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.
Children with dyslexia will not improve with the type of help available at most public and private schools, and at most learning centers.
Don’t give up. You will be amazed at how rapidly their skills improve once they get the right type of tutoring, as this parent shared:[audio https://brightsolutionsdyslexia.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/do-not-give-up.mp3]
I have 5 children, all born within 8 years. I was a very busy, stay-at-home mom with enough kids to have a ‘preschool’ of my own, and we were very active in our church. So there was no social reason to send my kids to preschool.
When my first child entered kindergarten, I always heard how ‘sweet’, ‘beautiful’, ‘cute’, ‘precious’, etc. And then it was ‘but she struggles with…’ I could not understand how she could struggle so much when she seemed to grasp everything I taught her at home.
She struggled with reading, writing, and spelling for years. The school offered time with their reading specialist, and then testing. We tried every avenue of help including Reading Recovery, IEP, private tutors, then homeschool, NILD, and even a private reading clinic. She was given every accommodation in the book just so she could pass her classes. She was given a ‘P’ for pass instead of a letter grade like her peers. Years and tens of thousands of dollars later, she was only at a 4th grade reading level.
By the time my last child turned 5, I knew the signs of a different learner and I knew he was not ready for kindergarten. So I convinced my husband to wait an extra year. He agreed, but only if I found a preschool program for him – which I did. It seemed every boy in his class was also ‘waiting a year’ to go to kindergarten. So we thought John was on track.
The following year, John went to kindergarten. At the end of September parent-teacher conference, his teacher shared all her concerns. The dread came over me. Here we go again. But I was not going to sit back and wait. I asked for an evaluation now. She told me they don’t usually do this until at least 1st or 2nd grade. But I fought back and demanded testing now. It took them until spring to actually follow through.
Fast forward through years of IEP meetings, hearing of ‘progress’ but seeing John fall further behind. Due to his low self-esteem, low confidence and depression, we felt his spiritual and emotional growth was more important than academics, so we decided to switch him to a private Christian school.
But that private school required placement testing. We were shocked at the results – at how low John had tested. I received a personal call from the principal who shared that they did not feel it would be in John’s best interest to enroll in their school. Crushed puts it mildly.
But in discussing other options, that principal told me about a dyslexia specialist, Cheryl Anthony, and put me in contact with her. She is well known in the Northwest and is trained in the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
John is making amazing progress with her private tutoring using the Barton System.
I have been struggling with this, along my children, since 1995. It was only in 2011 that we realized it was dyslexia. How frustrating for us as parents. And how horrifying and belittling it has been for my children all these years.
A Certified Barton tutor who recently attended an Advanced Certification session gave me a packet of letters her Barton students had written to me.
I hope these touch your heart as much as they touched mine – and will help you realize that with the right type of tutoring, students with dyslexia can bring their skills up to – and beyond – grade level.
From Matthew, age 10
Thank you for writing the Barton System. You have helped me grow. Thanks to you, I’m now a better speller. I was at below basic on my second grade CST. Now I’m above average on my fourth grade CST.
Gabe, age 17
When I first started tutoring, I could barely read at all. I am now reading high school level textbooks, websites, movie reviews, and more.
Thanks to this program, I passed the high school exit exam the first time – which I thought would never happen.
Samantha, age 12
Tutoring has helped me because I am not in Special Ed anymore.
I used to have trouble reading, but now I can read really good. Last year, I even got a ribbon for reading because I got 100 AR points.
I can now spell words and no longer have to ask someone else how to spell a word.
From Elysia, age 9
My favorite thing about tutoring is reading. Even if I was sick and missed school, I would still want to go to tutoring.
From Chloe, age 9
I used to hate reading, but now I don’t. Now I can catch up in reading with the class, so I’m not the last to finish.
From Aidan, age 9
Barton has helped me in my spelling and reading. I no longer have to pass when the teacher calls on me to read out loud.
Alina, age 12
I am currently on Level 10, Lesson 2, and love it. English is now my favorite subject.
I was so pleased when my teacher decided to have a class spelling bee and I won! I even asked for the origin of the words. I was then picked to represent my school for the ACSI spelling bee.
Scottie, age 15
School has become amazing now that I’ve learned so much. I don’t feel bad anymore when I read or write. I can spell right, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
Bryce, age 25
My aunt was a teacher, and my mom thought she would be able to teach me to read. So she enrolled me in her class.
My aunt had this horrible way of posting grades after every assignment. She would write your name and the grade you got on the board. There were 32 names, and mine was always at the end with a big F – every single week.
I loved my aunt, so that just made it worse.
Then I was put in special ed, and even there, I was at the bottom. People with autism and other disabilities could read better than me. What’s worse is I could comprehend and understand the scope of their disabilities, and I knew I was not like that. But everyone there could read better than me.
I began to think, “I can’t do this. Perhaps I was not meant to learn how to read.”
Now I am 25 years old, and to find a program like this . . . is just amazing. I only wish I could have started this as a child.
Many children with dyslexia will not qualify for special education services during their early school years. But these days, they almost always get put into Tier 2 or Tier 3 of RTI.
One problem with RTI is how they measure “improvement,” as this mother shares:
I am the mother of an 9 year old boy. I want him tested for dyslexia. But the school says they don’t do dyslexia testing.
Instead, they gave him a test to determine if he needed special education services. But he passed the assessments and the IQ part, so they dropped it. They concluded he was just immature for his age and recommended retaining him, which we did.
Yet he still reads below grade level. At the beginning of his second time through 2nd grade, he was reading at a beginning first grade level. We are now at the end of the year, and his reading has only improve by 3 months — to a middle of first grade level.
To me, he should have improved more, given that he has had an entire extra year of PALS plus Tier 2 of RTI. Yet the school claims because he improved, he will not continue to get RTI next year.
Parents, never accept “some” improvement as good enough. If your child is not making more than one year of gain in one year of intervention, the gap is not closing. It’s getting bigger.
Another problem with RTI is that the right intervention is stopped too soon — before a student has finished the intervention program, as happened to this student:
I have been concerned about my son since kindergarten, and I have fought every year to have the school test him for a possible learning disability or dyslexia.
The school finally tested him in second grade, and although it showed some struggles, they said his scores were not bad enough to classify him as having a learning disability. Yet he struggled significantly with reading (he could not sound out any real or nonsense words — and messed up the vowels), read very slowly, and had terrible spelling.
His handwriting was so poor that I hired a private OT to work with him during third grade.
In fourth grade, he was put into Tier 2 of their RTI program. He began to get small group instruction using the Wilson Reading System, which is when he finally began to enjoy reading. Yet at the end of the year, because he had improved, he no longer qualified for RTI.
Our son is now 11 and in the middle of 6th grade at a junior high school. Although he will read if we push him hard, he refuses to read out loud any more (and he does have to read a passage several times before he comprehends it), his spelling continues to be horrible (even the simple high frequency words), and he struggles in math because he still does not know his multiplication tables.
Despite that, believe it or not, he has mostly B’s and A’s on his report card.
Yet he now resists all attempts to help him, and he has emotionally shut down.
We fear that as the demands of school increase, he will not be able to survive the challenges.
Parents, if you know or suspect your child has dyslexia but their school is not (or is no longer) providing the right type of intervention, then get it for them after school . . . by either hiring a tutor who uses an Orton-Gillingham based system or by getting the Barton Reading & Spelling System and tutoring your own child.
I received the following email from a Dyslexia Specialist who is also a Certified Barton tutor.
I am giving an inservice on dyslexia today, so I had to cancel one of my student’s tutoring sessions.
When the child asked me what I was going to be doing, I explained. My student asked if he could give a message to the teachers. I said, “Sure.”
His response was so poignant that I asked a few others this week if they had anything they wanted to say as well. I was surprised just how many had something they wanted to get off their chests!
Below is a sampling of just a few.
JEFFREY, first grade:
If you are going to teach me the way I can’t learn, then I will not learn, and I will be mad and frustrated!
If you teach me the way I can learn, then I will try and try, and try, and try and try so hard, and I will never give up!
ANGELA, second grade:
I would like to tell teachers that struggling is hard.
If you don’t know how to teach me, then find someone who does.
And while they are teaching me, be nice to me! I am trying so hard and I need my teacher to understand that.
DAVID, second grade:
Give me more time to finish my work. I can’t work as fast as the other kids.
Even better would be if you gave me less work. I would still learn, and then I would have time to play.
LISA, ninth grade:
My teacher told the class that I have dyslexia so they would understand why I don’t want anybody else correcting my papers. Do you know what she told them? She said that I had trouble mixing up my Bs and Ds!
Is that really all she thinks dyslexia is? Don’t teachers want to know any more than that?
Parents ask why I often state that private schools (such as Montessori, Waldorf, Christian, Catholic or Jewish schools) can be better places for children with dyslexia than public schools.
Private schools often do not know any more about dyslexia than public schools, but they are much more willing to provide free simple classroom accommodations — which are as critical as the right type of tutoring.
A parent of a child in a public school recently sent me a BCC of this email that she sent to her child’s teacher.
Dear Mrs. Smith:
It is 1:45 a.m. and I am not sleeping . . . again.
I am frustrated and hoping for your help.
I waited a few days since Lynn’s IEP meeting before writing this.
I do not want to come off as unreasonable or angry. But I cannot help but feel like the last 2-3 months of the school’s assessments were a massive exercise in futility. I came into the IEP meeting assuming that we were finally going to get Lynn some help and put some modifications and accommodations in place.
Instead . . . well, you were there. We simply restated what had already been established 2 years ago: Lynn is a bright little girl who does not qualify for special education help. I get that. I got that 2 years ago. My question is: what next?
I have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars getting Lynn officially diagnosed. I am paying to have her tutored after school by a Certified Barton tutor. I just need a 504 Plan put into place so we can get some simple free classroom accommodations.
I have been requesting that since the first day of school. It is now March. March !!!
I am more than willing to do my part. I will redouble my efforts to find support outside of school. But how do we get some classroom accommodations?
Compare that to this email from a parent whose child attends a private Christian school.
My son was formally diagnosed with moderate dyslexia in third grade — after a teacher at his private Christian school suggested dyslexia might be the cause of his struggles.
Timmy has hated school with a passion ever since he started Kindergarten. He would wake up every day crying, banging his pillow, and begging not to go to school, saying the work was “just too hard.”
Daily homework assignments went on with hours, and I mean hours, with temper tantrums, constant tears, anger and frustration beyond the roof as I am sure you can imagine.
Before school, Timmy’s personality had always been quiet, content and a deep thinker. You can imagine my horror to see his wonderful demeanor turn into such anger and frustration as each school season progressed.
He had all the early signs of dyslexia, but of course, we never knew what we were looking at. He went through school as this very angry, frustrated child, until finally, his third grade teacher recognized a very obvious problem, and led us to what he so desperately needed.
I am so thankful that he goes to a private school. Although legally, they do not have to provide accommodations or intervention, his school feels a moral obligation to provide both.
I am starting to see Timmy’s anger and frustration level drop as his reading and spelling is getting better, thanks to his Barton tutoring.
Homework time has become a million times better, thanks to the accommodations he is entitled to when needed.
His creativity is also flourishing. I am blown away by what he understands or creates out of his own observations.
He also has an amazing maturity well beyond his years, and his incredible insight to see and understand things is jaw dropping.
Parents, if your child’s public school refuses to provide accommodations, consider moving your child to a more flexible private school.
Many people are still not aware that dyslexia is inherited. It strongly runs in family trees.
That lack of awareness causes this:
After 3 years of trying to figure out my daughter’s learning challenges, I am now convinced that she is dyslexic.
I am sick to my stomach that although I knew my husband is dyslexic, I never made the connection. I did not know it is an inherited condition.
My very bright daughter will be entering 6th grade soon, reading 3 years below her grade level.
And it causes this:
I am dyslexic my father was dyslexic my older son is dyslexic. could my 9 yr old son be dyslexic.
we have been trying to get an IEP sence frist grade (he in 3rd now) we where told unless he has failing grades for 2 consexative years no IEP.
i cant help him with his school work.
im afraid thay are pushing him through school and he will end up an out of control teen — like me.
Parents, if you know dyslexia runs in your family tree, and your second or third grader has terrible spelling when writing sentences and stories, and is a slow inaccurate reader who cannot easily sound out unknown words, take action now.
I just found your website today. I am the mom of a second grader and I think he may be dyslexic because my son’s father, aunt, and grandmother are all dyslexic.
I questioned his kindergarten and first grade teachers about dyslexia. Each teacher assured me he was age appropriate in his learning.
But towards the middle of first grade, he scored below the average on the DIBELS test and qualified for reading intervention. I signed him up for it, thinking it would help.
I also worked with him all summer in an attempt to get him up to the same level as his classmates.
Despite that, his second grade teacher expressed concern about his reading, writing, and spelling on his progress report.
So I took him to a center for an assessment. He scored low on phonemic awareness and fluency, but very high on comprehension. He puzzled the assessor because even though he did not read the passage very accurately, he was able to answer the comprehension questions. He also scored high in listening comprehension.
Yet reading, spelling, and writing are so exhausting to my child that it is painful to watch. He wants to read, he is motivated to read, but he isn’t reading the words. He does seem to know some sight words but he mostly scans the page looking for clues and guesses at reading.
I am very interested in learning how to teach my child. My background is not in teaching, but I am more than willing to work hard, and I am very motivated.
Children with dyslexia will often NOT qualify for special education services when tested in first or second (or even third) grade. Yet as the following parent shared, the classic warning signs will already be there, and that’s exactly when a child should start getting the right type of tutoring.
I am looking for someone who can give me a second opinion on test results of an evaluation done with my 7 year old son, who will be starting 2nd grade in 2 weeks.
First grade was a hard year for him – lots of tantrums and self-esteem problems. We could not figure out where all his anger was coming from until last December, when he started to fall behind in reading. In February it dawned on me that he might have dyslexia. I felt we needed an evaluation so we could start helping him effectively right away and not lose valuable years of reading training.
We had him privately evaluated by an educational psychologist to check for a learning disability because the public school said he was not doing poorly enough for them to do it.
The examiner found a “severe discrepancy” between reading achievement (23 %ile) and IQ (75 %ile), but he did not find a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes, which is why we did not receive a diagnosis of a learning disability.
He did test quite low in auditory processing (19 %ile). He actually scored even lower (at the 1 %ile) in the word discrimination subtest, but the examiner thought that might have been a fluke – because he scored so high in thinking and reasoning (91 %ile) and in the visual-spatial stuff (91 %ile).
The examiner felt my son was a very bright boy and that he would catch up in reading as he matured. He claimed his tantrums were just a cry for attention.
Despite that, my husband and I are still concerned. I really would like someone else to look at his scores for a second opinion because I have read several books and researched dyslexia online – and I see lots of the warning signs in my son.
Is it possible that he still could have dyslexia, but is not far enough behind in school yet to get a diagnosis?
I would really like his teacher to realize he is not being lazy or not paying attention.
I also want to be able to give my son a reason for his difficulties so he’ll know he’s not dumb. We have told him how smart he is, of course, but when he sees how well other kids are reading, he gets frustrated and feels stupid.
Parents, when you see many of the early warning signs of dyslexia in your child, take action — as this parent finally did.
Debbie has always been an extremely bright child.
She loved preschool, but not kindergarten. She had extreme trouble with sounds, particularly vowels. She could never do the worksheets where you have to fill in the vowel sound. We had her hearing tested, which was fine. I did Hooked on Phonics and every other phonics thing I could lay my hands on.
By the end of second grade, her reading had progressed somewhat (but was nothing like my older daughter’s reading). Debbie just couldn’t seem to pick it up, and she could not sound out anything. She skipped many words (even the small ones, like he, at, to, it), and I was confused when she said a totally different word than the one on the page (vacation instead of trip, frog instead of toad, etc.) She spent a lot of time looking at the pictures.
And she couldn’t spell at all. Her teachers said her inventive spelling was horrible, even though we worked on her spelling every night at home for at least an hour.
At the end of second grade, she became so anxious about school that we asked them to test her for a learning disability. They claimed she did not have one (only inattentive ADD). So we decided to homeschool to lower her anxiety.
I have worked with her intensely with many different reading programs during the past two years of homeschool. Reading exhausts her, and she starts making all kinds of dyslexic mistakes after reading for less than an minute or two.
One day this summer, we were discussing a short book we had read about wishes. I asked Debbie about her fondest wish. She looked at me and said, “To be able to read, Mama. REALLY read like Lisa can. I want to read big books, like Harry Potter. But I don’t think I will ever get that wish.”
Right after that, I made an appointment to have her tested privately for dyslexia.
By the way, she still can’t spell. Neither can my father. He is a well-respected professional in his field. He never reads books. And he has always used a dictaphone to compose letters because his spelling is horrific. In fact, at his retirement party, they gave him a plaque that had misspelled words all over it — as a joke.