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College

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.

Warn the parents

If you combine the emails I get from teachers with those I get from parents, you can see why so many students with dyslexia drop out of high school.

A caring teacher asked:

I am a first-year 3rd grade teacher.

I have one student in my classroom who is very bright. She does extremely well in all of her subjects, except reading and spelling. Her spelling is atrocious, and so is her handwriting. When she writes the required sentences each week, her sentence structure and words are simplistic and not at all similar to how she speaks.

When reading aloud, she runs over punctuation marks, and she doesn’t even try to sound out unknown words. Even when I help her and eventually tell her the word, she will often not know that very same word when it appears again a page or two later.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming up, and I was wondering if I should warn her parents about the possibility of dyslexia.

Yes,  if you suspect a child may have dyslexia PLEASE mention it to their parents.   They know their child is struggling because they fight the nightly “homework wars.”

If dyslexia is not discovered and dealt with during those early grades, teachers in junior high often complain:

 I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful presentation I attended about 2 weeks ago at my school. I was moved to tears and then later, I became quite angry!

I am a teacher at the school that hosted your presentation. I teach 7th grade English Language Arts, and I’ve been searching for an answer to this question for years by going to conferences, holding discussions with my colleagues, and asking administrators: “What do I do with the students who read at the 2nd grade level in 7th grade?”

I will never understand our approach to education. How can it be that effective reading systems exist, we do not employ them, and yet we are expected to raise their scores and close the gap? (And we call ourselves educators.)

How much longer are we going to allow this farce to continue?

But the real tragedy is what happens to these children in high school.  Their parents send me heart-breaking emails, like the following:

My son has dyslexia, he’s 17, and I don’t know what to do.

He can barely read, he can’t spell, and his special education teacher isn’t helping. He’s slipping away, yet he really is a good kid.

He is giving up. He wants to drop out of high school.

Help. I’m desperate!

Or:

I am dyslexic, but I did not know it until my 6 year old son was diagnosed with it. I suspect 2 of my other children also have it, and ADD as well.

My oldest is 16, and he’s the one I am most concerned about.

The school has always labeled him a “problem kid.” Over the years, I tried everything the teachers suggested. But when their ideas did not work and I went back to them with my own suggestions, I became the enemy. Nothing I suggested was ever tried or accepted.

He is a junior in high school, but he only has the credits of a 9th grader — so he may not graduate. His teachers give up on him and just push him through. He has very low self-esteem, has been in a lot of trouble, and I just discovered he is starting to use drugs.

I feel like I have let him down. I worry that it is too late to help him. What can I do now?

Or:

My nephew, who is 20, has dyslexia but never knew it. School was so awful for him that he dropped out.

He tried to get his GED through a local college program, but it was way over his head. One of the teachers called him “stupid,” so now he will not go back. That is the last thing he needed — as he already had very poor self-esteem.

He has always wanted to be an engineer, but he says he is too stupid to be that — or anything else in life.

I want to help him. If I don’t, he may never be able to get a job, and he will live at home with his mom forever.

All of that pain is preventable if teachers would warn parents when a student shows many of the classic early warning signs of dyslexia, and if parents then got their child the right type of tutoring.

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