This is why Early Intervention — of the right type and intensity — is so important.
Travis never attended public school because I realized that he showed the same symptoms of dyslexia that my older son did at that age.
So I homeschooled Travis and started him on the Barton program as soon as he was old enough. I was already using it with his older brother and having good results.
Recently, Travis began expressing a desire to go to 2nd grade public school with his friends, which I figured would happen eventually. So, I took him up to our local elementary school. The teachers, principal, and counselor were great. They took him on a tour of the school, let him observe a class, and even let him play on the playground for a while. He felt right at home and decided he might like to try public school for the last six weeks of the year — even though I did explain to Travis that he would have to continue doing Barton 3x per week after school.
Of course, the first thing the school staff wanted to do was placement testing. The reading specialist evaluated his reading level as approximately 3.0 grade level. She did mention that she thought his fluency was lacking as he read from one line of text to the next and encouraged me to read aloud to him daily.
I then shared the testing we had done with a private dyslexia interventionist who said that although he was young, it was her best opinion that he was pretty severely dyslexic. I also shared some of the results of his testing, such as being at the 2nd percentile for phonemic awareness.
Then I explained how we had been using a combination of the Barton System (which she was not familiar with, but she knew of OG), and occupational therapy for the dysgraphia for almost three years. The more I talked, the wider her eyes got.
She finally said, “I had no idea that what you are saying you have done could actually be done. I see these kids come through here with such low skills, and they get further and further behind. It scars them for life, and they never recover from it. I would have never guessed that he was dyslexic. He didn’t mix up a single sound while he was reading. I’ve never known anyone who has actually fixed it.”
Mind you, we live in Texas, where dyslexic students receive “daily intervention” from our public schools. Sadly, it is often ineffective, as it was with my oldest son, who could not read CVC words in 3rd grade despite their “intervention.”
I wish I had known how to help my oldest son before he had the chance to feel like a failure, but I just didn’t know what to do.
Thank you so much for bringing awareness and education to parents about the dyslexia community, updates about the latest research of brain imaging, and best teaching practices.
Most of all, thank you for giving my son a chance to show the world what a bright boy he is. I’m still not sure if he will go to that school or if we will continue homeschooling, but I do know that either way, he will be a success because of your program and his hard work.
It should not take this long but sadly, it often does, as this parent shared:
We started our journey in first grade, when our daughter’s teacher shared that she was not grasping reading concepts as fast as she should. I was shocked because I had read to her since she was a baby, and books were a big part of our home.
For the rest of that school year, we spent many long, tearful evenings trying to teach her the sight words. We would go over and over and over them, but she could not retain them.
We also spent at least two hours every night doing homework, and practicing her reading.
Despite that, at the beginning of third grade, she was only reading 27 words per minute – which was at the bottom of her class.
She also struggled with spelling. I got her list several days early, so we would have extra time to learn the words. It did not help.
Over the years, the teachers said, “It will click one of these days,” or “She is young for her grade,” and “You are doing all the right things at home.” Yet year after year, she spent many long, tearful nights doing homework.
When I asked if she might have a learning disability, the answer was always, “No.”
In fifth grade, we hit a wall. That year, she spent four to five hours a week studying her spelling words – just to get a D.
She also got a D in Social Studies, even though I read the textbook out loud to her, because her vocabulary was way behind.
She began to have problems with her peers, partly due to her very low self-esteem.
At the end of some of our homework battles, she began to say she should be dead because she was useless. She stayed up late every night due to anxiety, and she developed depression. We knew we had to do something, but we did not know the cause of her academic struggles.
Then a friend at a party suggested she might have dyslexia. Our life changed that very day.
We decided to homeschool, which our daughter had been begging us to do since first grade, and we began using the Barton System as our language arts curriculum.
I have watched her grow into an amazing person.
I will never forget the day she started reading road signs out loud.
When she finished Level 6, I shared she could now start reading textbooks on her own. For her social studies assignment, there was a five page story to read, then an outline to complete, and comprehension questions to answer. She proudly completed all of it by herself. That was a HUGE self-esteem boost, and it has shown up in all areas of her life.
She now reads books for fun, and she is finally understanding how to spell words.
Homeschool is getting less time consuming as her vocabulary grows because we don’t have to explain as many words before we move forward. She is also better able to recall terms and ideas.
Only a year and a half ago, she was labeled “functionally illiterate.”
I can not thank you enough, Susan Barton, for saving my daughter and bringing my family such peace and happiness!
Please feel free to share our story to bring hope to other families who are still struggling.
Sturgeon Lake, MN
If you have ever watched one of your own children struggle for years in school due to undetected dyslexia, you will step in faster when your next child starts to struggle – as this parent did.
Our story is so similar to other families I have met: the daily homework struggles, tears of frustration over a worksheet that takes other kids only a few minutes to complete, “wait and see” advice from some teachers, and “your daughter is too smart to be dyslexic” from others. I have never felt so helpless.
But when Lillian was in second grade, we were so lucky to have a teacher who pulled me aside and recommended we go outside of the school system to get a private evaluation, and lucky that the evaluator recommended the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
When we started the Barton System, Lillian was in the spring of second grade, reading at a beginning first grade level. We worked very hard to close the gap, tutoring 30 minutes every day (and increased it to an hour a day during the summer).
When Lillian took her state reading test in the spring of third grade, she scored in the “meets grade level” category – only 4 points away from “exceeds.”
Now, after her second year of tutoring, she is able to read books at her interest level, and we often catch her reading just for fun – which means more to us than any test result. The growth we have seen in her confidence and self-esteem is priceless.
I have also benefited from your program. It is so empowering to finally be able to understand how to help my kids learn to read, and to speak knowledgeably with their teachers.
But more importantly, I was able to avoid struggle and failure with my younger son Nate, who was 5 1/2 when we had his sister evaluated. Nate had almost every early warning sign for dyslexia. So I started working with him at that time (in shorter sessions), and he has learned to read solely through the Barton System. We had him privately evaluated at the beginning of his first grade year, and Nate was reading at a mid-second grade level!
Nate is a poster-child for the importance of early intervention. I recently spoke about my experience tutoring my own kids when I testified before the Oregon Senate Committee on Education in support of our dyslexia bill.
Thank you again for creating such an accessible, affordable program, and for being so helpful and available when I had questions. My kids now have a limitless future, and your program allowed me to give it to them. We are so incredibly grateful.
Happy Valley, OR
I love when parents take the time to send me their child’s success story, like this one:
You must get hundreds of messages like this. But I can’t wait to share that my severely dyslexic daughter, who is now in Level 9 of the Barton Reading & Spelling System, just received the Duke TIP recognition award for scoring at the 97th percentile in Language Arts on her Stanford Achievement Test.
Wow! Let that sink in for a moment….
My bottom of the curve, “you need to read to her more” child – who hated school and had to repeat second grade — now devours her school work, and scores in the “Above Average” range, not only in Language Arts, but also in Science and Social Studies.
She LOVES to read now, and she writes the most incredible stories.
When I bring up dyslexia at our parent teacher conferences, most teachers respond with wide eyes and disbelief. They can’t believe she has dyslexia because she is one of their top students.
“But it’s documented in her file. It’s severe. She has an IEP,” I remind them. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Last spring, she was 1 of only 7 students in the entire 4th grade who, on the last day of school, successfully passed the “4th Grade Challenge” to correctly spell and identify all 50 states on a map.
She also received an award and prize for the highest cumulative score on all of her spelling tests.
I am so lucky that her worried grandma found the Barton Reading & Spelling System online 3 years ago, and had the courage to order Level 1 and get started. By the end of my daughter’s first week of tutoring, we could tell that Barton was helping her – where everything else we had tried had failed. And she has continued to make great progress.
My daughter is so proud. She openly shares how much Barton tutoring has helped her.
I get teary-eyed just writing this email. What a difference the Barton System, carefully taught by a worried grandma, has made in my child’s life.
I can’t thank you enough.
Judy Stone-Collins, parent and now a
Certified Barton Tutor
New Orleans, LA
This email, which was sent to me by a homeschooling parent in Florida, touched my heart.
Our story begins when my son, Larry, was in kindergarten. He missed out on play time because he struggled to identify letters and their sounds.
In first grade, sight words caused him to miss play time.
In second grade, timed reading and math became 75% of his grade. Third grade would bring the FCAT. I was told if a student cannot read 150 words a minute, they probably would not be able to finish that test.
So we homeschooled Larry in third grade. We also asked the public school to test him. They said he had ADHD. But by then, I had been homeschooling for half a year and I felt that probably was not true. So I hired a private psychologist to test him. It turns out our son had “classic dyslexia.”
Homeschool continued through 3rd and 4th grade. Although I slowed everything down, I continued using the same curriculum – but it wasn’t working. Larry was extremely frustrated. By 5th grade, he and I were at our wits end. Shortly after starting the school year, Larry broke down and said he was stupid and wanted to kill himself. That still brings tears to my eyes.
On that very day, I knew I had to find an answer. So I got on the computer and started frantically searching for a way to teach my son. I decided to go to a message board for parents with dyslexic kids. The ONLY thing they were talking about was the Barton Reading & Spelling System – which level they were finishing, and who had the next one.
Right then and there, I googled Susan Barton. I watched your video on dyslexia that was on your website. I was overcome with emotion as I listened to you talk about your story and heard your passion for dyslexic kids. You were the first person who explained dyslexia in detail, both its weaknesses and STRENGTHS. I called Larry in to listen to part of it and I told him, “This is who you are. You are a brilliant and amazing boy to have learned as much as you have – despite the way I am teaching you.”
You promised that with the Barton System, my son would read at or above grade level and his spelling would improve, and I believed you.
Needless to say, homeschool has not been the same. Larry is now a 7th grader, is in Level 6 of the Barton System, and now believes that he can go to college and excel.
Thank you. Susan. I am forever grateful that you have become an important part of Larry’s life and education.
As this parent shared, “slower and louder” will not work for a child who has dyslexia.
To hear Susan Barton’s advice for homeschool parents who use (or are thinking about using) the Barton Reading & Spelling System, watch my free on-line presentation by clicking on the following link:
By the way, that presentation also contains useful advice for parents thinking about homeschooling.
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.
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:
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!