My son Kody completed all ten levels of the Barton Reading & Spelling System. He is now a Junior in high school. He recently wrote this paper for English class. I wanted to share it with you.
Being 17 years old and having dyslexia may not seem like a big deal. But what I’ve had to do to this point in my life may be hard for others to comprehend. For most people, when they hear of someone that has a disability, they feel bad and look down on them.
People do not understand how hardworking, motivated and determined we are.
From the beginning of elementary school to third grade, I was always behind in school and not progressing like other students in my class, no matter how hard I had worked. I was then tested for dyslexia.
Being told I have a disability by my mother was really hard to accept in the beginning; however, it may have actually been one of the best parts of my life.
I finally had an explanation as to why I wasn’t doing as well in school. Teachers finally would stop saying that I “wasn’t trying” or that I just needed to put more effort into school.
I knew that having a disability was not going to cause me to give up. I knew that I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else.
I pushed myself throughout the rest of elementary school and through middle school, trying to get on the same level as my peers. I tried many things — such as doing different reading programs (some that had helped amazingly, the Barton Reading & Spelling System, and others that did not), working with my teachers one-on-one outside of school, and spending every night doing four to five hours of homework when other kids would get their homework done in class.
The one goal I wanted to achieve by high school was to avoid standing out from everyone else. Going into high school, I was finally on the same level as the other kids in my grade.
Having known and experienced just how hard it can be to have a disability, I have insights as to what other kids are most likely dealing with. It may be peers making fun of them, being told they can’t do something just because of their disability, or teachers not understanding how they learn best.
For me, the most stressful part of class was being terrified I was going to be called on to read out loud and then being judged by my peers.
When given a writing assignment, I would sit by myself, away from everyone, so no one would be able to see my writing and laugh at me.
Being someone with a disability, I know that there are always going to be people who will never understand the journey that I, along with many others, have faced; nor what I have done to get to where I am now. I hope that sharing my story will help others understand not only the negatives of having a disability, but also to see the opportunities that are possible.
Through all the struggles I’ve faced and experienced, I have always pushed through and thrived. The biggest advice I can give to someone with a disability is not to be ashamed of it or let it label you as “abnormal” (compared to whatever “normal” may be).
In my case, I would never say, “I’m a dyslexic.” I would say, “I am a person that has dyslexia.”
A disability is one part of who you are; it’s up to you to show the world how you want to be seen.
Koby Koblitz, Barton Graduate
If you have ever watched one of your own children struggle for years in school due to undetected dyslexia, you will step in faster when your next child starts to struggle – as this parent did.
Our story is so similar to other families I have met: the daily homework struggles, tears of frustration over a worksheet that takes other kids only a few minutes to complete, “wait and see” advice from some teachers, and “your daughter is too smart to be dyslexic” from others. I have never felt so helpless.
But when Lillian was in second grade, we were so lucky to have a teacher who pulled me aside and recommended we go outside of the school system to get a private evaluation, and lucky that the evaluator recommended the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
When we started the Barton System, Lillian was in the spring of second grade, reading at a beginning first grade level. We worked very hard to close the gap, tutoring 30 minutes every day (and increased it to an hour a day during the summer).
When Lillian took her state reading test in the spring of third grade, she scored in the “meets grade level” category – only 4 points away from “exceeds.”
Now, after her second year of tutoring, she is able to read books at her interest level, and we often catch her reading just for fun – which means more to us than any test result. The growth we have seen in her confidence and self-esteem is priceless.
I have also benefited from your program. It is so empowering to finally be able to understand how to help my kids learn to read, and to speak knowledgeably with their teachers.
But more importantly, I was able to avoid struggle and failure with my younger son Nate, who was 5 1/2 when we had his sister evaluated. Nate had almost every early warning sign for dyslexia. So I started working with him at that time (in shorter sessions), and he has learned to read solely through the Barton System. We had him privately evaluated at the beginning of his first grade year, and Nate was reading at a mid-second grade level!
Nate is a poster-child for the importance of early intervention. I recently spoke about my experience tutoring my own kids when I testified before the Oregon Senate Committee on Education in support of our dyslexia bill.
Thank you again for creating such an accessible, affordable program, and for being so helpful and available when I had questions. My kids now have a limitless future, and your program allowed me to give it to them. We are so incredibly grateful.
Happy Valley, OR
Many children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services – not even if a parent brings in a diagnostic report.
In that case, fight hard for classroom accommodations – and get the right type of help after school.
This parent did not do that – and regrets it.
Dyslexia runs in my family tree. My father, who is 60, can still remember being in second grade and having the teacher call him up to the front of the class to read out loud. The teacher would force him to stand there and “do it until you get it right” – despite him crying in front of the entire class.
I have a degree in Elementary Education, but we never had a single solitary course – not even a single lecture – on dyslexia.
Yet when my daughter struggled in kindergarten, her teacher suggested the possibility of dyslexia because:
- On DIBELS, she was not meeting benchmarks in nonsense word reading
- She had terrible spelling and could not retain her spelling words — not even the high frequency words like “some”
- She already had 2 years of speech therapy for R’s and L’s, but was not improving
- She constantly confused left and right
- And she still could not tie her shoes
At end of first grade, I asked the school to test her for a possible learning disability. The school said they wouldn’t test her until at least 3rd grade.
So during second grade, when she was not making progress in Tier 2 of RTI, I hired a highly qualified private professional to test her. She was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dyslexia.
But when I shared that report with the school psychologist, he stated that dyslexia does not exist, that Susan Barton’s website was not a valid resource, and we could not even get a 504 Plan because he felt our daughter did not need it. He claimed she displayed no difficulties and would prove to be a good student.
Her teachers and even the principal were at that meeting, and they went along with the psychologist’s assessment – leaving us to wonder if we really knew what we were talking about.
We were so confused that we decided to follow the school’s advice — and regret it.
Our daughter is now at the end of third grade. Despite another year of phonics instruction and more RTI, she still struggles with spelling, sounding out longer words, and cannot comprehend her science textbook when she reads it herself. (But she has no trouble comprehending it when I read it TO her.)
The school did eventually test her, but her scores were not low enough to qualify for Special Ed services. And her report card grades are not too bad. She gets low B’s or C’s.
We have shown our daughter’s diagnostic report to other dyslexia professionals and organizations, and they have all agreed that she definitely does have dyslexia.
So what do I do now?
One mother’s journey to help her son
by Debbie Copple
Shared with her prior written permission
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s kindergarten teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. Don’t worry. He just needs to work harder,” she reassured me.
My bright boy, who had eagerly waited for the day he could go to school to learn to read, had begun to tell me that reading was stupid, and school was stupid.
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s first grade teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He just needs to work harder,” was again the response that I received.
This was after he had become so frustrated one evening that he cried, “Reading is stupid. It makes my brain hurt,” and “I am stupid.”
I sought help for my son and was told that Vision Therapy was what he needed. Over $6,000 and 1 year later, he was even further behind. “Could it be dyslexia?” I asked his Vision Therapist. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He could do better, he just chooses not to,” she told me.
In second grade, Casey attended a public school. His teacher told me that he was reading on a Kindergarten level. I was shocked. “Could it be Dyslexia?” I asked the teacher and the reading specialist. “No,” was their reply.
Meanwhile, my bright boy was struggling, his self-esteem suffering, and he had behavior problems at school. Casey was heartbroken to see the U’s on his progress reports.
“Do you test for dyslexia?” I asked a psychologist. “Yes,” he told me. While waiting for the results, I searched the internet for information about dyslexia. I found a very knowledgeable woman, Susan Barton. She told me what areas of weakness (indicators of dyslexia) I should look for in his testing report.
When the psychologist shared the results, the weaknesses – the indicators – were there. I asked if my son had dyslexia and was told, “Dyslexia cannot be tested. Dyslexia is an all-inclusive term for learning disabilities.”
I stopped asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” I knew the answer. With God as my guide, I learned to tutor my son using an Orton-Gillingham based system, the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Casey’s grades quickly improved from U’s to A’s and B’s. His DIBELS scores improved from “High Risk” to “Above Average.” After only 4 months of tutoring, he was reading at a third grade level. Reading and spelling finally made sense.
Dyslexia is NOT determined by how great a parent you are, how much education you have, or how much money you have. Dyslexia does not discriminate.
Parents, you must listen to your gut instinct and listen to your child. Professionals can be wrong. They may have a big heart and a higher education degree, but they can still be wrong.
For professionals reading this (teachers, doctors, principals, reading specialists) my hope is that you will take the time to learn more about dyslexia, so that you too can spot the warning signs.
It is NOT my intention to discredit any of my son’s teachers, private schools, or public schools. My intention is to increase awareness. We need to do more to recognize and understand dyslexia.
Parents, if you have ever found yourself asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” the answer is “Yes, it could be.” Please do not wait another moment to get them help. It is their life, their future, their self-esteem.
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.
Many schools use DIBELS for progress monitoring. But by the end of first grade, DIBELS only checks reading fluency – which means reading speed. But children with dyslexia, even after their reading skills have greatly improved, may never read as fast as the other kids.
And focusing solely on fluency can cause teachers to miss the big picture – as this mother shared in a recent email.
Our daughter is starting 4th grade. She is in Level 5 of the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
The school she attended last year was terrific. But we moved, and the 504 team at this new school has NO CLUE about dyslexia. It is so painful and frustrating to have to continually fight their ignorance.
We explained that she has been professionally diagnosed with dyslexia, and that due to our paying for the right type of private tutoring, her phonemic awareness and decoding skills are now above grade level. So is her reading comprehension.
But they are focused solely on her reading speed (fluency), which as you know, may never completely “normalize.” Who cares?
My daughter says that when she tries to read as fast as the teacher wants, she then has no idea what she read. So what’s the point?
On the state standards test at the end of last year, she scored ABOVE grade level in reading comprehension, science, and writing. And she scored AT grade level in math and in 4 of the 5 strands for reading. The only thing she scored low on is reading fluency.
Yet without our knowledge, this new school pulled her out of Chorus and sent her to the “reading intervention room.” My daughter said there were about 15 other kids in the room. Many could not read at all. They handed her crayons and told her to color a book cover.
After about 10 minutes, my daughter went to the teacher and asked her what they would be doing. The teacher said, “Testing kids.” My daughter replied, “I already was tested, and I should be in Chorus now.” The teacher insisted she had to stay in that room so that the teacher could account for all of the students.
She then handed my daughter a piece of paper, which she brought home. She was supposed to fill in the following blanks. “My name is _____. I like ______. I love ______. I feel ______. I need _____.” After showing it to me, she crumbled it up and cried. I cried, too.
She’s 11, her IQ is probably higher than the teacher, and she does not belong in that class – so we pulled her from it. The school totally disagrees with our decision and warned us, “If she tanks, we’ll be back at this table again.”
Most homeschool parents do not know any more about dyslexia than teachers. But homeschool parents tend to focus on their child’s strengths while they continue to search for answers – as this mom shared.
I have homeschooled all 3 of my children, one of whom is severely dyslexic. It has been wonderful to be able to tutor my son in the Barton System while making every accommodation he needs to excel in all subjects.
Though he struggled with reading and writing for years before we found the Barton System, we always focused on his strengths, so he has never felt like he wasn’t as smart as others. Quite the contrary. He has excelled in math – completing high school geometry in 7th grade, and he is a history buff. He is also in a high school level literature discussion group (he listens to the books on audio), and he is involved in sports and theater.
My other two children are not dyslexic, so he has no qualms at all about asking his little brother or older sister how to spell a word now and then. To him, being dyslexic is really no different than someone being a faster or slower runner, taller or shorter, blue eyes or brown eyes, etc.
I am incredibly thankful to Susan Barton for giving so much of her time to present lectures on dyslexia. I went to one of her free presentations at my local public library about 4 years ago, and it literally changed our lives. I suddenly realized what was going on with my son, and shortly thereafter, had him diagnosed with dyslexia and started tutoring him with the Barton System.
To hear Susan Barton’s advice for homeschool parents (or those who are thinking about homeschooling), watch her free 30-minute on-line presentation by clicking on the following link:
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.
I do not often hear from a sibling of someone with dyslexia. But a parent just sent me this essay, which her daughter wrote for a school assignment.
I was in 5th grade when my brother Haley was diagnosed with dyslexia.
The first time I heard Haley had dyslexia was on a school night when my mom was reading to Haley in bed. All of a sudden, I heard my mom scream, and I ran upstairs thinking something was wrong. But my mom was just giving Haley high fives and kissing him because had read a sentence all by himself.
At first, I was mad because I felt, “Hey, when I get straight A’s, I don’t get that much praise. Yet Haley read one simple sentence and he got a ton of it.”
About an hour later, I went into my mom’s room to ask why she praised Haley so much. That’s when she told me Haley had dyslexia and dysgraphia. It took her about half an hour to explain what it was, and how it would affect our family. When she shared that, I felt ashamed of my jealousy.
So that night, while Haley was sleeping, I went into his room and gave him a kiss and a hug. I told him I loved him and would support him through everything.
Since then, our life has been a great adventure. My mom and dad have worked so hard for both of us.
My mom starting using the Barton Reading & Spelling System with Haley, and he made so much progress that she started tutoring other kids. Now she runs a clinic called Haley’s Hope where several tutors help children and adults with dyslexia.
My dad has taken over helping Haley and I with our homework.
I am so proud of everyone in my family.