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!
By Sally Miles
Shared with prior written permission
As a teacher, dyslexia therapist (ALTA), mother and grandmother of two brilliant dyslexics, and someone who loves learning, I do my best every day to meet the needs of my students in my 3rd grade class. I fail every day, but we forgive and move on.
I do my best to address teaching in an Orton-Gillingham based manner for every subject. Not every student I have is dyslexic, but every child can benefit.
My students have so many needs that even though I truly put forth the effort, my brain and my heart cannot possibly think of everything that every child needs during every moment of every day. Among the children I greet every morning are those diagnosed and undiagnosed dyslexic children, a hearing impaired child with cerebral palsy, diagnosed and undiagnosed children with ADHD, auditory processing disorders, language disorders and autism, English as a second language, children who go to bed unfed since they left school, children who are abused, and children who are neglected.
Even though I try to meet every single need of your child, I’m going to fail. So before you call me out on Facebook, talk to me! Tell me, in a kind way, what your child needs that I am not doing.
Remember, the things your child needs that I’m trying to do . . . may be met with resistance by other parents because I teach in a way that is different, or their child may have very different needs.
Remember that I am human and may forget simply because I have so many different needs swirling through my head.
Remember that my goal is to teach all of your children, every day, with the “right” way for your child, and I will fail. I will get up again the next day and try to do better.
But it is easier if you tell me what your child needs . . . rather than think I’m too ignorant, I don’t care, I’m lazy, or I’m just another part of an often-broken system.
I get emails like this all the time, and they always bring me to tears.
When I heard you speak on Thursday, I cried. I wish I had that information when we began our journey.
My 17 year old son, David, is dyslexic. He was diagnosed when he was 8, and he has had lots of tutoring at Sylvan and from retired Reading Specialists over the years, which has helped a little bit.
David is a really smart, handsome, and well-liked young man. He hides his dyslexia well. Yet it is still there. After your presentation, I asked him, “What letter comes after S?” He quickly responded, “R.” I shared that was “before,” not after. He then said, “I know what you’re doing. Don’t even ask me about the months of the year.”
When he played PeeWee football, he always wore a wristband so he could tell left from right.
David recently gave directions to our house to his new girlfriend. But he frequently told her to turn left instead of right. After 45 frustrating minutes, he finally handed me the phone and begged, “Please get her here.”
He is a gifted athlete and would like to play football in college. But his grade point average is only 2.65 due to his failing French (a D) and algebra (also a D). He must also pass the ACT (college entrance exam). We paid for an ACT prep course, but after the course, he only scored 13. He needs at least a 17.
He needs extra time on the reading portion, and he dreads math. He was so nervous because he knew he was not going to have enough time to finish the test. How do I go about getting him more time on the ACT?
He feels he is not smart enough to make it in college. The many days of sitting in the hall, being put in “the dumb class” (as he called it), and being teased by his peers does not go away.
But I want him to be able to follow his dream. I do not want him to join the military, which is his backup plan.
A child with dyslexia needs 3 things: to be identified, the right type of tutoring, and accommodations until the skills gap is closed.
I just received this email from a parent whose child got all 3.
Susan, nine years ago you screened our son, David, for dyslexia. As you may recall, when my husband and I heard the results, we were both extremely concerned for his future.
Well, through years of Barton tutoring and some wonderful administrators willing to implement the accommodations you recommended, David will be graduating and is going to attend Emory University.
David has been in all general education classes and will be graduating with a 3.74 GPA. A monumental achievement for a young boy who could not read nor remember his ABC’s in third grade.
Thank you for being committed to helping children such as David. We are forever indebted.