Susan Barton loves getting letters from graduates of the Barton Reading & Spelling System who then start sharing their story in an effort to change things for other students with dyslexia. Here’s Katherine’s story:
I can and I will. Just watch me.
For years this has been my go-to statement.
You see, in the third grade, I was diagnosed “twice exceptional” having both dyslexia and dysgraphia paired with a high IQ. Up until that point, I couldn’t read a three-letter word. My parents had meeting after meeting with my teachers and were told that I was an underachiever and that I would never be more than a mediocre student. Well, lucky for me, they knew better!
But for most children who suffer from hidden disabilities, there isn’t anyone there to advocate for them. This creates a huge crack for these kids to fall through and most of the time leads to these children becoming statistics. Over forty million Americans have dyslexia and only slightly more than two million are receiving services for their diagnosis.
So many children fall behind in school and ultimately drop out due to the lack of in-depth screening to be able to identify certain markers that could provide early intervention. Had my mother not known that something wasn’t adding up and decided to seek second and third opinions, I have no doubt that I would have been a statistic.
Today I am an all A student and have earned admission into the BETA Club, National Honor Society, and didn’t do too terrible on my first time taking the ACT! Because someone cared enough to advocate for me, I was able to return to school after my diagnosis and not only receive the proper training for my dyslexia, but I was also immediately entered into the gifted class! You cannot imagine what this did for my self-esteem! I was pulled twice a day, once for therapy and once for gifted!
Again, this was because someone believed I could do it! Someone had the insight to know that helping me advance what my brain was good at, as they helped me learn to overcome what my brain wasn’t good at, was going to be the key to my success!
My journey hasn’t always been an easy one and to this day I continue to fight the fight! I want to take this a step further and make sure that once students are diagnosed, they are not hindered by the label.
I have had to fight my way through class scheduling because they didn’t think I could handle certain classes. I had to beg to be put into chemistry in my 10th grade year and promise to give 100% effort. I finished that class with a high A. Had I not pushed for this, I would have never gotten the opportunity to learn in advanced classroom settings, simply because I have been labeled “learning disabled”.
I always have to prove that I can excel greatly if I’m not put into a box and labeled! I believe that once identified, dyslexia becomes a gift instead of a disability! With proper accommodations students can finally realize their potential and begin to focus on the many positive traits that come along with this diagnosis.
I once read a quote saying, “everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, he will live his whole life believing he’s stupid!” There are seven different types of learners in a classroom: auditory, visual, verbal, logical, physical, social and solitary. Since that’s the case, doesn’t it make sense that there are that many different types of testers? Standardized testing is merely taking a fish and asking him to climb that tree!
I am trying to help bring awareness to this issue by being a student liaison to the Mississippi Department of Education. I am currently a member of the Mississippi State Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, serving a two-year term. This role lets me tell my story and offer insight to what I believe will help to identify struggling students, hopefully helping to ultimately lower the dropout rate.
Statistics show that sixty-two percent of non-readers become high school dropouts. I think this is unacceptable and can certainly be helped. I cringe to think of where I might be today, had someone not seen my potential.
I hope my story can be eye opening!
What if you have a student who has the potential to be President of the United States, or a brain surgeon, or cure cancer, but never makes it out of high school because his or her potential was never realized. The accommodations not put into place to see that just because he can’t climb the tree doesn’t mean he can’t swim the ocean!
So many children are out there struggling daily who don’t know their own potential! So many educators and adults who don’t know what they are looking for write us off as underachievers. This has to stop!
I want to ultimately rebrand dyslexia and make the world see who we really are! We are the imaginers, the creators! We are driven and ambitious and persistent — IF we aren’t made to believe we are simply mediocre!
How can we help? Let’s start a discussion!
Homeschooling children with dyslexia can be a great option. But it’s nice to know that those children can be successful in a public or private school after they have had the right type of tutoring — as this parent shared:
I homeschooled my daughter, who has dyslexia, while taking her through Levels 1 to 8 of the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
She is now 12 and just completed her first year of traditional school.
The Barton System prepared her well, and she thrived in school this year.
She was surprised to find out that she was better at reading aloud than some of her non-dyslexic peers.
We are so grateful to you not only for your program, but for the way you educate and encourage parents and students along the way.
Andrea Sivillo, homeschool parent
Fair Oaks, CA
My son Kody completed all ten levels of the Barton Reading & Spelling System. He is now a Junior in high school. He recently wrote this paper for English class. I wanted to share it with you.
Being 17 years old and having dyslexia may not seem like a big deal. But what I’ve had to do to this point in my life may be hard for others to comprehend. For most people, when they hear of someone that has a disability, they feel bad and look down on them.
People do not understand how hardworking, motivated and determined we are.
From the beginning of elementary school to third grade, I was always behind in school and not progressing like other students in my class, no matter how hard I had worked. I was then tested for dyslexia.
Being told I have a disability by my mother was really hard to accept in the beginning; however, it may have actually been one of the best parts of my life.
I finally had an explanation as to why I wasn’t doing as well in school. Teachers finally would stop saying that I “wasn’t trying” or that I just needed to put more effort into school.
I knew that having a disability was not going to cause me to give up. I knew that I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else.
I pushed myself throughout the rest of elementary school and through middle school, trying to get on the same level as my peers. I tried many things — such as doing different reading programs (some that had helped amazingly, the Barton Reading & Spelling System, and others that did not), working with my teachers one-on-one outside of school, and spending every night doing four to five hours of homework when other kids would get their homework done in class.
The one goal I wanted to achieve by high school was to avoid standing out from everyone else. Going into high school, I was finally on the same level as the other kids in my grade.
Having known and experienced just how hard it can be to have a disability, I have insights as to what other kids are most likely dealing with. It may be peers making fun of them, being told they can’t do something just because of their disability, or teachers not understanding how they learn best.
For me, the most stressful part of class was being terrified I was going to be called on to read out loud and then being judged by my peers.
When given a writing assignment, I would sit by myself, away from everyone, so no one would be able to see my writing and laugh at me.
Being someone with a disability, I know that there are always going to be people who will never understand the journey that I, along with many others, have faced; nor what I have done to get to where I am now. I hope that sharing my story will help others understand not only the negatives of having a disability, but also to see the opportunities that are possible.
Through all the struggles I’ve faced and experienced, I have always pushed through and thrived. The biggest advice I can give to someone with a disability is not to be ashamed of it or let it label you as “abnormal” (compared to whatever “normal” may be).
In my case, I would never say, “I’m a dyslexic.” I would say, “I am a person that has dyslexia.”
A disability is one part of who you are; it’s up to you to show the world how you want to be seen.
Koby Koblitz, Barton Graduate
I love getting emails from successful Barton students – who want to give hope and encouragement to others who are just starting this journey. Here’s one from Kate.
My name is Kate Schaefer, and I am dyslexic. I have been through the Barton System and let me tell you, it has done wonders.
I wrote this about the wonders of fighting, and eventually accepting, dyslexia. If I had read this when I was first diagnosed, it would have helped me so much emotionally along the way. Feel free to share it with anyone.
Dyslexia, defined by Webster’s dictionary, is a variable often familial learning disability involving difficulties in acquiring and processing language that is typically manifested by a lack of proficiency in reading, spelling, and writing.
This definition is undeniably verifiable and familiar to most people. However, roughly 15% of Americans have an understanding a bit beyond Webster’s description. They better comprehend, and are more comfortable with this word, because they have been at war with this genetic mutation their whole life. And I am one of the 15%.
Why did this happen? How come me and not my siblings? I don’t know. But I do know one thing. Although at times mind shatteringly challenging, it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
As I consider my personality, the obstacles I have had to overcome, and the immense amount of effort I have had to put forward, I know that something that has instilled this much strength, creativity, and determination in me could never be a bad thing.
Dyslexia has made me into the strong independent trooper I am today, and I hope that the other 15% of Americans see it this way as well.
My countless hours of tutoring, my recurring feeling of loss, and my constant need to put my best foot forward in order to succeed finally paid off. I went from a fourth grader unable to read the word “supply” to the winner of the Modern Woodmen Oration Contest.
I didn’t just start to succeed in academic classes, but in the Fine Arts as well. My dyslexia drove a passion for crafts, sewing, music, and decorating – like it has in many other dyslexics.
I am changed completely because of this, and I have made a decision to allow myself to fall in love with that fact.
I could be singing the same old “Why me?” song 5 years later.
But instead I am saying, “Why am I so lucky that I am a stronger, more creative woman than I would have been?”
Teachers are amazed at how rapidly Barton students improve — even when they are tutored by a parent, as this mother shared:
Thank you so much for developing this program and your great informational videos and website. Without those, I don’t think my daughter would have been diagnosed and gotten the help she needed.
I am currently working on Level 3 with my daughter. Since starting the Barton System, she has shown tremendous progress! Her teacher told us that in her 13 years of teaching experience, she has never seen a student have this much growth in one year! She credits the program and my commitment to it.
That teacher has been wonderful. She has allowed me to come into the classroom for an hour twice a week to do Barton with my daughter.
By the way, that teacher is now interested in using the Barton System with a few other students she thinks will benefit from it. So that is super exciting!
Jennifer Veras, parent
Jake wrote this as an assignment during his senior year of high school. Both Jake and his mom have given me permission to share this in the hopes that it will inspire other struggling students.
The best thing I have ever done
By Jake Pedersen
I was diagnosed with dyslexia right before I entered seventh grade. I was told that my best option was to go to a reading specialist three times a week for roughly three years.
As a stubborn young kid, I imagined that the tutoring would be a waste of time and that I could get along fine without it.
But as my other classmates continued to thrive in the rigorous middle school I attended, I was stuck being able to only read at about a third grade level.
In seventh grade, I was the slowest reader in my class, and I could not comprehend what I was reading. I knew that something had to change.
As much as I thought that tutoring might be a waste of time, I decided that I should just bite the bullet and go because that was what I needed to do to be able to keep improving in school.
Now that I’m about to graduate from High School, I realize that all of the activities, games, and time with friends I missed to go to tutoring, don’t compare to what I have received from it.
Those three years of work were the best thing I’ve ever done. They helped me get to the point where I am one of the better readers in the class and can keep up with everyone else.
It isn’t always easy to do something that seems like a lot of work, but in the long run, it can open up a million different possibilities.
A Barton Reading & Spelling System Graduate
Andrew has profound dyslexia.
He first wrote his letter of support for California’s dyslexia bill, AB1369, by hand. Then he dictated it into the computer.
Not only is his letter touching, but it proves why technology tools are just as important as tutoring. Here is his dictated letter.
Dear Assembly Member Shannon Grove,
Hi! This is Andrew and I have Dyslexia and Dysgraphia and I am in 5th grade. I am 11 years old.
Dyslexia is a one in five have it. Dyslexia makes it really hard for kids to read and write very well. Dyslexia is not recognized in the public schools and kids are feeling stupid and not very smart or happy.
I know how they feel because I am going through it now. My mom and dad took me to a therapist who said I have dyslexia and dysgraphia. Dyslexia happens in families. My uncle and dad never knew that they had it.
There are times in life when I feel I’m not the smartest kid in my class because I can’t read like the other kids. It is like, I am two grades behind. Sometimes I give up and cry but my family, teachers, and Barton tutor help me keep going.
Mrs. Grove, you can help kids like me learn to read and write by voting yes on AB1369. AB1369 can give kids like me in California the chance to do great things in their classrooms and in life.
Please vote yes on AB1369. We need your help to make this happen!
The photo in this article is his handwritten version.
Many people who attended my Screening for Dyslexia course last week have asked for a copy of this letter.
Dear Mrs. Barton,
My name is Nathaniel, and I have dyslexia.
This past week, my mom has been attending your Screening for Dyslexia seminar to learn more about dyslexia and how to help others. Each night when she returns to our hotel room, she shares a few highlights of her day. She told me about the emails and letters you are sharing to remind the group why they are there at your seminar.
I wanted to share one more.
My story is similar to many other people with dyslexia. My early school years were filled with much pain and emotional trauma. My first tears, and adding the word “stupid” to my vocabulary, started in Kindergarten. I was only 5 years old.
The phrases, “Try harder,” “Practice,” “Read more,” and “Why can’t you?” were engrained in my head during those early years by teachers.
I had bruises on my fingers from trying so hard to write sentences, and I was pulled out to attend a class for slow readers.
Recess was my favorite part of the school day until 3rd grade. I was punished and humiliated during 3rd grade. I was forced to sit on the wall during recess while all the other children were allowed to play . . . simply because I could not finish my work in class on time. I had to sit there watching my friends play with my incomplete piece of paper. Yet I still was not able to complete it because I could not read it.
After weeks of sitting on that brick wall, I snuck my papers home and tearfully asked my mom to help me complete them so that I could have a couple of days to play during recess. Needless to say, I never returned to that school – thank goodness!
After that, I was finally told that I had dyslexia, and I began homeschool. In fourth grade, I was reading and spelling at a very low first grade level.
But today, I am proud – MORE than proud – to share that I am just weeks away from completing Level 10 of the Barton System. Not only can I now read and spell, but I know LATIN !!!!
I just finished 8th grade at a public school where I received awards in Academic Excellence with a 3.9 GPA. I won first place in our social studies history project, and I have been accepted for high honor classes in high school next year. My test scores show that I am proficient (and even advanced) in math, comprehension, and yes, even reading !!!!
While writing is still not my strong area, mostly due to dysgraphia, my computer sure makes it look like I am a whiz. I still hate to tie my shoes, my “other right” is a common joke, and I occasionally reverse my numbers and letters when I am tired. At times, the Franklin Spelling Ace is still my best friend, and my favorite inventor is the man who created the digital clock.
Now I can spell words like “purely exhilarated” and “euphoric joy” to express my gratitude, but my word is “happy.” Those first spelling rules, like the Happy Rule, changed my tears and fears into a HAPPY, confident and successful dyslexic student.
Thank you, Mrs. Barton.
Your forever grateful and proud dyslexic student,
Colorado Springs, CO
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.
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