This is why Early Intervention — of the right type and intensity — is so important.
Travis never attended public school because I realized that he showed the same symptoms of dyslexia that my older son did at that age.
So I homeschooled Travis and started him on the Barton program as soon as he was old enough. I was already using it with his older brother and having good results.
Recently, Travis began expressing a desire to go to 2nd grade public school with his friends, which I figured would happen eventually. So, I took him up to our local elementary school. The teachers, principal, and counselor were great. They took him on a tour of the school, let him observe a class, and even let him play on the playground for a while. He felt right at home and decided he might like to try public school for the last six weeks of the year — even though I did explain to Travis that he would have to continue doing Barton 3x per week after school.
Of course, the first thing the school staff wanted to do was placement testing. The reading specialist evaluated his reading level as approximately 3.0 grade level. She did mention that she thought his fluency was lacking as he read from one line of text to the next and encouraged me to read aloud to him daily.
I then shared the testing we had done with a private dyslexia interventionist who said that although he was young, it was her best opinion that he was pretty severely dyslexic. I also shared some of the results of his testing, such as being at the 2nd percentile for phonemic awareness.
Then I explained how we had been using a combination of the Barton System (which she was not familiar with, but she knew of OG), and occupational therapy for the dysgraphia for almost three years. The more I talked, the wider her eyes got.
She finally said, “I had no idea that what you are saying you have done could actually be done. I see these kids come through here with such low skills, and they get further and further behind. It scars them for life, and they never recover from it. I would have never guessed that he was dyslexic. He didn’t mix up a single sound while he was reading. I’ve never known anyone who has actually fixed it.”
Mind you, we live in Texas, where dyslexic students receive “daily intervention” from our public schools. Sadly, it is often ineffective, as it was with my oldest son, who could not read CVC words in 3rd grade despite their “intervention.”
I wish I had known how to help my oldest son before he had the chance to feel like a failure, but I just didn’t know what to do.
Thank you so much for bringing awareness and education to parents about the dyslexia community, updates about the latest research of brain imaging, and best teaching practices.
Most of all, thank you for giving my son a chance to show the world what a bright boy he is. I’m still not sure if he will go to that school or if we will continue homeschooling, but I do know that either way, he will be a success because of your program and his hard work.
This woman is another one of my heroes.
My own dyslexia was a gift from God. Meeting you was another. Thank you for all you have done to change the lives of children and their families.
Over the past decade, I have personally witnessed the success of over one hundred students whom I have tutored using the Barton System.
One of my former students graduated valedictorian and is now in vet school.
Another took herself out of special ed classes when she was in 8th grade, and she graduated with honors last year. She actually said to me, “You saved my life.”
Another worked as a night cleaner at a fast-food restaurant until he could read all the items on the menu. He was then promoted to trainer of the night cleaners. Eventually he changed jobs to become a line cook at a fancy restaurant. This young man, who began the Barton System when he was a senior in high school, now works for a well-known soda company, is married, and has 2 children.
Yet at age 18, when we started, he said, “I will never learn how to read and write. My teachers say I have a learning disability, and that’s why I am so dumb.”
After I left the public school system, I began a ministry at my church called 3H Tutoring: Help, Hope and Honor for Struggling Readers. My pastors are very supportive and have announced this ministry to the congregation.
We now have 17 students and 3 tutors: myself and 2 trained volunteers. We have seen remarkable gains in our students’ standardized test scores, an incredible gain in their self-confidence, and a newly-found love of books and literature.
Thank you for helping me save the lives, and change the future, of these wonderful students.
Founder of 3H Tutoring
It should not take this long but sadly, it often does, as this parent shared:
We started our journey in first grade, when our daughter’s teacher shared that she was not grasping reading concepts as fast as she should. I was shocked because I had read to her since she was a baby, and books were a big part of our home.
For the rest of that school year, we spent many long, tearful evenings trying to teach her the sight words. We would go over and over and over them, but she could not retain them.
We also spent at least two hours every night doing homework, and practicing her reading.
Despite that, at the beginning of third grade, she was only reading 27 words per minute – which was at the bottom of her class.
She also struggled with spelling. I got her list several days early, so we would have extra time to learn the words. It did not help.
Over the years, the teachers said, “It will click one of these days,” or “She is young for her grade,” and “You are doing all the right things at home.” Yet year after year, she spent many long, tearful nights doing homework.
When I asked if she might have a learning disability, the answer was always, “No.”
In fifth grade, we hit a wall. That year, she spent four to five hours a week studying her spelling words – just to get a D.
She also got a D in Social Studies, even though I read the textbook out loud to her, because her vocabulary was way behind.
She began to have problems with her peers, partly due to her very low self-esteem.
At the end of some of our homework battles, she began to say she should be dead because she was useless. She stayed up late every night due to anxiety, and she developed depression. We knew we had to do something, but we did not know the cause of her academic struggles.
Then a friend at a party suggested she might have dyslexia. Our life changed that very day.
We decided to homeschool, which our daughter had been begging us to do since first grade, and we began using the Barton System as our language arts curriculum.
I have watched her grow into an amazing person.
I will never forget the day she started reading road signs out loud.
When she finished Level 6, I shared she could now start reading textbooks on her own. For her social studies assignment, there was a five page story to read, then an outline to complete, and comprehension questions to answer. She proudly completed all of it by herself. That was a HUGE self-esteem boost, and it has shown up in all areas of her life.
She now reads books for fun, and she is finally understanding how to spell words.
Homeschool is getting less time consuming as her vocabulary grows because we don’t have to explain as many words before we move forward. She is also better able to recall terms and ideas.
Only a year and a half ago, she was labeled “functionally illiterate.”
I can not thank you enough, Susan Barton, for saving my daughter and bringing my family such peace and happiness!
Please feel free to share our story to bring hope to other families who are still struggling.
Sturgeon Lake, MN
Words cannot express my gratitude for all you do for children with dyslexia.
I contacted you last fall when I was having difficulties with my two children in school. Your patience, gentleness and compassion gave me the hope that my children would be OK, and you gave me the courage to take their education into my own hands.
I read everything I could on your website, all of your links, your newsletters, and everything everyone posted. I came to realize that my children would not reach their full potential in a traditional school environment until after they completed the Barton System.
So my husband and I purchased a 20’ x 12’ shed with a loft. We turned it into a one room school house, where I spend every day educating 2 of my 4 children. We use the same curriculum that the school they previously attended uses, plus 45 minutes of individual Barton tutoring, 5 days a week.
The day we brought our children home, we made this video for our own personal benefit. I had watched and loved “Sophia’s Fight Song,” and I wanted my children to have a video like that of their own.
The progress they have made in just 7 months is truly astonishing! So today, we made a second video. If you watch them both, the progress they’ve made is undeniable.
I have NO regrets on taking your advice to do it myself at home. I have NO regrets for deciding to home school, and I have NO regrets that a 20’ x 12’ shed is sitting in my backyard instead of the built-in pool we had been saving for.
We have time again to laugh, play, and have fun! We had lost that for a little while to tears, arguments, and the frustration of (not) learning while trying to complete endless worksheets that did not make sense.
My husband and I thank you, my children thank you, and I know we are just one of many families who have been blessed by you.
Kimm Pasmore, Homeschool Parent
Spring Hill, FL
P.S. I never intended to show these videos to anyone outside of family. But so many friends have asked about my children and their progress, and I felt like they did not believe me when I told them how far my kids have come. So now I show them these two videos, and they can see it for themselves.
It takes a lot of courage to pull your child out of public school and start homeschooling. And it requires a lot of work. But most parents of children with dyslexia will tell you that homeschooling was the best thing they ever did.
This homeschool parent’s story is so typical.
Susan, I just have to share what that my son’s (homeschool) teacher posted today. We are on Level 4 of the Barton Reading & Spelling System. He is in 4th grade.
Last year, in public school, he hit the “brick wall” and cried every day. He hated school. He hated the fact that his little sister could read better than he could. His self-esteem was nonexistent. The school refused to do ANYTHING even though we had a diagnosis of dyslexia.
So this year, in an effort to salvage whatever self-worth he had left, we decided to homeschool.
Today, I received this email from his homeschool teacher. THIS is what happens when you use EVIDENCE BASED methods that are proven to work with a dyslexic child!
Subject: Music to my ears
My son: I’m going to have to read all the way home because I want to know what is going to happen next. Can I just read it now?
Teacher: No, that’s homework.
My son: But I want to know now.
This is coming from a boy who has NEVER enjoyed reading in his life because of dyslexia and the use of ineffective reading methods in the past. Now he can’t put his book down. Proud teacher moment!
Susan, thank you for everything you do to help our kids, and to educate us and guide us in advocating for them along this rocky journey. You are an angel to many.
Homeschool parent in CT
I get emails like this every single day.
I have been trying to get my son’s school to test him for dyslexia or a learning disability. But they refuse. They say my son gets good grades, and I should be proud.
I am proud of my son, but he struggles with reading and spelling. Homework that takes children without dyslexia 30 minutes takes my son over 2 hours – with lots of frustration, yelling, and tears.
I also had dyslexia as a child.
What surprises me is nothing has changed in our schools.
Parents, if you think special education services are the answer, read this.
My son is going in 4th grade but is reading on a 2nd grade level. His spelling is also very low, and he is dysgraphic.
Although he has an IEP, I have seen very little improvement over the past 2 years.
The worst part is he has given up on learning. He claims he just doesn’t care. It’s very hard to engage him in any kind of learning at school. He would rather act up than learn.
Many children would rather be thought of as “the bad kid” . . . than “the stupid kid.”
The worst part of struggling academically for years . . . is what it does to a child emotionally, as this mother shares:
Susan, I just watched your video. It made me cry.
I have known for months now that my youngest daughter probably has dyslexia. She has been devastated by school and her inability to read. This bright child is sinking deeper and deeper into despair … about school … and about herself.
I cried because I realized that my brother probably suffered from this as a young boy, I probably have this to some degree, and so does my oldest daughter. I did not realize there was such a strong genetic link. How could I have missed this?
I know my daughter needs specialized teaching, and I am trying to get this help from her public school. She has an IEP, but they don’t seem to be giving her the right kind of teaching to get her reading on track. They seem satisfied in sending her on to 3rd grade “with support.”
I do not believe support is going to solve the problem. She needs to be taught in a way that she can actually learn.
Parents, stop waiting for the school to change.
If your child’s school does not provide intervention using an Orton-Gillingham based system by someone who is well trained and uses it properly, then hire a private tutor to provide it during the summer – or get the Barton System and tutor your child yourself.
To learn more, go to:
A child’s skills can improve tremendously over the summer – if they get the right type of tutoring.
College for adults with untreated dyslexia can be a nightmare, as this man shared:
I am 38 years old. A friend urged me to attend a talk you were giving in Ohio.
What I learned astounded me! I have many of the problems you shared.
In grade school and high school, I struggled SO hard academically, was called names and told “You’re lazy,” “You’re not trying hard enough,” “You’re stupid,” etc. I failed second grade, and time after time, I failed math and spelling.
Hours upon hours were spent trying to teach me how to tell time. Homework sessions all ended the same way . . . with me in tears, my father yelling, screaming, and pounding his fist on the table. You have no idea what it was like.
After high school, I did a variety of jobs, but I wanted more. Friends told me, “College will be easier now that you’re older.” So at age 36, I enrolled in college, put my heart and soul into studying and homework, but it was just like elementary and high school all over again.
I have been struggling in college for two years. I have failed basic math 3 times. My spelling is atrocious at best. And I spend so much time doing homework because I have to read things multiple times to get the meaning.
I have no idea what to do. Can you help me?
With accommodations, they can often succeed, as this woman shared.
My dyslexia was not discovered until I was a junior in college. That year, I broke the thumb on my writing hand. During my recovery period, when I could not write, I was provided with a copy of lecture notes, and I was allowed to take tests orally.
For the first time ever, I made the Deans List.
Yet most colleges require current testing before they will provide accommodations, and testing is expensive, as this Certified Barton tutor knows:
I have been tutoring a severely dyslexic boy who is being raised by his grandmother, who is also dyslexic.
One of her sons had many problems in school with reading and spelling. He abused drugs and alcohol in his early 20’s, but he has been clean for 12 years now. Yet he is still unable to hold down a job.
He was recently given a grant to attend a local community college, but the college will not let him use their reading machines or provide any accommodations until he provides a current written diagnosis of dyslexia.
The grandmother of my student cannot afford the cost of testing. She is stretched to the limit to pay for her grandson’s private tutoring. Where can he go for free or low-cost testing? He absolutely must have accommodations in college or else he is going to fail – again.
Parents, you can change this by working together to pass laws to force public schools to screen for dyslexia during the early grades.
Congratulations to Arkansas, whose governor signed their Dyslexia Bill into law this morning – thanks to the efforts of hundreds of parents and caring teachers.
When adults share the emotional pain caused by dyslexia, and how it continues to impact them even as adults, it will give you the anger and courage needed to fight hard for laws that require early screening and early intervention.
I’m 23 years old now, and I barely graduated from high school. My fiancee and I just watched your dyslexia video, and the story you told about your nephew Ben made me cry. It brought back many painful memories. I am like Ben, but unlike Ben, I never got the right help. I would like to tell you my story, and then I’d like to ask you a few questions.
In kindergarten, I had to walk home. It was only about three or four blocks, but I would often get lost. Also, I still remember getting criticized by my teachers, classmates, and even my own parents when I was falling behind in reciting my ABC’s, my 1-10’s, and even my phone number and address.
They almost retained me in Kindergarten, but my mother talked them out of it.
In first grade, I started to learn to read, but again, I was falling behind. All the way through school, I feared my turn to read in class. It’s funny how good memories are sometimes forgotten, but bad memories never go away. When I was trying to learn to read, I can still remember my father telling me that I was lazy, and I just wasn’t trying. I guess my tears and frustration weren’t enough proof for him to see how hard I really was trying.
When I finally got tested for dyslexia in 3rd grade, they put me into “Special Ed.” If you ask a child what Special Ed means, they will probably say “retarded.” That’s what my peers called me, and that’s what I thought I was.
My parents sent me to many programs, and spent a lot of money. Yet I’ve held a grudge against my parents for years; I felt they failed me and didn’t try hard enough to get the right type of help. That’s because after years of “help,” I was still the same.
I struggled all the way through high school and barely graduated. In my junior year, the state created a High School Graduation Exam. In order to graduate, you had to pass 3 tests: reading, writing, and math. You could take them 3 times, but if you don’t pass by the end of high school, you only got an “Attendance” certificate. The first time I took it, I somehow passed the reading test. But I failed math and writing.
To this day, I can’t do math. I still mess up on simple things such as adding and subtracting. I still don’t know my multiplication tables. I’ve tried to learn them for years, but I just can’t remember them. I’ll have all the fours mastered one night, but when I try them again the next day, I’ll only remember a few of them. By the following day, I won’t remember any of them.
So I switched to a vocational high school where you could take construction electricity to earn math credits. In that hands-on class, I was a super star.
But I still could not pass the math portion of the high school exit exam — or the writing part, which you had to do by hand and they graded it on spelling, punctuation, and neatness of handwriting.
Fortunately, many parents in the district (whose kids could not pass the test) fought the district and got them to withdraw the test. So I did graduate after all — with a D average.
After high school, I went from job to job, but I wasn’t happy. I needed a skill, so I turned to the military. I took the ASVAB for the Coast Guard, and once again, I almost failed it. But I scored just high enough to get into a mechanics position.
But Basic Training was a nightmare. I could not memorize and retain information, marching left versus right was almost impossible, and I still could not write down anything. In the end I had a mental breakdown, and got discharged.
That was two years ago, and since then, I’ve been going from one job I hated to the next.
But last January, my finance gave me an ultimatum. “Go back to school and try, or I’m going to leave you.”
So I’m back in school in the diesel mechanics program.
Although the Disabilities Office has provided some software, more time on tests, and a note taker for each of my classes, they are not teaching me how to overcome my dyslexia.
I still can’t spell, do multiplication (or most other math), memorize anything, tell my left from my right, or find my errors when I write. I even make mistakes when filling out a job application.
Yet there is so much I can do. Right now, I work as an assistant maintenance person at the fire department, and I’m good. Really good. I can fix just about anything.
Yet that’s not what this world wants.
I want help to overcome my dyslexia so badly. I will try anything. I just want to be like everyone around me.
If it’s too late for me, then I need to know what to do to help my children when I have them. I do not want them to feel like I do now.
Hopeless, helpless, and sad.
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.”