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
I recently received this heartwarming email from a Special Ed teacher, who is also one of my heroes.
I am having amazing success using the Barton System in my resource room.
A young man transferred to my school at the beginning of 7th grade, barely able to read at a second grade level. He absolutely hated school and was often absent.
His parents had tried everything. They had spent thousands of dollars sending him to Sylvan and to private tutors.
They heard about the success I was having with the Barton Reading & Spelling System. After his school refused to get the Barton System, they fought for 2 years to get an inter-district transfer so he could attend my school and work with me.
He is about to graduate from 8th grade with excellent grades, perfect attendance, and is now reading at a 7th grade level. He was even elected by his peers to be their Student Body President.
Yet there is no one at the high school he will attend next year who teaches the Barton System. So a group of my students (who are now in the higher levels of the Barton System) are determined to start a Barton tutoring program there – and they have volunteered to be the tutors.
Geri Linari, Special Ed Teacher
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 people who attended my Screening for Dyslexia course last week have asked for a copy of this letter.
Dear Mrs. Barton,
My name is Nathaniel, and I have dyslexia.
This past week, my mom has been attending your Screening for Dyslexia seminar to learn more about dyslexia and how to help others. Each night when she returns to our hotel room, she shares a few highlights of her day. She told me about the emails and letters you are sharing to remind the group why they are there at your seminar.
I wanted to share one more.
My story is similar to many other people with dyslexia. My early school years were filled with much pain and emotional trauma. My first tears, and adding the word “stupid” to my vocabulary, started in Kindergarten. I was only 5 years old.
The phrases, “Try harder,” “Practice,” “Read more,” and “Why can’t you?” were engrained in my head during those early years by teachers.
I had bruises on my fingers from trying so hard to write sentences, and I was pulled out to attend a class for slow readers.
Recess was my favorite part of the school day until 3rd grade. I was punished and humiliated during 3rd grade. I was forced to sit on the wall during recess while all the other children were allowed to play . . . simply because I could not finish my work in class on time. I had to sit there watching my friends play with my incomplete piece of paper. Yet I still was not able to complete it because I could not read it.
After weeks of sitting on that brick wall, I snuck my papers home and tearfully asked my mom to help me complete them so that I could have a couple of days to play during recess. Needless to say, I never returned to that school – thank goodness!
After that, I was finally told that I had dyslexia, and I began homeschool. In fourth grade, I was reading and spelling at a very low first grade level.
But today, I am proud – MORE than proud – to share that I am just weeks away from completing Level 10 of the Barton System. Not only can I now read and spell, but I know LATIN !!!!
I just finished 8th grade at a public school where I received awards in Academic Excellence with a 3.9 GPA. I won first place in our social studies history project, and I have been accepted for high honor classes in high school next year. My test scores show that I am proficient (and even advanced) in math, comprehension, and yes, even reading !!!!
While writing is still not my strong area, mostly due to dysgraphia, my computer sure makes it look like I am a whiz. I still hate to tie my shoes, my “other right” is a common joke, and I occasionally reverse my numbers and letters when I am tired. At times, the Franklin Spelling Ace is still my best friend, and my favorite inventor is the man who created the digital clock.
Now I can spell words like “purely exhilarated” and “euphoric joy” to express my gratitude, but my word is “happy.” Those first spelling rules, like the Happy Rule, changed my tears and fears into a HAPPY, confident and successful dyslexic student.
Thank you, Mrs. Barton.
Your forever grateful and proud dyslexic student,
Colorado Springs, CO
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.
It is best to catch dyslexia early.
But even in high school, it is NOT TOO LATE to greatly improve their skills — which will change their entire future.
A high school student gave me permission to share this talk that he gave at a fund raiser for his private Christian school in Idaho.
My name is Michael Warner and I am the first student at this school to fully complete the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Before I knew that such a program existed, I endured many different types of special education plans and teachings. All, however, failed. After enduring nine years of mental, emotional, and social abuse due to my dyslexia, I came to this private school.
For the first time, I wasn’t only trying to match my mental capability, but to exceed it. I say this with my own choice of words… with no help whatsoever.
Although I never thought it was possible, I remember dreaming of the day that it would just click and I would just get it…although it was never coming.
Just to give you an idea about how much I have learned from the Barton System, I have in my hand my FCAT scores. For those of you who don’t know, it is the Florida version of the WASL. In reading, I got a one.
According to that score, I had the equivalent reading level of a third grader. I was in the ninth grade when I took this test. A freshman in high school! Tell me that wasn’t emotionally damaging…a third grader! That test told me that in reading and spelling, I was close to mentally retarded.
My public school in Florida would not let me be in college prep classes. They tried to control what I learned so I would become a construction worker because they thought I was too stupid to do anything else. Everything around me told me I would never measure up to anything.
Then I came here. You found out I had dyslexia, and put me in the reading program. Halfway through that program, students were clapping for me in the middle of class because they could see how much I improved. That shows you the spirit of the students at this school.
After two years here, I wanted to become a programmer. So I had to leave and go to Newport High School to take the classes I needed. Do you have any idea what it feels like to finally pursue your own dreams?
So I went to Newport last fall and I took the WASL. One try and I passed everything — reading, writing, everything.
Some students take three or four tries to pass it, and they take special classes in order to pass it. I passed it on the first try.
I’m here to say how much this private school has changed my life. All I can say is thank you. I can finally be who I want to be.
former student at House of the Lord private school
in Oldtown, Idaho
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
A child with dyslexia needs 3 things: to be identified, the right type of tutoring, and accommodations until the skills gap is closed.
I just received this email from a parent whose child got all 3.
Susan, nine years ago you screened our son, David, for dyslexia. As you may recall, when my husband and I heard the results, we were both extremely concerned for his future.
Well, through years of Barton tutoring and some wonderful administrators willing to implement the accommodations you recommended, David will be graduating and is going to attend Emory University.
David has been in all general education classes and will be graduating with a 3.74 GPA. A monumental achievement for a young boy who could not read nor remember his ABC’s in third grade.
Thank you for being committed to helping children such as David. We are forever indebted.
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.