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!
The following adult had received one year of Barton tutoring when she wrote this letter to Oprah (with the help of her tutor) to try to convince Oprah to do a show on dyslexia.
I am 76 years old today.
I spent the first 75 years of my life wondering why I could not read or spell as well as other friends and family. I didn’t know why I had such a hard time finding the right word when I spoke, or why I couldn’t say the words correctly when I could retrieve them.
I didn’t know why I so often got lost in cities I had lived in for years, or why I still had to stop and think for a moment before I knew my right from my left. I didn’t know why I had such trouble memorizing things that seemed so easy for others.
Or why someone like me – someone who has started and run two businesses – could still not read well, or spell correctly enough to take a message and then be able to read it afterwards.
I didn’t know that I had severe-to-profound dyslexia.
For 75 years I prayed for God to help me. Last fall, I prayed again – that God would please, PLEASE, send me someone who could teach me how to spell.
The very next day, I ‘just so happened’ to sit next to a Dyslexia Specialist at a local event, and we ‘just so happened’ to strike up a conversation about what she does for a living. She ‘just so happened’ to tell me about the signs and symptoms of dyslexia, and I immediately recognized them in me.
Best of all, she ‘just so happened’ to tell me that there are solutions! That people who have struggled with dyslexia, for even 75 years, could still learn to read, write and spell! I made an appointment for her to test me. I cried when she told me that I had dyslexia. They were not tears of sadness, however. They were happy tears! Tears of joy! I finally had an answer!
I have been receiving the right kind of tutoring, twice a week, for a year.
I read the word authentic for the first time last month. I can now spell words that I could not even say before. I am 75 years old. Believe me – there is hope.
I have been thinking back on my 75 years. I thought of the very worst time in my life – the time when my daughter died.
Then I thought of the very best time in my life – it was the time I realized I could learn how to spell! When I finally, finally, realized what my life’s problem was. I am dyslexic.