Tag Archives: Struggling Students

Trying to make a difference

Special Ed teachers are so frustrated with the school system that they often leave and become private tutors, as this one shared in a recent email: 

Susan, I have a real passion for the students who don’t catch on to reading and spelling when taught using regular curriculum.

In fact, that’s why I switched from being a regular ed teacher to a special ed teacher. I attended several Orton-Gillingham workshops and seminars, and I bought the first few Barton levels with my own money to use with my LD students.

For the past 2 years, I taught Barton as best I could within the special ed system – and got some fabulous results. My principal was amazed at the increased reading levels of my students.

Trying to make a difference

But with all the “red tape” and political stuff we have to deal with, the special ed system does not allow me to do what I am I really passionate about: meeting each student’s individualized needs.

I am not allowed to spend enough time, with the correct resources, in a small enough group to help my students become the best they can be.

Sadly, I know I cannot change the special ed system. So I have decided to leave and start offering one-on-one Barton tutoring.

I know not every parent will be able to afford to hire me. But I would rather serve a few children well, so they reach their potential, then continue to serve many students poorly.

Wish me luck. This is a big leap of faith, and quite a change for me. But it’s the only way I can do what I’m passionate about: helping these bright kids the right way.

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

What now-

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?

Dyslexia runs in family trees

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.

Dyslexia Runs in Family Trees

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:
http://www.dys-add.com/videos/dyslexiaSymptomsSolutions_Part01.html

Homeschooling with the Barton System

Susan Barton loves getting emails like this:  

My son, Tom, is about to turn eight and has been struggling with reading since kindergarten. Even at that age, asking him to sit down and read for ten minutes resulted in tears. But we forced him to try.

In first grade, kids in his class were correcting his reading mistakes. He felt very bad about himself. He would often come home sullen and exhausted. He was unable to read anything on his own. He needed help with even the simplest of books.

But he was a great guesser and could figure out a lot from picture clues and context. In fact, the school actually encouraged children to guess at words. But Rick had no strategy to figure out a simple word or sentence, so if there were no pictures, he would simply give up.

By the time he reached second grade, it was obvious that all the hours spent reading at home (and at school) were not helping. He still had no clue how to sound out words.

So last January we took him out of public school and enrolled him in an online charter school in a desperate attempt to help him here at home. That’s where you come in.

That charter school asked us to watch your dyslexia video, which explained things so clearly. We then realized Tom has dyslexia – as does his father. Thankfully, that online charter school had a site license for the Barton Reading & Spelling System, so we were able to get it through them.

Your program has been a miracle for us. We are finishing level 3, and Tom is starting to read on his own. He chooses books for himself and delights in reading them to us. He is so happy and proud of himself.

Thank you for the time and effort it must have taken to develop your program and create those training videos.

Susan Barton is thrilled that so many virtual charter schools – which support home educators – are now providing parents with the Barton Reading & Spelling System.

If you are homeschooling, or thinking about it, watch Susan Barton’s free 30-minute video with advice for homeschoolers by clicking on this link:
http://www.bartonreading.com/index.html#homeschool

Homeschool Video

The problem with “Third Grade Guarantee” laws

Many states have recently passed, or are working on, a “Third Grade Guarantee” law, which includes mandatory retention for third graders who do NOT pass the reading portion of the end-of-year statewide exam.

Pam Collier, a parent in Ohio, gave me permission to share her email that explains why that law is as bad for students withOUT dyslexia as it is for those who do have dyslexia.

From: Pam Collier
Date: August 19, 2014
Subject: Third grade guarantee

Dear Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Ohio Department of Education:

I am writing out of concern for my three children and Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee. I have three very different children, and the guarantee will effect each of them differently.

First, I have a 10 year old daughter who is accelerated. She has tested in the gifted range on her Terra Nova, and has scored well above the cutoff of the guarantee scoring — in the Accelerated range for math and reading.

Now you are probably wondering how the guarantee could have any effects on this student. Actually, it has had a huge impact. My daughter spent her entire third grade year being “taught to the test.”

Teachers are terrified of poor test scores which negatively impact their evaluations. Instead of challenging bright young minds, the system is telling these students, “We don’t care whether you have a special gift. We just need you to do well on this test.”

My daughter was afraid of failing the test because teachers are creating so much anxiety and placing way too much pressure on our students.

Now, I have a second daughter who is a twin. She is 7 years old. Because she is a twin, I started to notice differences in her learning very early. At the age of 4, I began asking if she was dyslexic, citing she was having trouble remembering letters, numbers, rhyming, etc. I was assured that she was fine, and that her twin (my son) was just advanced.

Fast forward to kindergarten, and first grade. I asked the same questions.

In my gut, I knew I had to do something. So I pursued outside professional testing for my daughter. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and a visual processing disorder.

We tried getting help through the school on several occasions, and were told, “We don’t do one-on-one tutoring, we don’t have the funds for that, we don’t have anyone trained to provide the remediation your daughter needs.” So I hired an Orton Gillingham tutor who was recommended by the International Dyslexia Association.

Now, because she is not on an IEP, she is not exempt from the guarantee. Not exempt!

A child with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder is not exempt from retention because of a single test? A child whose parents are paying over $5,000 a year to a private tutor because her public school cannot meet her needs? A child who was not identified by the school, but was identified because her parents paid for private testing?

A child who works 5 times as hard as a student without dyslexia to learn, who is also working outside of school with a private tutor, may be retained because of a single score on a single test on a single day, in a single year?

Now, mind you, if she should fail and be retained, the state has mandated that she receive remediation “from a qualified instructor, trained in the remediation of students with a disability in reading, from a program that is approved by the state board of education.” This, from the same school system that said, “We don’t have the time, funds, or individuals with training to help your daughter.”

The same school system that told my husband and I that our goals “were too high” for our daughter. Our goals were that she meet the same benchmark as her non-disabled peers by the end of her second grade year. Our goals were too high? That is what we were told. We are being told that we should not hold our daughter by the same standards due to her disability, yet she will be held to the same standard when taking the OAA.

The Third Grade Guarantee is not serving our children’s needs. Research has shown that retention will lead to higher dropout rates. Teaching to the test is devaluing our greatest young minds. We need to have teachers who can challenge our most gifted students, and specialists who can remediate our students with learning disabilities.

We are doing the very best we can for our daughter. My husband and I are both professionals, and we know what is working for her. What recourse will we have if our bright daughter with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder, fails the OAA? She will get held back for what purpose? To receive the “extensive remediation” she is already receiving privately?

Why is it a mandate to retain some of our brightest individuals based on a single test?

Why are charter schools not held to the same standards?

Why do public school students have to undergo more than a dozen standardized tests, while private school students do not?

When will educators from the Ohio Department of Education realize that retention is not the answer?

Sincerely,

Pamela Collier

Which is worse?

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.

Is this dyslexia?

A parent recently sent me this email: 

My daughter, Karen, is 8 years old and in third grade. She is full of life and so much fun. She makes friends easily and enjoys having a good time. But she is struggling in school.

She started struggling in Kindergarten. She had a tough time staying in her seat and was always in trouble for pestering others during nap time. She struggled with sight words and reading, and she missed the DIBELS benchmarks. But her teacher said Karen just needed to mature a little more and that she would be fine.

But in first grade, Karen was way behind in reading. She has always been a “social butterfly,” and she still had a hard time staying in her seat. So her teacher allowed her to get up move around a bit and then go back to work. That seemed to help.

Spelling tests were very tough for Karen. Reading comprehension tests were also tough because she couldn’t always read the questions. However, she could orally tell you all about the book. Her handwriting was poor, but legible.

In January, her first grade teacher suggested retention. But by the end of first grade, the teacher claimed Karen had caught up in reading. Karen was just a little immature, but she would grow out of it.

In second grade, Karen was about a semester behind in reading, and she sometimes swapped b’s for d’s. Her handwriting was (and still is) really hard to read at times. She did okay in math. But she often failed the spelling tests – even though we practiced every night and tried all sorts of things when practicing those spelling words.

This year, her third grade teacher knows all the “tricks.” Spelling tests are multiple choice. Karen has to circle the one that looks right, and she gets 95% or higher on that type of spelling test. But she cannot spell any of those words the following week.

Vocabulary tests are given with a word bank, so most weeks, Karen scores 85% or higher.

In math, she is allowed to use scratch paper and her fingers because she still has not memorized her adding and subtracting facts. Now they are starting multiplication. Yikes. Her class recently started to learn to tell time. Karen is struggling in that as well.

The school says Karen is at the 2.5 grade level in reading – but she should be at 3.4. Karen is doing better with being attentive in class, except during reading time. She loves to be read to, but she gets frustrated when she tries to read.

Her teacher doesn’t seem alarmed, but I have this feeling that something isn’t quite right.

Karen started cheering this year. She struggles to memorize the words and motions of the cheers. She often goes left when the group goes right, lifts her left hand when the group raises their right, etc.

She has a hard time memorizing Bible scriptures in her Bible classes. Scriptures that she memorized a week ago, she can no longer recite.

Do you think she might have dyslexia?

The right type of tutoring works !!!!

Parents, if your child’s school does not provide the right type of tutoring, then you need to provide it after school.

Some parents hire a professional tutor for the reason this tutor shared:

The Barton System continues to feed my soul. I am so grateful for having this opportunity to witness firsthand how your program changes lives.

A mother was in my living room the other day listening to her son read the stories from Book 3, Lesson 1. He had gotten this far in only 8 sessions with me, yet his school had threatened to retain him in first grade.

His mother started sobbing and shared that in college, she had failed Freshman English seven  times. So she finally dropped out. “Why didn’t they have this when I was a child? I could have succeeded,” she cried.

Naturally, I started crying too.

Thank you, Susan, for changing the world!

Many parents tutor their own children using the Barton System with great success, as this mother shared:

I am replying to your email to share with you our joy.

My 10 year old son, Mike, is at the end of level three. Today I told him to read the end-of-the-lesson story aloud by himself, while I checked for your e-mail.

I quietly noticed he was applying the rules, checking for tricky letters, and moving right along – all by himself. Before he finished, he even noticed his fluent reading.

He turned to me and said, “Mom, I can read. This woman (meaning you) understands me!!!”

It was a moment I’ve been praying for. Thank you for all the hard work that you do.

But I get the biggest thrill of all when the parent gets tutoring, as this Barton tutor shared:

Jerry discovered his own dyslexia at age 50, when his son was diagnosed. Jerry shared that he could not physically keep doing logging, but he had always turned down desk jobs because they involved paperwork. He was always coming up with inventions to solve mechanical challenges, but he could not follow through and market them because of his spelling and writing challenges.

So I started tutoring him using the Barton System. He has been getting tutoring 2 to 3 times a week for about a year.

Six months ago, he was hired by a local technology company. Jerry works with the owner designing new products. He is doing well and has received several raises and promotions.

Just last week, he wrote his first letter ever – to his son Frank in boot camp. His son said he cried when he read it. He wrote back to tell his dad that he was his hero!

By the way, the Barton Reading & Spelling System is not the only system that works. For a list of other Orton-Gillingham-based systems that work, click here.
 

As a Teacher and a Mother

This long post is worth reading — especially with school starting in just one month.

Dear Susan,

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.

Dear Colleague,

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.

Sincerely,

A Mother who is also a School Teacher

 

Say No to Summer School

Many parents send me questions like this at the end of a school year:

I have a daughter who just finished first grade. I am pretty sure she has dyslexia.

The last two months of school have been a nightmare of real and feigned sickness and tears every day as she tries to get out of going to school.

Jane struggles so much and ends her day so sad and frustrated due to journal writing, or even worse, having to copy poems from the board. What makes it even worse for her is seeing every other kid at her table do it faster and better.

My daughter’s school is recommending summer school. My worry is that their summer school is not going to help her – and it may make her hate school even more.

Most summer school programs just teach the very same reading program your child got during the school year, which will not help someone with dyslexia.

Summer School

So I tell parents to say “no” to summer school, and instead, get your child the right type of tutoring – with the Barton System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system — for an hour a day, every day, during the summer.

If you do not, second grade will be even worse – as this mother shared:

I am the mother of an extremely bright, frustrated, and sad 8 year old girl.

We have been struggling to find answers to her troubles within the school system.
Everyone knows she is very smart, but her written work reflects the exact opposite. She cannot spell or get ideas into written form.

The teacher claims she just needs to study harder, or she is just being a “difficult” child.

My daughter overheard her tell the principal that my daughter is “unteachable.”

Kids bully her and refer to her as “dumb” and “stupid.” This is so far from reality.

She is extremely articulate, has a wonderful imagination, loves information, and thinks things through very carefully. I want her to aspire to all that she can be. She is so bright and so interested in the world.

But if I don’t find some answers soon, she is going to fall through the cracks and continue on this downward spiral.

And by third grade, they all hit the wall in reading development, as this mom shared:

I must say that your video is superb! I cried a lot as you described my son. I wish teachers and administrators were required to watch it – as I’m sure my son would have been caught much earlier, and that would have saved him (and us) a lot of anxiety and stress.

For the past two years (during first and second grade) school became such a stressor that my husband and I not only looked forward to the summer break, but we would get start to get anxiety attacks in August . . . realizing school was about to start again. I’m sure whatever we were feeling was 10 times worse for our son.

My son just started 3rd grade and I can see that brick wall before us. He can read, but his reading speed is so slow. It took us 2.5 hours to get through 16 pages of a small chapter book last night.

By fourth grade, they often qualify for special ed. But that doesn’t make school any better – as this parent shared.

My son is in 4th grade. He has dyslexia. He is a special ed student.

His regular ed teacher is so ignorant of dyslexia. She wants my son to participate in a 4th grade spelling bee because she wants to “challenge” him.

My son is terrified and traumatized at the thought of standing up in front of his classmates and being humiliated – again.

Without the right type of one-on-one tutoring, they will be stuck forever at the third grade reading level, as this mother shared:

My son is in 7th grade, but his reading fluency and comprehension have been stuck at the 3rd grade level for years – despite years of special ed services, and despite my following their advice of forcing him to read out loud to me for 20 minutes every day.

When he passed 6th grade, I was thrilled because newspapers, magazines, and job applications are written at the 6th grade level. So we bought a box of brownie mix to celebrate. I was crushed when he could not read the cooking instructions on the box.

And adults who were forced to go to summer school when they were kids know it never helped, as this adult shared:

I have dyslexia.

My early school years were horrible. No one knew what to do with me, so they just passed me through each year.

But I had to attend summer school EVERY summer. I hated it, and it never helped.

I grew up thinking I must be stupid because it took so much time to read, study and retain information.

I am pretty sure my 7 year old daughter has dyslexia, too. I see so much of myself in her. She is struggling with reading and has started saying that she hates school.

I will do anything to prevent the torture I went through as a child from happening to her.

So, parents, if you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, just say “no” to summer school. Get them the right type of tutoring instead.

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