Adults who never got the right type of help in school say that writing papers in college was nearly impossible, as this person shared:
I just watched your dyslexia video, and my son has almost every single warning signs from preschool to elementary school.
I also have almost every warning sign. I always joked about being “dyslexic” growing up because I was always lost and always getting my left and right confused. But I never realized I had all of the classic signs.
I barely made it out of high school. I never wanted to go back because school was too painful !!!
I did try a semester at the local junior college, but I dropped out when the first writing assignment was given. I knew I couldn’t do it.
Years later, I took a class at a different junior college that was taught by a friend of mine. It was the most painful thing I have ever done. I did not want to disappoint my friend, so I stuck with it.
I agonized over every writing assignment. She couldn’t figure why it took me hours, and even days, to do such small writing assignments. This was before computers. I had mounds of crumpled papers, and I just about killed myself to get through that course.
I got the 2nd highest grade in the class, yet I still felt stupid because I was the only one who had to work so hard in such an easy class.
That was it. I was done with college.
I don’t want my son to go down that same path. What can I do to help him?
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.
If you struggled in school, going back to college as an adult is scary. But it is even worse to watch your child or grandchild struggle in school the same way you did – as this grandmother shares.
I am 57 years old with a BSN in nursing. After 30 years of being out of school, I am applying to graduate school for a MSN in nursing. I am terrified.
My early school years were just horrible. No one knew what to do with me, so they just passed me through each year.
I had to attend summer school EVERY summer. I hated it.
I grew up thinking I was just stupid and that I must be lazy because it took so much time to read, study and retain information.
In high school, I worked so hard to get good grades. I would read a chapter (of course, that took forever), then I would go back and outline the chapter and write it down in my notebook (that also took forever), and then I would reread it every night.
I did not know that everyone did not have to do that.
I am embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to learn the alphabet or the multiplication tables.
Spell check is my godsend, but you’re right. It often does not work for me.
You’re also right about having to write a hand-written letter. It makes me sweat!
I am pretty sure my seven year old granddaughter has dyslexia. I see myself in her. She is struggling with reading in school and is starting to say that she hates school.
I will do anything to prevent her from going through the torture that I went through as a child.
Susan replied with:
If your granddaughter gets the right type of tutoring now — every day during the summer, and at least twice a week next school year – her reading will greatly improve. And her spelling and writing will also get better.
I will send you some tricks for learning math facts.
Until her skills reach grade level, her parents should provide 3 accommodations during homework time, and her teacher should provide some in class, as well.
If that happens, your granddaughter will NOT go through the same “torture” in school that you did.
Since dyslexia is inherited, any adult who has dyslexia should watch for it in their children.
But adults with only mild or moderate dyslexia may not know they have it because they were never tested for it. But they will recognize these classic warning signs.
Lifelong trouble with spelling is one classic warning sign, as this college graduate shared:
Before the invention of the computer and “spell check,” it would take me forever to write a paper. I NEVER wrote letters to friends.
When I asked my mother how to spell a word, she would tell me to go look it up. How the heck can you look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it? I never did understand that. But my mother was a 1952 spelling bee champion, so she had no understanding of my difficulty.
I would spend HOURS going through all of the G’s trying to find the right spelling of jaguar.
Then an English teacher in college took me aside and asked, “Alice, you can’t spell, can you?” I sheepishly admitted I could not. He then asked me how I would spell jaguar. I replied that I wasn’t sure. He asked me if I could spell cat. I said yes. He then handed me a thesaurus and told me to look up cat. And there, under cat, was jaguar.
He then told me he never again wanted me to hand in a paper that was “dumbed down” because I couldn’t spell a word. He was the one who started the ball rolling to get me tested for dyslexia. I was 20 years old and in college.
Although it took forever to write papers, even with a thesaurus, I did get a college degree.
Another classic warning sign is being a very slow reader and having to guess to figure out the longer words – as this man shared:
At 78, I still struggle with dyslexia. Growing up in Tennessee in the 30’s and 40’s, I was viewed as dumb or lazy.
I may not seem as bad as others because I learned how to cheat, and how to avoid English and other courses that required lots of reading or writing. So I made good grades in college – graduating in the top 20% of my engineering class, and then getting an MBA.
But reading is still a lot of work.
And if you are a slow reader with terrible spelling, and you are also unable to master a foreign language, the odds are pretty high that you do have dyslexia – as this woman shared:
My brother’s kindergarten teacher suspected he might have dyslexia, but it took 2 years before he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia.
When I was 12, I attended a Susan Barton presentation on dyslexia with my parents. During her lecture, I realized I was also dyslexic – but I did not struggle as much as my brother. I was just a slow reader and a terrible speller.
It was not until I had to take a foreign language class in college, and failed every language I tried, that my parents finally realized I might also have dyslexia, and had me tested.
If you know or suspect that you have dyslexia, please watch for it in your children – because it is an inherited condition. Not all of them will have it, but about half of them will.
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.
Technology tools help adults with dyslexia survive. But as the following emails prove, they never stop wanting to improve their reading and spelling skills.
One woman wrote:
I watched your video on dyslexia, and I am exactly like your brother’s child.
I am 48. I am using Naturally Speaking software to write this. Otherwise, I would spend my entire day trying to fix my spelling mistakes.
I’m at the point where my heart is on the floor. I have tried every program in school, out of school, and on the internet.
At the moment, I’m doing a program that is supposed to increase your brain power to try please my mother for the last time.
My tears were flowing as I watched the demo of your program. Your program is the best I have seen in all my life. It makes so much sense to me.
I’m upset to realize that the form of dyslexia I have is complicated. I am also sad because I know this problem will never go away.
I don’t have to tell you the agony that a person living with dyslexia goes through. Because of that, when I was 16, I decided not to have kids. And that was a wise decision.
Things that happen in the classroom also happen at work, as this man shared:
I am 30 years old. I have always struggled with reading. I received extra help in school through Title 1 Reading, Special Ed, and summer school. As you might suspect, I hated school and would avoid going whenever possible.
Recently, I was at a seminar for my work and was asked to read out loud to the group. I was mortified.
Is there anything that would help me – an adult who has struggled for so many years – read better?
Yes. Adults with dyslexia can improve their reading and spelling at any age – so they will not have to avoid careers, as this woman did:
I am a deep thinker. I love learning about different religions and talking about God with my friends. So I would like to get a Masters degree in Theology.
But with that degree, I would end up being a teacher – which I am afraid to do because I would have to write things on the board.
I would also have to grade papers, so I would need to know more about punctuation than just a period and a comma.
And I might even have to read passages aloud to the class.
As the following man shared, companies that employ dyslexic adults are often willing to pay to improve their skills.
I am 56 years old, and I have tried a lot of things during my life to overcome dyslexia.
It started when I was in second grade. I can remember my mom 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 any more because it was a waste of money.
I took phonics in college, but it did not help. In fact, I failed a speech therapy 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.
I am in charge of a region with 145 centers that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. My company is trying to find something to help me. Is it too late? If not, what would you recommend?
No, it is never, ever too late to greatly improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of adults with dyslexia. The oldest student I personally worked with was 69 years old when we started. The oldest Barton student I have met was 83.
If adults get at least 2 hours of one-on-one tutoring by someone using an Orton-Gillingham based system designed for adults, such as the Barton Reading & Spelling System or the Wilson Reading System, their skills – and their self-esteem – will get so much better.
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.
College for adults with untreated dyslexia can be a nightmare, as this man shared:
I am 38 years old. A friend urged me to attend a talk you were giving in Ohio.
What I learned astounded me! I have many of the problems you shared.
In grade school and high school, I struggled SO hard academically, was called names and told “You’re lazy,” “You’re not trying hard enough,” “You’re stupid,” etc. I failed second grade, and time after time, I failed math and spelling.
Hours upon hours were spent trying to teach me how to tell time. Homework sessions all ended the same way . . . with me in tears, my father yelling, screaming, and pounding his fist on the table. You have no idea what it was like.
After high school, I did a variety of jobs, but I wanted more. Friends told me, “College will be easier now that you’re older.” So at age 36, I enrolled in college, put my heart and soul into studying and homework, but it was just like elementary and high school all over again.
I have been struggling in college for two years. I have failed basic math 3 times. My spelling is atrocious at best. And I spend so much time doing homework because I have to read things multiple times to get the meaning.
I have no idea what to do. Can you help me?
With accommodations, they can often succeed, as this woman shared.
My dyslexia was not discovered until I was a junior in college. That year, I broke the thumb on my writing hand. During my recovery period, when I could not write, I was provided with a copy of lecture notes, and I was allowed to take tests orally.
For the first time ever, I made the Deans List.
Yet most colleges require current testing before they will provide accommodations, and testing is expensive, as this Certified Barton tutor knows:
I have been tutoring a severely dyslexic boy who is being raised by his grandmother, who is also dyslexic.
One of her sons had many problems in school with reading and spelling. He abused drugs and alcohol in his early 20’s, but he has been clean for 12 years now. Yet he is still unable to hold down a job.
He was recently given a grant to attend a local community college, but the college will not let him use their reading machines or provide any accommodations until he provides a current written diagnosis of dyslexia.
The grandmother of my student cannot afford the cost of testing. She is stretched to the limit to pay for her grandson’s private tutoring. Where can he go for free or low-cost testing? He absolutely must have accommodations in college or else he is going to fail – again.
Parents, you can change this by working together to pass laws to force public schools to screen for dyslexia during the early grades.
Congratulations to Arkansas, whose governor signed their Dyslexia Bill into law this morning – thanks to the efforts of hundreds of parents and caring teachers.
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.
I love it when teachers attend my free presentations on dyslexia – because they share amazing stories of how hard they worked to make it through college:
A new teacher shared:
I saw you speak about a month ago. Let me first say that you were wonderful! I am a new teacher, 24 years old, and I went with some coworkers. We left thinking that every educator should be required to attend one of your seminars.
I now think I might have dyslexia. I always felt that I was slower to understand things in school because I couldn’t read as well as the other students. I remember my teacher putting me in a remedial reading class. I got out of it by faking that I needed glasses and that was the reason why I couldn’t read. After that, I got really good at faking reading.
I graduated from college after struggling many nights trying to read the textbooks and just giving up. I am sad to admit this, but I am a college graduate who has never read an entire chapter of any textbook. It’s not that I didn’t want to read the books. It’s just that I would start reading, but I would get lost. I kept having to reread the same page over and over again, reading was exhausting, and I could not understand what I was reading because I read so slowly and inaccurately. Yet when someone explained it to me verbally, I would instantly understand it.
Even though I never read a full chapter of any textbook in college, I did end up graduating with an overall 3.1 GPA.
A teacher at a private Christian school shared:
Your talk was amazing. I have a degree in Theology, but I stopped buying textbooks after the first semester because I never read more than the first few pages of them.
Instead, I formed study groups where we would TALK about the subject and share the information that “each person” learned from reading the textbook.
I also loved the literature courses. I could not read all of the words in the books, but I could guess at enough of them to follow the storyline. I also discovered that many of “the classics” could be downloaded as text files, so I could use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read them out loud to me.
A teacher pursuing her Master’s degree shared:
I am 56 years old and have dyslexia. I see myself in so many of your descriptions: the disorganized desk with piles of paper, the messy room, the right versus left problems, and spelling. Lord, I can’t spell anything.
Technology tools, especially spell and grammar checkers, have been a saving grace for me. I use them constantly. My wonderful husband has also read and corrected the spelling, punctuation, and grammar in my papers, my emails, and my class work for the last 30 years.
I am now going for a Master’s degree. It is sooooo frustrating that I can make A’s on all of my discussions and demonstration classes, but I can barely get a C on multiple choice tests. I run out of time on every test because when I read the questions, I skip words or misread them. So I have to check and recheck to be sure I’ve read each long convoluted question, and each possible answer, correctly. I can then choose the correct answer, but it takes me longer. Time always runs out before I finish the test.
From a caring teacher and friend:
When you mentioned that dyslexics have poor written expression – even though they have a clear grasp of the concept when discussing it orally, I thought of a young lady I met in college. We started out studying together, but eventually, I became her scribe. When we discussed a topic, she clearly knew what she was talking about. But when she came back with a paper she had written on that same topic, it made very little sense. She would ask me to look over and edit her papers, but this was such a struggle for both of us (her during the original writing, and me during the proofreading) that it simply became easier to write together sitting in front of the computer. She would talk, and I would type.
She shared that she had a reading and writing learning disability and had gotten an IEP in third grade. She also shared that she had been told by several teachers that she was unlikely to graduate from high school and probably would never be able to attend college.
But she had an amazing work ethic. She worked her butt off. And she earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Her story stuck with me, and I’ve been so angry at those teachers who dared to make such a negative prediction to this obviously bright young woman. I can’t help but wonder how different her educational experience would have been if only her teachers had known about dyslexia.