This is why our bright kids with dyslexia often develop anxiety or depression — and dread going to school.
Jessica Spriggs sent this to me as an email, and gave me permission to share it. She wrote:
I’m very proud of both of my kids, but only Olivia wakes up every day knowing that she will face huge hurdles throughout her school day.
Lately, it has been extremely hard to convince her that going to school is a good idea.
She sits in class feeling defeated because she learns differently than most of her classmates.
She struggles getting through homework.
And even though she studies for tests, she may barely pass a test. She knows the material inside and out, but to apply it in the traditional way seems impossible at times.
Her teachers rave about her huge vocabulary, her poise, her generosity, and her creativity.
But there is always that moment when she feels like giving up.
Maybe it’s when her name is not posted for honor roll because she just could not make A’s and B’s despite hours of studying.
Maybe it’s when she has to think about which hand is her right hand, and she gets confused.
Maybe it’s the overwhelming pressure she feels when she knows she has to take a standardized test soon — and wonders if she can pass on to the next grade.
She has lots of anxiety, but this girl has gained strength, grit, power, endurance, and most of all, a backbone to handle everything thrown her way.
She is the face of dyslexia, but she will not let it define her!
She will concentrate on the things that make her happy: being kind, sewing, artwork, and public speaking.
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
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.
Parents often ask me how to build their child’s confidence. Confidence will grow when your child is successful at something that used to be hard . . . as this parent shared:
Both of my kids are dyslexic. But my daughter, who is going into 7th grade, suffered tremendously in school since she is older and was in a traditional school longer. My poor daughter was an undiagnosed dyslexic all the way through 5th grade.
Every year, I spent hours and hours after school and on weekends trying to reteach material she was not understanding at school – and to prepare for all the spelling tests. I did not know anything about dyslexia, so we did what the school recommended and drilled the spelling list every single night, 7 days a week, hoping she would pass the spelling test through constant repetition.
Some Fridays she passed the test, and some Fridays, she did not. But the following Monday, she could no longer remember the sequence of letters. What a colossal waste of our time and effort (hers and mine), and it was so demoralizing to my daughter who began to show signs of clinical depression.
So we began homeschooling this past year, and I found the Barton System. We started it in late fall, and I had to go very slowly in the beginning (mainly because she was so down on herself), but she is now half-way through Level 3.
She took a spelling test from an assessor the other day on the recommendation of a friend. We did not study for the test. It was given to her cold.
There was a time when she would not have gotten a single word right on that list, and what’s more, she would have been utterly terrified at the prospect. But this time, when a word was read to her that she was uncertain of, she would finger spell the sounds, write the word down and study it, sound it out again, then change what she felt might need changing.
She got every single word correct, which was great.
But what was even better was seeing her confidently studying the words when she felt the spelling might be wrong – instead of just giving up in tears. She did not panic going into the test, either. She sat down confidently, and left the test the same way.
When she found out she had not made a single misspelling, she and I looked at each other with huge grins on our faces.
The next morning, she got up early and asked if we could go ahead and start our next Barton lesson before breakfast.
Thank you, Susan. There really aren’t adequate words to express how grateful we are.
I get emails like this every single day.
I have been trying to get my son’s school to test him for dyslexia or a learning disability. But they refuse. They say my son gets good grades, and I should be proud.
I am proud of my son, but he struggles with reading and spelling. Homework that takes children without dyslexia 30 minutes takes my son over 2 hours – with lots of frustration, yelling, and tears.
I also had dyslexia as a child.
What surprises me is nothing has changed in our schools.
Parents, if you think special education services are the answer, read this.
My son is going in 4th grade but is reading on a 2nd grade level. His spelling is also very low, and he is dysgraphic.
Although he has an IEP, I have seen very little improvement over the past 2 years.
The worst part is he has given up on learning. He claims he just doesn’t care. It’s very hard to engage him in any kind of learning at school. He would rather act up than learn.
Many children would rather be thought of as “the bad kid” . . . than “the stupid kid.”
The worst part of struggling academically for years . . . is what it does to a child emotionally, as this mother shares:
Susan, I just watched your video. It made me cry.
I have known for months now that my youngest daughter probably has dyslexia. She has been devastated by school and her inability to read. This bright child is sinking deeper and deeper into despair … about school … and about herself.
I cried because I realized that my brother probably suffered from this as a young boy, I probably have this to some degree, and so does my oldest daughter. I did not realize there was such a strong genetic link. How could I have missed this?
I know my daughter needs specialized teaching, and I am trying to get this help from her public school. She has an IEP, but they don’t seem to be giving her the right kind of teaching to get her reading on track. They seem satisfied in sending her on to 3rd grade “with support.”
I do not believe support is going to solve the problem. She needs to be taught in a way that she can actually learn.
Parents, stop waiting for the school to change.
If your child’s school does not provide intervention using an Orton-Gillingham based system by someone who is well trained and uses it properly, then hire a private tutor to provide it during the summer – or get the Barton System and tutor your child yourself.
To learn more, go to:
A child’s skills can improve tremendously over the summer – if they get the right type of tutoring.
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.
When adults share the emotional pain caused by dyslexia, and how it continues to impact them even as adults, it will give you the anger and courage needed to fight hard for laws that require early screening and early intervention.
I’m 23 years old now, and I barely graduated from high school. My fiancee and I just watched your dyslexia video, and the story you told about your nephew Ben made me cry. It brought back many painful memories. I am like Ben, but unlike Ben, I never got the right help. I would like to tell you my story, and then I’d like to ask you a few questions.
In kindergarten, I had to walk home. It was only about three or four blocks, but I would often get lost. Also, I still remember getting criticized by my teachers, classmates, and even my own parents when I was falling behind in reciting my ABC’s, my 1-10’s, and even my phone number and address.
They almost retained me in Kindergarten, but my mother talked them out of it.
In first grade, I started to learn to read, but again, I was falling behind. All the way through school, I feared my turn to read in class. It’s funny how good memories are sometimes forgotten, but bad memories never go away. When I was trying to learn to read, I can still remember my father telling me that I was lazy, and I just wasn’t trying. I guess my tears and frustration weren’t enough proof for him to see how hard I really was trying.
When I finally got tested for dyslexia in 3rd grade, they put me into “Special Ed.” If you ask a child what Special Ed means, they will probably say “retarded.” That’s what my peers called me, and that’s what I thought I was.
My parents sent me to many programs, and spent a lot of money. Yet I’ve held a grudge against my parents for years; I felt they failed me and didn’t try hard enough to get the right type of help. That’s because after years of “help,” I was still the same.
I struggled all the way through high school and barely graduated. In my junior year, the state created a High School Graduation Exam. In order to graduate, you had to pass 3 tests: reading, writing, and math. You could take them 3 times, but if you don’t pass by the end of high school, you only got an “Attendance” certificate. The first time I took it, I somehow passed the reading test. But I failed math and writing.
To this day, I can’t do math. I still mess up on simple things such as adding and subtracting. I still don’t know my multiplication tables. I’ve tried to learn them for years, but I just can’t remember them. I’ll have all the fours mastered one night, but when I try them again the next day, I’ll only remember a few of them. By the following day, I won’t remember any of them.
So I switched to a vocational high school where you could take construction electricity to earn math credits. In that hands-on class, I was a super star.
But I still could not pass the math portion of the high school exit exam — or the writing part, which you had to do by hand and they graded it on spelling, punctuation, and neatness of handwriting.
Fortunately, many parents in the district (whose kids could not pass the test) fought the district and got them to withdraw the test. So I did graduate after all — with a D average.
After high school, I went from job to job, but I wasn’t happy. I needed a skill, so I turned to the military. I took the ASVAB for the Coast Guard, and once again, I almost failed it. But I scored just high enough to get into a mechanics position.
But Basic Training was a nightmare. I could not memorize and retain information, marching left versus right was almost impossible, and I still could not write down anything. In the end I had a mental breakdown, and got discharged.
That was two years ago, and since then, I’ve been going from one job I hated to the next.
But last January, my finance gave me an ultimatum. “Go back to school and try, or I’m going to leave you.”
So I’m back in school in the diesel mechanics program.
Although the Disabilities Office has provided some software, more time on tests, and a note taker for each of my classes, they are not teaching me how to overcome my dyslexia.
I still can’t spell, do multiplication (or most other math), memorize anything, tell my left from my right, or find my errors when I write. I even make mistakes when filling out a job application.
Yet there is so much I can do. Right now, I work as an assistant maintenance person at the fire department, and I’m good. Really good. I can fix just about anything.
Yet that’s not what this world wants.
I want help to overcome my dyslexia so badly. I will try anything. I just want to be like everyone around me.
If it’s too late for me, then I need to know what to do to help my children when I have them. I do not want them to feel like I do now.
Hopeless, helpless, and sad.
Parents often don’t believe me when I tell them that most school psychologists have had no training in dyslexia. But I get emails like this every day:
From a school psychologist in New York:
I would LOVE to attend your Screening for Dyslexia conference.
Our number one question during RTI meetings is if there is a possibility a child might have dyslexia. This topic is vague to me even after years of reading and doing independent research.
Yet as the “expert” at these meetings, I struggle with remediation techniques that may work after I screen a student and determine deficits.
Or from this school psychologist in Colorado:
I am a school psychologist in Colorado. I agree to your notion that we have no specialty in diagnosing dyslexia, however the prevalence of parents’ requests seems to grow and grow. Unfortunately, when parents cannot afford outside assistance, we are the only ones that are left.
I have been to several workshops, symposiums, etc, yet do not feel completely educated on the subject. Do you recommend any books or specific journals on the topic? How about books that may target age groups lower than 8 years old in looking at dyslexia?
That lack of knowledge causes this:
My son just finished second grade and is dyslexic. I am sure of it. His father is dyslexic, and his father’s father is dyslexic. He has almost every single warning sign listed on your website and in many of the books that I have read.
Yet when he qualified for special education services in May, they classified him as having an “Emotional Disorder” — even though his reading scores were really, really low. The school considers “average” anything from the 16th percentile to the 85th percentile, and his reading score was exactly at the 16th percentile.
The school psychologist told me that my son’s anxiety and depression were “off the charts” and that he CAN read — but his anxiety gets in the way and he becomes “too stressed out” to read.
When I tried to explain that he was most likely anxious and depressed because he CANNOT read, the psychologist just flippantly said, “So it’s one of those which came first things — the chicken or the egg.”
They never looked at his spelling (which is horrible, with all of the classic dyslexic spelling mistakes) or asked him to write anything (he HATES to write, even a few sentences).
His IEP only lists services for emotional issues (meet with the counselor once a week). What do I do? Just let him flounder?
He won’t be able to read the board or any of the books used in third grade. Do I just let him founder with no accommodations? That seems so cruel.
He already hates himself for being “stupid and different” — his words, not mine.