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.
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!
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:
This heartwarming email from a parent made my day.[audio https://brightsolutionsdyslexia.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/what-a-great-teacher.mp3]
I want to share something amazing about my son who was recently diagnosed with dyslexia.
This morning his teacher stopped me to tell me what an intuitive student he was. She said his character is well beyond his years and that it never wavers. She also said he is such a beneficial member of his class because of his compassion and ability to self reflect, and that he has basically set the standard for the class with his global “out of the box” thinking.
When my son was recently diagnosed with dyslexia, I did a lot of research. I found the information on your website about the strengths of dyslexics. That teacher was mentioning many of those strengths.
So I was beaming with pride when I told her of his diagnosis.
Thank you for sharing how children with dyslexia are special. It was nice to hear confirmation of what I have always thought of my son — and I now know why he is so special. He’s dyslexic.
Parents, when you see many of the early warning signs of dyslexia in your child, take action — as this parent finally did.
Debbie has always been an extremely bright child.
She loved preschool, but not kindergarten. She had extreme trouble with sounds, particularly vowels. She could never do the worksheets where you have to fill in the vowel sound. We had her hearing tested, which was fine. I did Hooked on Phonics and every other phonics thing I could lay my hands on.
By the end of second grade, her reading had progressed somewhat (but was nothing like my older daughter’s reading). Debbie just couldn’t seem to pick it up, and she could not sound out anything. She skipped many words (even the small ones, like he, at, to, it), and I was confused when she said a totally different word than the one on the page (vacation instead of trip, frog instead of toad, etc.) She spent a lot of time looking at the pictures.
And she couldn’t spell at all. Her teachers said her inventive spelling was horrible, even though we worked on her spelling every night at home for at least an hour.
At the end of second grade, she became so anxious about school that we asked them to test her for a learning disability. They claimed she did not have one (only inattentive ADD). So we decided to homeschool to lower her anxiety.
I have worked with her intensely with many different reading programs during the past two years of homeschool. Reading exhausts her, and she starts making all kinds of dyslexic mistakes after reading for less than an minute or two.
One day this summer, we were discussing a short book we had read about wishes. I asked Debbie about her fondest wish. She looked at me and said, “To be able to read, Mama. REALLY read like Lisa can. I want to read big books, like Harry Potter. But I don’t think I will ever get that wish.”
Right after that, I made an appointment to have her tested privately for dyslexia.
By the way, she still can’t spell. Neither can my father. He is a well-respected professional in his field. He never reads books. And he has always used a dictaphone to compose letters because his spelling is horrific. In fact, at his retirement party, they gave him a plaque that had misspelled words all over it — as a joke.