The following adult had received one year of Barton tutoring when she wrote this letter to Oprah (with the help of her tutor) to try to convince Oprah to do a show on dyslexia.
I am 76 years old today.
I spent the first 75 years of my life wondering why I could not read or spell as well as other friends and family. I didn’t know why I had such a hard time finding the right word when I spoke, or why I couldn’t say the words correctly when I could retrieve them.
I didn’t know why I so often got lost in cities I had lived in for years, or why I still had to stop and think for a moment before I knew my right from my left. I didn’t know why I had such trouble memorizing things that seemed so easy for others.
Or why someone like me – someone who has started and run two businesses – could still not read well, or spell correctly enough to take a message and then be able to read it afterwards.
I didn’t know that I had severe-to-profound dyslexia.
For 75 years I prayed for God to help me. Last fall, I prayed again – that God would please, PLEASE, send me someone who could teach me how to spell.
The very next day, I ‘just so happened’ to sit next to a Dyslexia Specialist at a local event, and we ‘just so happened’ to strike up a conversation about what she does for a living. She ‘just so happened’ to tell me about the signs and symptoms of dyslexia, and I immediately recognized them in me.
Best of all, she ‘just so happened’ to tell me that there are solutions! That people who have struggled with dyslexia, for even 75 years, could still learn to read, write and spell! I made an appointment for her to test me. I cried when she told me that I had dyslexia. They were not tears of sadness, however. They were happy tears! Tears of joy! I finally had an answer!
I have been receiving the right kind of tutoring, twice a week, for a year.
I read the word authentic for the first time last month. I can now spell words that I could not even say before. I am 75 years old. Believe me – there is hope.
I have been thinking back on my 75 years. I thought of the very worst time in my life – the time when my daughter died.
Then I thought of the very best time in my life – it was the time I realized I could learn how to spell! When I finally, finally, realized what my life’s problem was. I am dyslexic.
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.”