After 45 years of feeling worthless
This is why adults are my favorite type of student:
Howard will be graduating from Level 10 of the Barton System in a few weeks.
Howard is an adult who was referred to us from a literacy center because they were not able to help him.
When Howard was young and in school, he was teased mercilessly because he could not read. He defended himself the only way he knew how — with his fists. The schoolyard scuffles turned into street fights, knife fights, and jail time.
When he came to us, he could not read the word “cat.”
He did not pass your student screening, so I had to start him with LiPS program and then took him into Level 1. He made slow but steady progress, although he considered dropping out because he felt the early words were too babyish. Luckily, he stuck with it, and he continued to improve.
Once, when we were walking out, I said to him, “You’re getting a little better each day.” He replied, “And I’m holding my head a little higher each day.” After 45 years of feeling worthless, he finally started feeling good about himself.
I wish I could say this story has a happy ending. Sadly, last April, Howard was diagnosed with ALS and the doctors only gave him 1-2 years. It’s been hard watching this once big, strong man deteriorate so much. He’s lost most of the control of his muscles, but his mind still works. We’ve been working very hard to finish the Barton System before the inevitable occurs.
I’m happy to say Howard will complete the entire Barton program in a few weeks. This is important because Howard has never achieved any scholastic success of any kind in his life. Your graduation certificate will be his first diploma of any kind.
Of the hundreds of students I’ve seen at the Dyslexia Reading Connection, none have made me more proud than Howard. He’s worked his tail off despite ever increasing obstacles, he’s never complained, and he’s always worked hard. I’m so happy to see him finally succeed in an academic pursuit.
Dyslexia Reading Connection
Writing papers in college was so hard . . .
Adults who never got the right type of help in school say that writing papers in college was nearly impossible, as this person shared:
I just watched your dyslexia video, and my son has almost every single warning signs from preschool to elementary school.
I also have almost every warning sign. I always joked about being “dyslexic” growing up because I was always lost and always getting my left and right confused. But I never realized I had all of the classic signs.
I barely made it out of high school. I never wanted to go back because school was too painful !!!
I did try a semester at the local junior college, but I dropped out when the first writing assignment was given. I knew I couldn’t do it.
Years later, I took a class at a different junior college that was taught by a friend of mine. It was the most painful thing I have ever done. I did not want to disappoint my friend, so I stuck with it.
I agonized over every writing assignment. She couldn’t figure why it took me hours, and even days, to do such small writing assignments. This was before computers. I had mounds of crumpled papers, and I just about killed myself to get through that course.
I got the 2nd highest grade in the class, yet I still felt stupid because I was the only one who had to work so hard in such an easy class.
That was it. I was done with college.
I don’t want my son to go down that same path. What can I do to help him?
Adult who regrets being promoted
Emails from adults often break my heart. We need to help them earlier — to prevent this.
I found your website last night and wanted to cry.
I’m 45 years old and have suffered with spelling and reading my whole life.
In third grade, I stopped doing homework and just stuffed the sheets in my desk to avoid not knowing how to do it.
I had difficulty with multiplication although I really wanted to learn it. I marveled at the kids who just got it. Telling time was tough, too. I remember my parents bribing me with a calculator and a watch if I could just learn to do my multiplication tables and to tell time.
In fourth grade, I struggled to the point that they had me tested for all kinds of things. My spelling especially was a problem. But they didn’t really find anything except that I am really good at 3-D thinking and spatial relationships.
They decided it would be best if I just repeated the year. They thought my maturity and confidence would grow if I repeated. My parents also made me read out loud for 30 minutes every day.
This was really tough, but I eventually improved enough not to draw negative attention. I was just really slow, and I had to work really hard to get it or understand it.
Yet even now, I can’t watch movies with subtitles because I can’t read quick enough to get through the entire message before the next one flashes on the screen.
I still have trouble with hand writing words with d’s or b’s or p’s or q’s. They often face the wrong way.
After looking at your website and watching your videos, I see a similarity to some of the traits of dyslexic people.
Although I’ve been in Sales the last 10 years and have won awards, my promotion into Marketing has been a disaster. I’m expected to write things rather than rely on my face-to-face people skills. My managers think I’m lazy or stupid, and I’m struggling to show them my strengths.
I need to be tested for dyslexia to find out if there is a way to improve my writing, reading and spelling. My company wants me to take a business writing course, but I think I might need different help first.
I’ve always had a very strong drive to do well and to learn. It is heartbreaking to me to want to do well and try so hard – but not be successful.
Can you help me?
Dyslexia runs in family trees
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 a mild case of it as well. It 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:
Poor spelling is the most obvious sign of dyslexia
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.
Never stop doing what you’re doing
This private Facebook post from an adult shares the trauma of going through school without the right type of help — far better than I can.
I just wanted to say thank you for all of the work you are doing for kids with dyslexia. I just finished watching Embracing Dyslexia. You were in it, and I liked what you said.
I was one of the unlucky ones. In the 80’s, they had no idea what was wrong with me. I did not hear the word dyslexia until I was in junior high. By then, I was fighting the best I could just to keep up.
My home life was not great. There was no caring or support from my parents.
Some teachers made fun of me to my face. Others called me lazy. I was accused of not trying or being stupid.
Starting in fourth grade, the school put me in special ed classes. But they put everyone with special needs in the same room. The teacher had to help one kid who was in a wheel chair, a different student who was mentally retarded, one who had behavior problems, and a small group of us in the corner who seemed to be “faking it” because we were bright and smart, but we could not figure out how to read, spell, write or do math.
We did not belong in a class with really handicapped kids. We needed help, but not the same type of help. Friends would ask, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you in the class with the handicapped kids?” I had to answer, “I don’t know.”
Needless to say, my childhood was not fun. I was beaten down mentally and physically.
Mrs. Barton, never stop doing what you are doing. Make sure no other kid has to go through what I went through.
Make sure everyone understands what dyslexia is, and how they can help kids through it.
Which is worse?
If you struggled in school, going back to college as an adult is scary. But it is even worse to watch your child or grandchild struggle in school the same way you did – as this grandmother shares.
I am 57 years old with a BSN in nursing. After 30 years of being out of school, I am applying to graduate school for a MSN in nursing. I am terrified.
My early school years were just horrible. No one knew what to do with me, so they just passed me through each year.
I had to attend summer school EVERY summer. I hated it.
I grew up thinking I was just stupid and that I must be lazy because it took so much time to read, study and retain information.
In high school, I worked so hard to get good grades. I would read a chapter (of course, that took forever), then I would go back and outline the chapter and write it down in my notebook (that also took forever), and then I would reread it every night.
I did not know that everyone did not have to do that.
I am embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to learn the alphabet or the multiplication tables.
Spell check is my godsend, but you’re right. It often does not work for me.
You’re also right about having to write a hand-written letter. It makes me sweat!
I am pretty sure my seven year old granddaughter has dyslexia. I see myself in her. She is struggling with reading in school and is starting to say that she hates school.
I will do anything to prevent her from going through the torture that I went through as a child.
Susan replied with:
If your granddaughter gets the right type of tutoring now — every day during the summer, and at least twice a week next school year – her reading will greatly improve. And her spelling and writing will also get better.
I will send you some tricks for learning math facts.
Until her skills reach grade level, her parents should provide 3 accommodations during homework time, and her teacher should provide some in class, as well.
If that happens, your granddaughter will NOT go through the same “torture” in school that you did.
Warning signs in adults
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.
Tech Tools are not enough
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.