Poor spelling is the most obvious sign of dyslexia
I get the most heartbreaking emails from adults who are still ashamed of their spelling.
Here is what one had to do to pass her weekly spelling test:
I HATED spelling and am ashamed to admit that I even cheated on my spelling tests.
In fourth grade, my teacher would always ask the words in the same order they were in the book. So I would have a sheet of paper with the words already written out underneath my blank paper on which I “took the test.”
I would then turn in the prewritten sheet. I even purposely wrote a word wrong now and then to make it more believable.
I have never gotten over being ashamed of that.
Or this one:
If you were standing in front of me right now, I would hug you. How different my life could have been if you were around 40 years ago.
I’m 48 years old, dyslexic, and working (I should say struggling 🙂 on a Master’s degree in Communication. I am trying to create a teaching module that will incorporate dyslexia and empathy. During my research, I came across your website and just finished watching your lecture.
It was as if you had been sitting on my shoulder during my entire childhood.
I completely forgot about having my full name written on a piece of paper that my mom tucked into my sock each day — so that I could pull it out and copy it any time I had to write both of my names in elementary school.
Or this one:
I am 42 years old, and I have dyslexia and ADHD.
I have taught myself to read pretty well, but I still have a very hard time writing and spelling. It takes me hours to write a paper.
I was diagnosed in 1976 but never got the right type of tutoring. I graduated on a 3rd grade reading level, and I was in Special Ed classes for years.
Do you think I still have a chance to become a good writer with the right kind of teaching? I still have a very hard time writing and spelling. It takes me hours to write a paper.
In the time it took me to write this email, I could have written a small book. And I never send anything out without checking it many times.
If I could have overcome dyslexia when I was younger, I would have become an attorney or a legislator.
Or this one, from the president of a small company:
I am sending you this letter with spell check off just so you can see what I am deeling with. I am 44 years old I have ben diganocsed with dyslexa when I was a child I was in special classed when going through public shoole. I have allways been able to read slower of corse but I have great compratintion of what I read.
I know own my own mechanical contractiong companie and employ 25 people. I have always been embarsed about my spelling and gramer up untill about 10 years ago. Now I have my office manager proof read everything I send out and half the time I cant read what I wrought down myself. I have gotten to the point in my carrear that I am have been sucsesfull enogh that I don’t care what others think about my spelling and gramer well I guess that is not 100% true or I would not be sending you and email.
The sipelist words through me off have had there were where when I always seem to miss use them I must spell has 50% of the time hase and the same thing with had I spell hade.
It is so tyring trying to send out email that I don’t have time for my assistant the check the spelling and gramer so I send it out after reading it 5 pluss times just to see the next day when I read the email back I left out words completely. I don’t understand how I can read the same thing over and over again and not notice I lift out the or ‘s I seam to do it all the time. My spelling is so bad most of the time there is not another word close enoghf tha spell check can figure it out.
Do you think your program would haelp me deal with this issue or shoud I just have anything I right be proof read?
Yes, the Barton Reading & Spelling System will greatly improve the spelling of children, teenagers, and adults with dyslexia.
And adults with dyslexia are more ashamed of their spelling – than their slow and inaccurate reading.
As a Teacher and a Mother
This long post is worth reading — especially with school starting in just one month.
My husband and three children have dyslexia.
I also teach at the local public school. Recently, during a lunch break in the staff lounge, a high school teacher shared that when she has to teach reading to her students, she has them read “baby books.” When the students ask why, she tells them, “Because you did not learn to read when you were supposed to.”
At that point I left the room, and cried. I was so hurt by what she said. At the time I could not talk about it without crying. (I still can’t). So I wrote this letter. Please share it in your book.
What an inspiring discussion the teachers were having at lunch today. I enjoyed hearing about, and sharing, how hard our students have been working. I am not sure if you noticed, but there came a point when I stopped talking. Probably not, since there was so much going on in the staff lounge. I would like to share with you the reason that I shut down.
You began talking about one of your students. You shared your frustration that she is not reading at grade level. You said her atrocious writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting is so sloppy that you can barely make out the words that she somehow managed to spell correctly. On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems you assign, despite the fact that you just spent an hour teaching that lesson to the class.
You wondered why her parents did not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night. You mentioned how lazy she is, how she could care less about the quality of her work, and how she puts forth zero effort towards improving.
You claimed you had tried everything and you do not know what to do with her anymore, so you will probably just end up passing her to the next grade level like all the other teachers have done.
Believe me, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. If they would just try harder, they would improve. Right?
I would like to introduce you to my daughter. She is excited to be entering high school this year. She is beautiful, polite, responsible, funny, caring . . . I could go on and on.
She participates in 4-H and showed her pig this year at the fair. She made over seven hundred dollars. She put some of the money into her savings account. Some will be used to purchase her next pig, and she can’t wait to go shopping and buy her own school clothes and school supplies with the remaining money.
She also participates in gymnastics, which she started when she was 18 months old.
When children are around her, they gravitate towards her. She loves to take care of babies and toddlers.
She enjoys preparing delicious food for others. Perhaps you would like to come to our home one evening. She will prepare her Pizza Chicken for dinner and Gelato for desert. She really is a great teenager.
Yet my daughter is scared and anxious about starting high school this year. She has dyslexia, and as a result, she is not reading at grade level. Her creative writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting on school work is so sloppy because she does not want her teachers and classmates to see that she has trouble spelling.
On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems assigned to her, even though her teacher just spent an hour teaching the lesson.
You wonder why her parents do not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night.
I love my daughter more than you can imagine. But I no longer force her to practice math flashcards or to write the weekly spelling words over and over every night. I know it will not help her. She will be able to memorize them temporarily, but believe me, she will not remember them the next day.
I know that she puts her brain to the test every day by concentrating so much that it often makes her feel sick. I know that she has put herself down all day long while in school and that she needs to build herself back up at night, so she can go through the same ordeal the next day.
Those are the reasons I no longer fight the “homework wars” every night. Instead, I enjoy the evening with my daughter as she cares for her pigs and rabbits, and as she does front handsprings across the yard.
Children do not want to, or choose to, have dyslexia. They want to learn. They are very frustrated that they can not learn to read like their classmates, that their spelling never seems to turn out right, that they can not memorize their math facts, and that they get lost in multiple step math problems. They can not try any harder than they already do because their brain will not let them.
As a teacher, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. I regret having made some of the same comments as you in the past. I never imagined that I would be the mother of a child with a learning disability. After all, I am a teacher.
As a mother, I am begging you to hang in there and not give up on your students, because if you do, you will be giving up on my daughter. They need you.
So please, let me be the mother who loves my daughter and encourages her to discover all she is capable of, and you be the teacher that encourages her and allows her to show what she is capable of.
A Mother who is also a School Teacher
Some teachers and parents do not want to ‘label’ a child as dyslexic. But I feel that decision does much more harm than good. Here’s why.
One parent shared:
My husband is a medical doctor who told me, “In medicine, it is extremely rare for a patient to have 6 or 7 different conditions or diseases at the same time. So we start to search for 1 root cause that would create their many different symptoms.”
Yet the root cause of my son’s many academic problems, dyslexia, is a word that doesn’t see the light of day a lot. I have heard teachers and administrators claim, “There is no such thing,” or “We don’t like to ‘label’ children.”
But claiming dyslexia does not exist will not make it go away. You are just sentencing a child and their family to years of uncomprehending frustration.
Going back to the one root cause creating many symptoms:
What would a doctor say to a person who has the following symptoms: unusual weight loss, irritability, blurry vision, is tired all the time, is experiencing frequent urination, and often feels hungry?
Would he tell that person to drink more, eat more, put on weight and see an optician?
No. A doctor would say “Hmmm, that sounds a lot like diabetes. Let’s get you tested. If the test is positive, we can create a treatment program that works for you, and we can enable you to live a healthy and productive life.”
Do you see? I love labels, I love them! Once you have a label, you know what you are dealing with, you can talk to others about it, and you can seek help and find support.
I would far rather have one label that I can understand than a whole stack of symptoms that I don’t.
This parent agrees:
I have found many parents worry about labeling their child as dyslexic — and therefore, do not pursue testing.
We have found “dyslexia” to be a much better label than “lazy,” or “stubborn,” or “uncooperative.”
My son blossomed once he understood why reading and writing did not come easily for him, and that he could improve through tutoring.
Children may choose a far worse label, as this adult shares:
I’m 35 and have struggled with dyslexia my entire life, but I didn’t have a name for it. So I created my own name for it…DUMB.
Then I had to watch my little boy (who is now 17) go through the very same struggles in school. I told him every day (and still do) that he is smart. But if you don’t feel it, and your grades don’t reflect it, and you fail 3rd grade, nothing translates to SMART.
Today, we both know we have dyslexia, but it’s so hard to erase the old label of “dumb.”
Another parent shared:
Everyone told me that testing my son would insult and depress him — and categorize him — and be a waste of our money. For years, I believed that, which made my child virtually HATE me because I did not understand who he was, and HE knew something was ‘wrong.’
Once we got a diagnosis of ADHD and severe dyslexia, I saw all the weight lift off his shoulders. It’s like a light came on.
We began to work along side each other with the right homeschool materials, and I have seen a complete turnaround in his behavior, emotions, and learning.
It has also given him compassion for others.
Even homeschooled children need to know, as this parent shares:
I have to admit that I’ve always known something was wrong with my daughter, who is now 17. We tried so many approaches (colored overlays, physical exercises, and so many different phonics programs), but I never had her tested because I didn’t want to label her.
Thanks to homeschooling, I’ve been able to provide accommodations that match her needs. I’ve read aloud to her almost daily, so she has a great oral vocabulary. I record all of her textbooks, which she then listens to while following along.
I have her dictate most of her written work to me. We’ve been doing that since she was in 2nd grade.
But now that she’s approaching graduation and wants to go on to college, she needs to be more independent.
After watching your video, I decided to share my suspicions with my daughter. She cried when we went over the list of symptoms. She said for the first time, she realized that she wasn’t alone. She felt normal. She said it was so freeing to hear all of those things and to realize it wasn’t just “her” problem. She and I even joked that she could be the poster child for dyslexia.
To my surprise, she does not feel labeled. She feels hopeful.
So, parents, please share the correct label with your child: dyslexia — not “dumb” or “lazy” or “stubborn.”
Unique Gifts of Dyslexics
The gifted areas that come with dyslexia show up very early in life — as this mother shares:
I have read Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s book and have reviewed your website and many of your videos. This has caused me to have a Eureka! moment regarding my son. I have known that something was wrong with my very bright child for quite a while, but couldn’t seem to figure out what it was or what to do about it.
In addition to having most of the classic weak areas, he has so many of the gifted areas — even though he is only 9 and in third grade.
He is incredibly mechanically inclined. He builds complicated lego robots that he programs himself.
He is extremely creative. I have crazy inventions all over my house.
He is artistic. He especially loves sculpture, but he is also good at painting and photography. In fact, he has gone on to the state level in the local PTA Reflections photography contest 2 years in a row.
He is musically inclined. He plays the piano — by ear.
Additionally, he has always been extremely sympathetic and compassionate with others — to the point where several friends and relatives have mentioned it to me.
He has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He started a mulch spreading business at the age of 7, complete with marketing materials. He actually convinced a perfect stranger, a nice cashier at our local grocery store, to hire him (I went with him to the job for safety reasons of course). He has excellent sales skills. He has now extended his business (and customer base) to total yard care. This year, he made a company t-shirt and hat, as well as fliers and business cards, and a wooden sign for the front yard. The only thing my husband and I have done is given him encouragement and corrected his spelling!
Once he gets an idea in his head, it is like a dog on a bone — there is no distracting him from one of his projects (like figuring out which trees in our yard were maples last summer so that he could tap them and make maple syrup this spring. This project is, thankfully, complete). He works out all the steps to complete his project himself (including getting help from the librarian to find a book on the subject in the adult section) and he won’t stop pestering us if he needs help to reach his next goal (such as someone to use the power drill on the tree. He hammered the tap in himself).
I just wish he would be so focused on cleaning his room, which at times (if I don’t keep on top of him constantly) reaches fire hazard level.