Parent & Teacher Guilt
Parents who are former teachers often feel the most guilt, as this parent shared:
I cannot tell you how many sad, frustrated tears were cried by both my now second grade son and me during his kindergarten and first grade years.
I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right but kept hearing the all too familiar “it’s developmental” and “he’s doing great and reading at grade level” nonsense — while I kept pointing out what appeared to be weak phonemic awareness and little understanding of how words are formed.
I refused to let their words appease me and kept researching, learning, and seeking professional input until my suspicion of dyslexia was confirmed.
It absolutely breaks my heart that the teachers at the ground floor of reading instruction in our area know so little about dyslexia.
I am a former high school English teacher who now carries sadness and guilt over the unidentified, defeated students I failed to encourage and help — all because I didn’t know. I wish I could contact each one of them now and put a name on the monster that plagued them and robbed them of their confidence and made school a miserable experience.
Education programs need to do more to train future teachers, and schools need to step up and acknowledge this very common learning difference.
I am confident that my little guy will rise above this and thrive, but I feel like I need to be a voice for the other three kids with dyslexia in his class of 20, and the many more spread throughout the building.
Thank you, Mrs. Barton, for making information about dyslexia accessible and clear. You have lit a fire in me that I hope will spread through our local school district.
Laura Kuster, Teacher and Parent
My Dyslexia Story
This email, which was sent to me by a homeschooling parent in Florida, touched my heart.
Our story begins when my son, Larry, was in kindergarten. He missed out on play time because he struggled to identify letters and their sounds.
In first grade, sight words caused him to miss play time.
In second grade, timed reading and math became 75% of his grade. Third grade would bring the FCAT. I was told if a student cannot read 150 words a minute, they probably would not be able to finish that test.
So we homeschooled Larry in third grade. We also asked the public school to test him. They said he had ADHD. But by then, I had been homeschooling for half a year and I felt that probably was not true. So I hired a private psychologist to test him. It turns out our son had “classic dyslexia.”
Homeschool continued through 3rd and 4th grade. Although I slowed everything down, I continued using the same curriculum – but it wasn’t working. Larry was extremely frustrated. By 5th grade, he and I were at our wits end. Shortly after starting the school year, Larry broke down and said he was stupid and wanted to kill himself. That still brings tears to my eyes.
On that very day, I knew I had to find an answer. So I got on the computer and started frantically searching for a way to teach my son. I decided to go to a message board for parents with dyslexic kids. The ONLY thing they were talking about was the Barton Reading & Spelling System – which level they were finishing, and who had the next one.
Right then and there, I googled Susan Barton. I watched your video on dyslexia that was on your website. I was overcome with emotion as I listened to you talk about your story and heard your passion for dyslexic kids. You were the first person who explained dyslexia in detail, both its weaknesses and STRENGTHS. I called Larry in to listen to part of it and I told him, “This is who you are. You are a brilliant and amazing boy to have learned as much as you have – despite the way I am teaching you.”
You promised that with the Barton System, my son would read at or above grade level and his spelling would improve, and I believed you.
Needless to say, homeschool has not been the same. Larry is now a 7th grader, is in Level 6 of the Barton System, and now believes that he can go to college and excel.
Thank you. Susan. I am forever grateful that you have become an important part of Larry’s life and education.
As this parent shared, “slower and louder” will not work for a child who has dyslexia.
To hear Susan Barton’s advice for homeschool parents who use (or are thinking about using) the Barton Reading & Spelling System, watch my free on-line presentation by clicking on the following link:
By the way, that presentation also contains useful advice for parents thinking about homeschooling.
Third Grade Warning Signs
Most schools do not yet test or screen for dyslexia. So parents should watch for these classic warning signs in third graders.
My son is a month into 3rd grade, and last year – somewhere in the middle of second grade, he hit a brick wall in reading.
He was always one or two levels behind his peers, and we worked very hard to stay that close to grade level. But in the middle of second grade, as other classmates reading took off, his just flattened out. He ended the year reading at level 18, and he was supposed to be at 28.
So I spent the summer at the library with him, having him read aloud to me. I also had him write 6 or 7 sentences on everything he read, and I was struck by the following:
1. He does not always see the start, middle and end of a word – especially bigger words.
2. He misreads simple words, like those for these, them for they, and who for how — and he substitutes words that mean the same thing at an alarming rate (like every other sentence).
3. He guesses at words by using pictures and a predictable story line.
4. He still confuses b and d.
5. Punctuation might as well not be on the page at all.
6. He reads very slowly, without any fluency or comprehension. It is all he can do to actually read the words and get them right, so he has no chance of understanding what he read. In fact, on his first reading comprehension test ever, he scored a 0.
7. After an entire summer of having him read aloud to me every day, and after an intense first month of school, (I mean reading so much at home that he does not have much time to do anything else), he is only reading at level 20. His peers are 32 and higher.
8. We studied for his first social studies test this past weekend. He had so much trouble memorizing the terms: region, culture, agriculture, climate, artifact, adaptation – that at first, I thought he was joking around. It was not until he began to cry that I realized how hard he was working.
I strongly suspect he has dyslexia.
I also suspect my husband has it. My husband does not read beyond a 3rd grade level, and this is forcing him to relive the hell of his school years.
I feel so stupid for not researching this sooner and for trusting his teachers and the school.
I feel like I have failed my son.
No, you have not. You can change his entire future by taking action now.
If he gets the right type of tutoring after school, plus accommodations in the classroom and during homework, you will be amazed at the improvement in his skills – and self-esteem – by the end of this school year.
Which is worse?
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.
Do Not Wait
Schools often tell parents of struggling students to wait, as this parent shared:
I need some help to decide what to do for my eight year old son. He is finishing second grade, but he has never read at grade level.
The principal wanted him to repeat first grade, but my husband and I refused, so he was sent to second grade. He has worked with the reading specialist one-on-one for two years with no improvement.
I asked his teacher last year if he could be dyslexic. She told me that was not possible. She claimed he just had a behavior issue. I disagree and feel that he lost a year because of her poor attitude.
He was diagnosed with visual acuity issues and Irlen Syndrome, but after eight months with no improvement and horrible migraines, we decided to involve our pediatrician. He sent us to a pediatric ophthalmologist at a university who said my son does NOT have a vision problem it all. His said my son has dyslexia, and he felt my son’s headaches were caused by the tension and stress of not being able to do the work.
Yet he recommended we wait until he is 9 to be tested by the school because the gap will be greater.
His school has promised they will test him for Special Ed services next year.
The problem is I don’t want the gap to get any larger. I want to help him now!
What should I do?
If you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, waiting is the worst thing you can do – because it will not go away. Your child will only get further and further behind.
Every parent who has contacted me during the past 20 years wished they had started providing the right type of tutoring sooner.
So do not wait for the school to test him. Start tutoring him now using the Barton Reading & Spelling System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system. Tutor him every day during the summer – while the pressure of school, homework, and tests is gone. You will be amazed how much his skills can improve with daily tutoring.
And if you think that qualifying for special ed services is the answer, read on.
A school psychologist shared:
From what I see, the biggest hurdle for these students is what happens AFTER the students are placed in special ed.
This parent shared:
I have a 12 year old son who is in 6th grade.
He attended a private Christian school until 4th grade. They noticed his reading struggles in second grade and put him in a reading lab. It was worthless.
We got his eyes checked, and the doctor said he had a tracking problem. We spent more than $ 2,000 on vision therapy and eye exercises that did not help with his reading.
He has gotten private tutoring, speech therapy, and gone to a number of tutoring centers. We have spent countless amounts of money on him. Everyone told us he would either grow out of it, or he would learn to compensate.
In 4th grade, we moved him to a public school, hoping to get more services for him. He did qualify for special education due to his reading. We thought we finally had the answer.
Wrong. He is now in 6th grade, yet he is still reading at a 2nd grade level and is a horrible speller.
They work with him one-on-one in the resource room, and they allow him to listen to books so he can keep up with what his classmates are reading. But he still is not learning how to read, write, or spell. I am soooooo frustrated.
I have cried. I have been angry. I have been humbled. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. God finally gave me peace about not pushing him so much and not being too hard on him. But he is not getting any better. He studies the weekly spelling list for hours and hours, yet he forgets the words by the following week.
Yet he gets A’s and B’s on his report cards, which amazes me. Our public education system has become a joke. He is in 6th grade and can’t read or write anywhere near grade level, yet they are giving him A’s and B’s.
There must be so many other children who are also slipping through the cracks, and so many parents at a loss.
I would like to start tutoring him using the Barton System, but he absolutely refuses to try one more program or tutor – because in the past, they have all done more damage than good.
So, parents, get your child the right type of tutoring yourself – as early as possible. It makes a huge difference, as this parent shared:
Dear Mrs. Barton:
Thank you so much for helping us help our daughter. We learned about Learning Ally through you. We learned about classroom accommodations through you. And we found a great Barton tutor through you.
It has been a joy to watch my daughter grow from being a reluctant 3rd grader to an engaged 4th grader. She still has a lot of work with her tutor, and we will have many other challenges, but knowing there are resources that we can use to help her be successful is an unbelievable comfort.
And this parent shared:
Susan, I have to thank you for all you do. The support and knowledge you have shared has helped me with my daughter in so many ways.
Two years ago (after we gave up on the school) we had her tested privately and discovered she has dyslexia and ADD. That’s why she would never read out loud in class, or even to us.
That was then…..
Yesterday (after two years of Barton tutoring and appropriate accommodations) she stood in front of the entire school …classmates, teachers and parents … and delivered an amazing (and confident) speech about why she should be SCA president.
She WON the election!
I knew she was special and had many gifts, but yesterday she proved it to herself and her school. She said “challenges make you stronger and wiser” (which is what her speech was about).
My husband and I sat back last night thinking of the last two years, and we realized how hard she has worked…but she never gave up.
Kids with dyslexia are tough. I am not sure I could do what she has done, but I am glad I was there to encourage her along the way.
Thank you for all your help and guidance. We couldn’t have done it without your support!
I do not want to fail at homeschooling . . . again
Homeschooling can make you feel like a failure if you do not understand why your child is struggling, as this parent shared: [audio https://brightsolutionsdyslexia.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/i-do-not-want-to-fail-at-homeschooling-again.mp3]
How do you homeschool a child with dyslexia?
I ask because I pulled my 2 very bright children out of public school at the end of first grade when they were struggling so much that they dreaded going to school. I did not know they had dyslexia at that time, and I was sure that I, a loving college-educated parent, could do a much better job of teaching them myself.
But that homeschooling year was one of the most humbling, emotionally taxing, and frustrating years I have ever had. My children’s resistance to my reading and writing instruction, and their terrible spelling no matter how much I drilled them, often brought me to tears. I thought they were not trying hard enough and were being ornery on purpose. So I often punished them in order to get better performance.
At the end of that homeschooling year, I felt like an utter failure. Their skills were not much better, and my relationship with them had changed from being a loving nurturing mom to a dreaded and harsh teacher.
So I put them back into public school for third grade. Yet we continued to fight during our nightly “homework wars.” Assignments most kids could do in 30 minutes were 2 to 3 hours of h***.
It wasn’t until November that someone suggested my children might have dyslexia. After private testing confirmed it, and after discovering their public school does not offer the type of reading and spelling instruction they needed, and neither do the private schools in my area, I am considering homeschooling them again.
I know I can use the Barton Reading & Spelling System for language arts, but how to I teach the other subjects, such as math, history, and science – when they are so far behind in reading, writing, and spelling?
That is such a common question that Susan Barton created a free 30-minute on-line presentation for homeschooling parents – that is also good for parents who are thinking about homeschooling.
To watch it, click on the following link, and when asked, type in your first and last name.
To download the handout that goes along with that presentation, click on this link:
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.”
Break the cycle
When parents see their child struggle in school the same way they did, they react with fear, panic, and guilt.
The good news is that with the right type of tutoring, the cycle of academic struggle can be broken – as this parent shared in an email to Susan Barton about a nonprofit dyslexia center in Michigan.
During a recent high school graduation ceremony, I was overwhelmed thinking back on my own graduation and the hopelessness I felt as the speaker repeatedly said this was going to be the best time of our lives.
But my ears rang with the words of a teacher, who weeks before, as she threw my final report on my desk with a big red F on it, yelled in front of the whole class, “Only stupid, ignorant, and lazy people can’t spell.”
I remember crying for the next few weeks because all of my classmates were making their big plans for the fall and the future, but I had none. They did not know that in addition to not being able to spell, I couldn’t form a sentence or construct a paragraph. (Or is it the other way around?)
The college rejection letters began coming in, one by one. With little or no direction or support from my parents and family, I was lost. I did end up attending a small local college but survived only one semester.
I blamed the school system for allowing me to fall between the cracks and go all the way through school and graduate as what I thought at the time was an illiterate.
Fast forward 30 years to the day I went to my youngest son’s kindergarten parent-teacher conference. We were heart broken when the loved and respected teacher wept as she told us that something was not right. Although she did not know what it was, she felt it might impede his learning if not identified and addressed.
That day I was hit like a freight train with my past and my own inadequacies. We wandered kind of lost for awhile, grasping at anything for answers.
After receiving the diagnosis of dyslexia, we then began the difficult task of getting help. Along the way, I found the phone number for the Binda Dyslexia Foundation and Mrs. VanZanten. After talking to her and asking questions a mile a minute, I hung up the phone and sobbed — with a hope I had not had in years. I had found the help for my son so he would not fall through the cracks as I had.
Our experience with the the Binda Dyslexia Foundation, which provides tutoring using the Barton System, has been wonderful. In just one year, our lives have changed, our son’s life has changed, and even our extended family (many of whom had such a hard time understanding dyslexia and the steps to treat it) has been impacted in a positive way.
Susan, you are invited to our son’s high school graduation in 2016. He is now full of confidence and hope for a wonderful future.
I can’t believe I said that
This is why Dyslexia Awareness Month is so important. Please share what you know about dyslexia with other parents — to prevent this:
I am just beginning to realize my son has dyslexia.
It saddens me that I have spent so many years trying to beat information into my son, fighting with him about why he did not understand, frustrated when he did not get it.
Year after year he would tell me, “Mom, I promise I’ll try harder,” yet his grades would still be D’s and F’s and me, of course, letting him know my disappointment.
I feel so very bad about some of the things I have said to him. I even fought with him about why it so hard for him to tie his shoes. “It’s so simple. Why don’t you get it?”
I want to warn other parents so they will understand what I did not. So they will avoid pushing their child to do things they just can’t do, to stop listening to others who claim your child is just being lazy, or who advise “If you take away his favorite sport, I bet he’ll change.”
What hurts me most is that I could see he was such a bright child, very athletic, very creative. Yet every evening, homework turned into fights with me saying things like, “Your brother gets it. Why can’t you?” His self-esteem was already at a low, and all I was doing was making it worse.
It took a huge fight between me and my son late last year, that had us both crying, when I asked him, “Tell me what it is that is so hard for you in class,” and he answered, “I can’t read the big words. I just can’t, and I feel stupid compared to the rest of the kids.” That started me doing an internet search for reading problems, which lead me to dyslexia, which led me to your website. He has almost every classic warning sign of dyslexia. It was as if you had a camera in our house.
I am now going to be the strongest advocate for my child. He is a caring, loving, wonderful soul who wears his heart on his sleeve. He does not deserve the emotional pain that my ignorance caused him.