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
Dyslexia is genetic. It runs in family trees. So if you see the warning signs in your child, you may also start to identify other people in your family who have it, as this parent shared.
I just watched your on-line video which had so many “ah-ha” moments in it. You might as well have used our son’s name, Sam. Sam has every symptom you described. I feel like you know him personally, and finally, there is someone who understands him.
I have to give credit to his reading tutor, as she is the one who warned us that he “may” have dyslexia.
I now understand my mother better. She’s one of those who gets tongue tied when saying multi-syllable words, hates to write (and no one can read her handwriting), is a terrible speller, skips over the big words when reading, did not learn to talk until age 3, struggled in school – even though she is a very bright and creative person who thinks outside the box, gets lost easily, cannot remember left from right, and the list goes on and on.
And I think I have a mild case of it as well. It bothered me that I was always in the lowest reading group in my class, and that I had to re-read things 2 or 3 or 4 times to understand them.
I even took a speed reading course in high school to try to improve my ACT college prep results – because there was such a big difference between my reading test score and all of my other scores. But the speed reading course did not help my reading score at all. Now I know why.
To watch that dyslexia video, click on this link:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
Dear Ms. Barton,
I just finished watching the Dyslexia: Symptoms & Solutions video on your website.
I am a permanently certified Elementary Teacher with a Master’s degree in Reading & Literacy, but I am angry and embarrassed that I received no instruction or information about dyslexia in six years of college. You are absolutely right that we need to get this information into college prep courses and out to teachers in our local districts.
Last year, I had a bright girl who struggled with reading. Her reading assessments made little sense. Her reading rate was very slow and her fluency was low, but her reading comprehension was excellent. I recommended her for testing, but the school’s testing showed there was not a large enough discrepancy to qualify for special education or even accommodations. So she struggled with reading the rest of the year, despite working very hard. The obvious difference between her intelligence and her reading struggles continued to bother me.
I ran into her family a few months ago, and I asked about her reading progress. Her mom was worried because her daughter had made no progress. The mom also shared that she, herself, had struggled with reading as a child, and she wondered if her children inherited it from her. She claimed she had been telling teachers of her concern since her daughter had been in first grade, but everyone assured her it was just developmental.
When the mom suggested that her daughter might be dyslexic, I dismissed it. I mean, with my educational background, I should know about something like that, right?
Fortunately, I did the one thing those other teachers failed to do: I looked into it anyway. As I began my research, I was disappointed to find only 2 books about dyslexia at our local bookstore. But one was Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s Overcoming Dyslexia. I was amazed at how much I learned about dyslexia. And then I found your website and learned even more.
I now realize I’ve had several other students who also exhibited this odd mix of reading struggles and high intelligence, and I continue to worry about them still today.
I have decided to write an article for NEA Today (The National Education Association magazine). I recently searched for “dyslexia” on the magazine’s website and received zero responses. This is a magazine which is read by many teachers, but it appears they have not had one article in recent history about this learning difference.
That just doesn’t make sense when 20% of our population is dyslexic and many are not even aware of it.