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
Not eligible for special education
Many children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services – not even if a parent brings in a diagnostic report.
In that case, fight hard for classroom accommodations – and get the right type of help after school.
This parent did not do that – and regrets it.
Dyslexia runs in my family tree. My father, who is 60, can still remember being in second grade and having the teacher call him up to the front of the class to read out loud. The teacher would force him to stand there and “do it until you get it right” – despite him crying in front of the entire class.
I have a degree in Elementary Education, but we never had a single solitary course – not even a single lecture – on dyslexia.
Yet when my daughter struggled in kindergarten, her teacher suggested the possibility of dyslexia because:
- On DIBELS, she was not meeting benchmarks in nonsense word reading
- She had terrible spelling and could not retain her spelling words — not even the high frequency words like “some”
- She already had 2 years of speech therapy for R’s and L’s, but was not improving
- She constantly confused left and right
- And she still could not tie her shoes
At end of first grade, I asked the school to test her for a possible learning disability. The school said they wouldn’t test her until at least 3rd grade.
So during second grade, when she was not making progress in Tier 2 of RTI, I hired a highly qualified private professional to test her. She was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dyslexia.
But when I shared that report with the school psychologist, he stated that dyslexia does not exist, that Susan Barton’s website was not a valid resource, and we could not even get a 504 Plan because he felt our daughter did not need it. He claimed she displayed no difficulties and would prove to be a good student.
Her teachers and even the principal were at that meeting, and they went along with the psychologist’s assessment – leaving us to wonder if we really knew what we were talking about.
We were so confused that we decided to follow the school’s advice — and regret it.
Our daughter is now at the end of third grade. Despite another year of phonics instruction and more RTI, she still struggles with spelling, sounding out longer words, and cannot comprehend her science textbook when she reads it herself. (But she has no trouble comprehending it when I read it TO her.)
The school did eventually test her, but her scores were not low enough to qualify for Special Ed services. And her report card grades are not too bad. She gets low B’s or C’s.
We have shown our daughter’s diagnostic report to other dyslexia professionals and organizations, and they have all agreed that she definitely does have dyslexia.
So what do I do now?
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.
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.