Susan Barton loves getting letters from graduates of the Barton Reading & Spelling System who then start sharing their story in an effort to change things for other students with dyslexia. Here’s Katherine’s story:
I can and I will. Just watch me.
For years this has been my go-to statement.
You see, in the third grade, I was diagnosed “twice exceptional” having both dyslexia and dysgraphia paired with a high IQ. Up until that point, I couldn’t read a three-letter word. My parents had meeting after meeting with my teachers and were told that I was an underachiever and that I would never be more than a mediocre student. Well, lucky for me, they knew better!
But for most children who suffer from hidden disabilities, there isn’t anyone there to advocate for them. This creates a huge crack for these kids to fall through and most of the time leads to these children becoming statistics. Over forty million Americans have dyslexia and only slightly more than two million are receiving services for their diagnosis.
So many children fall behind in school and ultimately drop out due to the lack of in-depth screening to be able to identify certain markers that could provide early intervention. Had my mother not known that something wasn’t adding up and decided to seek second and third opinions, I have no doubt that I would have been a statistic.
Today I am an all A student and have earned admission into the BETA Club, National Honor Society, and didn’t do too terrible on my first time taking the ACT! Because someone cared enough to advocate for me, I was able to return to school after my diagnosis and not only receive the proper training for my dyslexia, but I was also immediately entered into the gifted class! You cannot imagine what this did for my self-esteem! I was pulled twice a day, once for therapy and once for gifted!
Again, this was because someone believed I could do it! Someone had the insight to know that helping me advance what my brain was good at, as they helped me learn to overcome what my brain wasn’t good at, was going to be the key to my success!
My journey hasn’t always been an easy one and to this day I continue to fight the fight! I want to take this a step further and make sure that once students are diagnosed, they are not hindered by the label.
I have had to fight my way through class scheduling because they didn’t think I could handle certain classes. I had to beg to be put into chemistry in my 10th grade year and promise to give 100% effort. I finished that class with a high A. Had I not pushed for this, I would have never gotten the opportunity to learn in advanced classroom settings, simply because I have been labeled “learning disabled”.
I always have to prove that I can excel greatly if I’m not put into a box and labeled! I believe that once identified, dyslexia becomes a gift instead of a disability! With proper accommodations students can finally realize their potential and begin to focus on the many positive traits that come along with this diagnosis.
I once read a quote saying, “everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, he will live his whole life believing he’s stupid!” There are seven different types of learners in a classroom: auditory, visual, verbal, logical, physical, social and solitary. Since that’s the case, doesn’t it make sense that there are that many different types of testers? Standardized testing is merely taking a fish and asking him to climb that tree!
I am trying to help bring awareness to this issue by being a student liaison to the Mississippi Department of Education. I am currently a member of the Mississippi State Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, serving a two-year term. This role lets me tell my story and offer insight to what I believe will help to identify struggling students, hopefully helping to ultimately lower the dropout rate.
Statistics show that sixty-two percent of non-readers become high school dropouts. I think this is unacceptable and can certainly be helped. I cringe to think of where I might be today, had someone not seen my potential.
I hope my story can be eye opening!
What if you have a student who has the potential to be President of the United States, or a brain surgeon, or cure cancer, but never makes it out of high school because his or her potential was never realized. The accommodations not put into place to see that just because he can’t climb the tree doesn’t mean he can’t swim the ocean!
So many children are out there struggling daily who don’t know their own potential! So many educators and adults who don’t know what they are looking for write us off as underachievers. This has to stop!
I want to ultimately rebrand dyslexia and make the world see who we really are! We are the imaginers, the creators! We are driven and ambitious and persistent — IF we aren’t made to believe we are simply mediocre!
How can we help? Let’s start a discussion!
I love getting emails like this:
Five years ago, my son was struggling terribly. He was in third grade and could no longer mask the difficulty he was having with reading fluency.
Homework drove him to tears. It had gotten so bad that he would hit himself in the head and call himself “stupid.” It broke my heart.
Today, Nolan completed the Barton Reading & Spelling System with Janis Garcia, a wonderful Certified Barton Tutor. He proudly received his certificate signed by Susan Barton.
Nolan is excelling in school, but perhaps more importantly, he has regained his self-confidence.
I can’t thank you enough for all you have done to drive awareness, to advocate, and to provide resources for addressing the needs of children with dyslexia. It has made all the difference in the world for our family.
Kim Shinmoto, parent
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.