in school with reading and spelling. He abused drugs and alcohol in his early 20′s, but he has been clean for 12 years now. Yet he is still unable to hold down a job.
He was recently given a grant to attend a local community college, but the college will not let him use their reading machines or provide any accommodations until he provides a current written diagnosis of dyslexia.
The grandmother of my student cannot afford the cost of testing. She is stretched to the limit to pay for her grandson’s private tutoring. Where can he go for free or low-cost testing? He absolutely must have accommodations in college or else he is going to fail – again.
Parents, you can change this by working together to pass laws to force public schools to screen for dyslexia during the early grades.
Congratulations to Arkansas, whose governor signed their Dyslexia Bill into law this morning – thanks to the efforts of hundreds of parents and caring teachers.
Persistent trouble with spelling is the most obvious warning sign of dyslexia in adults, and it causes stress and embarrassment every day of their life.
Since dyslexia is inherited, some of their children will also struggle with spelling, as this parent shared:
I watched your video because my son is struggling in reading, spelling and writing.
I was in tears as I watched your video. I kept saying, “This is ME. Finally, someone knows why I do the things I do.”
I am 35 years old. I had reading tutors almost every year in school, yet I never understood phonics. I still cannot sound out an unknown word. When I write, I try to think of easy words that I know how to spell. As you can imagine, spell check does not work well for me.
I have a horrible time getting my thoughts onto paper. I get so nervous any time I have to write a note to my children’s teacher. Even writing just this much is hard. I have reread it 5 times – trying to catch and fix any mistakes.
My brother has similar symptoms. He was labeled LD and was in special ed classes. My mom eventually took him out because they were not helping.
I asked my mom the other day if anyone had ever used the word dyslexia to describe me or my brother. She said no.
I do not want my son or daughter to struggle like I did — and still do.
This 47 year old shared:
I really struggle with spelling and depend heavily on spell check. I am too embarrassed to hand write a grocery list due the number of mistakes I will make. I know I am misspelling the words, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how they should be spelled.
Oftentimes, I can’t get it close enough for the spell checker to know what I want.
This woman shared:
In elementary school, I was told I had a learning disability. It was not until high school that my parents had me tested outside of the school system and found out I had dyslexia.
I have had many challenges during my years in retail employment, particularly with cash registers and computers.
Trying to sign customers up for store credit cards, which is mandatory, was just impossible for me and gave me such anxiety. I simply cannot take the answers a customer tells me and get them into the computer.
Customers do not want to have to spell out every word, and to repeat their phone numbers and zip codes over and over again.
So after years of being totally stressed at different jobs, and even taking anxiety medication to try to perform my job adequately, I decided to go to college.
But the junior college will not accommodate me in any way unless I can provide current testing.
I’m a single mother with almost no income. That type of testing is incredibly expensive.
Are there any other options?
This man shared:
I am 56 years old, and I have tried a lot of things throughout my life to overcome dyslexia.
It started when I was in second grade. I can remember my mother 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 anymore because it was a waste of money.
I took phonics in college, but it did not help. In fact, I failed a speech-language 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.
My company is trying to find something to help me. Is it too late? If not, what would you recommend?
And this 56 year old still stresses about spelling:
I have developed ways of hiding my dyslexia.
My spelling is pretty bad, so after I type something and put it through the spell checker, I re-read it five or six more times to make as many corrections as I can.
When I am doing creative writing, my spelling, punctuation, grammar and multiple typos show up much more than if I am writing technical material. Therefore, the more creative my writing is, the longer it takes me to re-read, proof and re-proof my work. You have stated before that dyslexics often work a lot harder than others to produce the same results (even in a simple e-mail) and it is very true.
A couple of months after I was hired as Executive Director of a nonprofit, I sent out a memo to all employees. I had some misspelled words and other minor mistakes in it. I had a couple of “word nerd” employees who immediately pointed out my mistakes (in a friendly and helpful way). But later, I walked into a room and overheard a couple of (not so friendly) employees saying something like, “Where did they get this guy? He can’t even spell right.”
I have been here four years now and have mellowed out a lot. I started sharing with people that I have dyslexia, and even poke fun at myself about it. It has been well received, and I have some great employees who will proofread things like grants and important letters before I send them.
I still obsess about correcting my writing, but not to an unhealthy level. It’s just part of the life of a dyslexic. Compensating takes a lot of extra time, but it’s just become a normal process.
Okay, I have re-read this 5 times. I assume you are rather forgiving of mistakes – so I am not going to read it again.
Some states have a policy of mandatory retention for students who cannot pass the reading portion of the state standards test. But retention alone does not work – and never has, as this parent shared.
I am 34 years old, and I have struggled all my life with reading and spelling. As a result, I have this record playing over and over in my head that says I’m not smart.
My mother has a photo of me going into first grade. I did not want to go. My head is down, my arms are at my side, and my book bag is dragging along the ground. This was my theme during my entire school career. I hated school from the very beginning. I only wish someone had noticed all of the signs of my dyslexia.
Fast forward to 8th grade. I knew I was struggling – and struggling bad. I don’t recall going to classes most of 8th grade. I don’t know why I passed that grade since I didn’t attend much.
I skipped even more school during 9th grade because I was still struggling and felt stupid. I finally dropped out.
Many years later, I got my GED. I then attended a local community college. I have many credits, but not enough to get my AA. That’s because I have taken “Basic English Composition” 3 times – and dropped out 3 times. It is just too difficult for me.
At 18, I become a mother to a wonderful and incredibly smart boy named Jerry. I did not know the preschool warning signs of dyslexia.
But his kindergarten teacher informed me of his difficulty with letter recognition. Later, in first and second grade, I heard about more of his problems. He was eventually tested by the school, and he got an IEP for an Auditory Processing problem. The tests also showed he had a high IQ.
They advised that I read aloud to Jerry every day so he could hear good reading, which they claimed would teach him fluency. Despite doing that, Jerry “hit the brick wall” in 3rd grade. He was retained because he could not pass the end-of-year state standards test.
When I dropped him off at school during his second time through third grade, it was so hard for me to watch him pass all the other kids in the hallway and go back to the same wing he was in last year. I can only imagine how hard it was on him. It was a horrible year.
Fast forward. My son is now 15 years old and going into the 9th grade. Jerry continues to struggle with reading and spelling – despite getting special ed services for 6 years. He can’t even say the months of the year in order.
I watched your video on dyslexia last night and cried almost the entire way through it. You were talking about me and Jerry. I’m one of “those” kids. So is my dad, my aunt, my sister and my nephew. The inheritance pattern is so clear.
I feel very angry at the school system. I did EVERYTHING they told me to do – but none of it worked. Jerry has adapted and can get by – but even though he is smart, he feels so stupid at times – a feeling I know down to my core. It happens every time he is called on to read aloud in class, or when he can’t spell even simple words.
I am so afraid he is going to drop out – like I did.
I love it when teachers attend my free presentations on dyslexia – because they share amazing stories of how hard they worked to make it through college:
A new teacher shared:
I saw you speak about a month ago. Let me first say that you were wonderful! I am a new teacher, 24 years old, and I went with some coworkers. We left thinking that every educator should be required to attend one of your seminars.
I now think I might have dyslexia. I always felt that I was slower to understand things in school because I couldn’t read as well as the other students. I remember my teacher putting me in a remedial reading class. I got out of it by faking that I needed glasses and that was the reason why I couldn’t read. After that, I got really good at faking reading.
I graduated from college after struggling many nights trying to read the textbooks and just giving up. I am sad to admit this, but I am a college graduate who has never read an entire chapter of any textbook. It’s not that I didn’t want to read the books. It’s just that I would start reading, but I would get lost. I kept having to reread the same page over and over again, reading was exhausting, and I could not understand what I was reading because I read so slowly and inaccurately. Yet when someone explained it to me verbally, I would instantly understand it.
Even though I never read a full chapter of any textbook in college, I did end up graduating with an overall 3.1 GPA.
A teacher at a private Christian school shared:
Your talk was amazing. I have a degree in Theology, but I stopped buying textbooks after the first semester because I never read more than the first few pages of them.
Instead, I formed study groups where we would TALK about the subject and share the information that “each person” learned from reading the textbook.
I also loved the literature courses. I could not read all of the words in the books, but I could guess at enough of them to follow the storyline. I also discovered that many of “the classics” could be downloaded as text files, so I could use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read them out loud to me.
A teacher pursuing her Master’s degree shared:
I am 56 years old and have dyslexia. I see myself in so many of your descriptions: the disorganized desk with piles of paper, the messy room, the right versus left problems, and spelling. Lord, I can’t spell anything.
Technology tools, especially spell and grammar checkers, have been a saving grace for me. I use them constantly. My wonderful husband has also read and corrected the spelling, punctuation, and grammar in my papers, my emails, and my class work for the last 30 years.
I am now going for a Master’s degree. It is sooooo frustrating that I can make A’s on all of my discussions and demonstration classes, but I can barely get a C on multiple choice tests. I run out of time on every test because when I read the questions, I skip words or misread them. So I have to check and recheck to be sure I’ve read each long convoluted question, and each possible answer, correctly. I can then choose the correct answer, but it takes me longer. Time always runs out before I finish the test.
From a caring teacher and friend:
When you mentioned that dyslexics have poor written expression – even though they have a clear grasp of the concept when discussing it orally, I thought of a young lady I met in college. We started out studying together, but eventually, I became her scribe. When we discussed a topic, she clearly knew what she was talking about. But when she came back with a paper she had written on that same topic, it made very little sense. She would ask me to look over and edit her papers, but this was such a struggle for both of us (her during the original writing, and me during the proofreading) that it simply became easier to write together sitting in front of the computer. She would talk, and I would type.
She shared that she had a reading and writing learning disability and had gotten an IEP in third grade. She also shared that she had been told by several teachers that she was unlikely to graduate from high school and probably would never be able to attend college.
But she had an amazing work ethic. She worked her butt off. And she earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Her story stuck with me, and I’ve been so angry at those teachers who dared to make such a negative prediction to this obviously bright young woman. I can’t help but wonder how different her educational experience would have been if only her teachers had known about dyslexia.
Often, a public school has to see 2 or 3 students they have given up on succeed, by getting the right type of tutoring after school, before they will partner with those tutors and accept dyslexia, as this parent shared.
My husband is dyslexic and all 3 of my kids are as well – to varying degrees. My oldest daughter (who is severely dyslexic) is now in 7th grade and has made high honor roll once again!
This is the same child who was minimized by her teacher in 1st grade, who told me that she would never read above a 3rd grade level, if that, and that she would ALWAYS struggle. But that teacher was wrong.
McKeighla is about to start Level 9 of the Barton System. Her confidence, and her ability to “own” her strengths and weaknesses, have become an inspiration to her teachers and her peers.
Our small community has embraced my tutoring services, and the school district has now become a wonderful support to both my daughter, and myself, as I daily pull students from their classroom to tutor privately, on the public school campus, during school hours. Each and every student that I work with (all 13 of them) have shown tremendous growth. At first, some teachers claimed their improving scores were just “a fluke.” But now their improving scores are known as “Barton scores.”
This past year, I opened an office in Mount Vernon and work there 2 days a week. I have students who travel from as far north as the Canadian border, and as far south as Seattle. And we are starting a dyslexia support group for parents in Skagit Valley.
The passion and drive I feel for these kiddos, and for this field, reaches the bottom of my soul. So thank you, Susan, for pioneering a way for parents to get involved, for empowering us with the knowledge to make a difference, and for all your support which allows us to be courageous and confident.
Certified Barton Tutor and Dyslexia Specialist in La Conner, WA