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
Teachers are amazed at how rapidly Barton students improve — even when they are tutored by a parent, as this mother shared:
Thank you so much for developing this program and your great informational videos and website. Without those, I don’t think my daughter would have been diagnosed and gotten the help she needed.
I am currently working on Level 3 with my daughter. Since starting the Barton System, she has shown tremendous progress! Her teacher told us that in her 13 years of teaching experience, she has never seen a student have this much growth in one year! She credits the program and my commitment to it.
That teacher has been wonderful. She has allowed me to come into the classroom for an hour twice a week to do Barton with my daughter.
By the way, that teacher is now interested in using the Barton System with a few other students she thinks will benefit from it. So that is super exciting!
Jennifer Veras, parent
Parents who are former teachers often feel the most guilt, as this parent shared:
I cannot tell you how many sad, frustrated tears were cried by both my now second grade son and me during his kindergarten and first grade years.
I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right but kept hearing the all too familiar “it’s developmental” and “he’s doing great and reading at grade level” nonsense — while I kept pointing out what appeared to be weak phonemic awareness and little understanding of how words are formed.
I refused to let their words appease me and kept researching, learning, and seeking professional input until my suspicion of dyslexia was confirmed.
It absolutely breaks my heart that the teachers at the ground floor of reading instruction in our area know so little about dyslexia.
I am a former high school English teacher who now carries sadness and guilt over the unidentified, defeated students I failed to encourage and help — all because I didn’t know. I wish I could contact each one of them now and put a name on the monster that plagued them and robbed them of their confidence and made school a miserable experience.
Education programs need to do more to train future teachers, and schools need to step up and acknowledge this very common learning difference.
I am confident that my little guy will rise above this and thrive, but I feel like I need to be a voice for the other three kids with dyslexia in his class of 20, and the many more spread throughout the building.
Thank you, Mrs. Barton, for making information about dyslexia accessible and clear. You have lit a fire in me that I hope will spread through our local school district.
Laura Kuster, Teacher and Parent
By Sally Miles
Shared with prior written permission
As a teacher, dyslexia therapist (ALTA), mother and grandmother of two brilliant dyslexics, and someone who loves learning, I do my best every day to meet the needs of my students in my 3rd grade class. I fail every day, but we forgive and move on.
I do my best to address teaching in an Orton-Gillingham based manner for every subject. Not every student I have is dyslexic, but every child can benefit.
My students have so many needs that even though I truly put forth the effort, my brain and my heart cannot possibly think of everything that every child needs during every moment of every day. Among the children I greet every morning are those diagnosed and undiagnosed dyslexic children, a hearing impaired child with cerebral palsy, diagnosed and undiagnosed children with ADHD, auditory processing disorders, language disorders and autism, English as a second language, children who go to bed unfed since they left school, children who are abused, and children who are neglected.
Even though I try to meet every single need of your child, I’m going to fail. So before you call me out on Facebook, talk to me! Tell me, in a kind way, what your child needs that I am not doing.
Remember, the things your child needs that I’m trying to do . . . may be met with resistance by other parents because I teach in a way that is different, or their child may have very different needs.
Remember that I am human and may forget simply because I have so many different needs swirling through my head.
Remember that my goal is to teach all of your children, every day, with the “right” way for your child, and I will fail. I will get up again the next day and try to do better.
But it is easier if you tell me what your child needs . . . rather than think I’m too ignorant, I don’t care, I’m lazy, or I’m just another part of an often-broken system.
Many children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services – not even if a parent brings in a diagnostic report.
In that case, fight hard for classroom accommodations – and get the right type of help after school.
This parent did not do that – and regrets it.
Dyslexia runs in my family tree. My father, who is 60, can still remember being in second grade and having the teacher call him up to the front of the class to read out loud. The teacher would force him to stand there and “do it until you get it right” – despite him crying in front of the entire class.
I have a degree in Elementary Education, but we never had a single solitary course – not even a single lecture – on dyslexia.
Yet when my daughter struggled in kindergarten, her teacher suggested the possibility of dyslexia because:
- On DIBELS, she was not meeting benchmarks in nonsense word reading
- She had terrible spelling and could not retain her spelling words — not even the high frequency words like “some”
- She already had 2 years of speech therapy for R’s and L’s, but was not improving
- She constantly confused left and right
- And she still could not tie her shoes
At end of first grade, I asked the school to test her for a possible learning disability. The school said they wouldn’t test her until at least 3rd grade.
So during second grade, when she was not making progress in Tier 2 of RTI, I hired a highly qualified private professional to test her. She was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dyslexia.
But when I shared that report with the school psychologist, he stated that dyslexia does not exist, that Susan Barton’s website was not a valid resource, and we could not even get a 504 Plan because he felt our daughter did not need it. He claimed she displayed no difficulties and would prove to be a good student.
Her teachers and even the principal were at that meeting, and they went along with the psychologist’s assessment – leaving us to wonder if we really knew what we were talking about.
We were so confused that we decided to follow the school’s advice — and regret it.
Our daughter is now at the end of third grade. Despite another year of phonics instruction and more RTI, she still struggles with spelling, sounding out longer words, and cannot comprehend her science textbook when she reads it herself. (But she has no trouble comprehending it when I read it TO her.)
The school did eventually test her, but her scores were not low enough to qualify for Special Ed services. And her report card grades are not too bad. She gets low B’s or C’s.
We have shown our daughter’s diagnostic report to other dyslexia professionals and organizations, and they have all agreed that she definitely does have dyslexia.
So what do I do now?
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
I love it when teachers attend my free presentations on dyslexia – because they share amazing stories of how hard they worked to make it through college:
A new teacher shared:
I saw you speak about a month ago. Let me first say that you were wonderful! I am a new teacher, 24 years old, and I went with some coworkers. We left thinking that every educator should be required to attend one of your seminars.
I now think I might have dyslexia. I always felt that I was slower to understand things in school because I couldn’t read as well as the other students. I remember my teacher putting me in a remedial reading class. I got out of it by faking that I needed glasses and that was the reason why I couldn’t read. After that, I got really good at faking reading.
I graduated from college after struggling many nights trying to read the textbooks and just giving up. I am sad to admit this, but I am a college graduate who has never read an entire chapter of any textbook. It’s not that I didn’t want to read the books. It’s just that I would start reading, but I would get lost. I kept having to reread the same page over and over again, reading was exhausting, and I could not understand what I was reading because I read so slowly and inaccurately. Yet when someone explained it to me verbally, I would instantly understand it.
Even though I never read a full chapter of any textbook in college, I did end up graduating with an overall 3.1 GPA.
A teacher at a private Christian school shared:
Your talk was amazing. I have a degree in Theology, but I stopped buying textbooks after the first semester because I never read more than the first few pages of them.
Instead, I formed study groups where we would TALK about the subject and share the information that “each person” learned from reading the textbook.
I also loved the literature courses. I could not read all of the words in the books, but I could guess at enough of them to follow the storyline. I also discovered that many of “the classics” could be downloaded as text files, so I could use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read them out loud to me.
A teacher pursuing her Master’s degree shared:
I am 56 years old and have dyslexia. I see myself in so many of your descriptions: the disorganized desk with piles of paper, the messy room, the right versus left problems, and spelling. Lord, I can’t spell anything.
Technology tools, especially spell and grammar checkers, have been a saving grace for me. I use them constantly. My wonderful husband has also read and corrected the spelling, punctuation, and grammar in my papers, my emails, and my class work for the last 30 years.
I am now going for a Master’s degree. It is sooooo frustrating that I can make A’s on all of my discussions and demonstration classes, but I can barely get a C on multiple choice tests. I run out of time on every test because when I read the questions, I skip words or misread them. So I have to check and recheck to be sure I’ve read each long convoluted question, and each possible answer, correctly. I can then choose the correct answer, but it takes me longer. Time always runs out before I finish the test.
From a caring teacher and friend:
When you mentioned that dyslexics have poor written expression – even though they have a clear grasp of the concept when discussing it orally, I thought of a young lady I met in college. We started out studying together, but eventually, I became her scribe. When we discussed a topic, she clearly knew what she was talking about. But when she came back with a paper she had written on that same topic, it made very little sense. She would ask me to look over and edit her papers, but this was such a struggle for both of us (her during the original writing, and me during the proofreading) that it simply became easier to write together sitting in front of the computer. She would talk, and I would type.
She shared that she had a reading and writing learning disability and had gotten an IEP in third grade. She also shared that she had been told by several teachers that she was unlikely to graduate from high school and probably would never be able to attend college.
But she had an amazing work ethic. She worked her butt off. And she earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Her story stuck with me, and I’ve been so angry at those teachers who dared to make such a negative prediction to this obviously bright young woman. I can’t help but wonder how different her educational experience would have been if only her teachers had known about dyslexia.
Often, a public school has to see 2 or 3 students they have given up on succeed, by getting the right type of tutoring after school, before they will partner with those tutors and accept dyslexia, as this parent shared.
My husband is dyslexic and all 3 of my kids are as well – to varying degrees. My oldest daughter (who is severely dyslexic) is now in 7th grade and has made high honor roll once again!
This is the same child who was minimized by her teacher in 1st grade, who told me that she would never read above a 3rd grade level, if that, and that she would ALWAYS struggle. But that teacher was wrong.
McKeighla is about to start Level 9 of the Barton System. Her confidence, and her ability to “own” her strengths and weaknesses, have become an inspiration to her teachers and her peers.
Our small community has embraced my tutoring services, and the school district has now become a wonderful support to both my daughter, and myself, as I daily pull students from their classroom to tutor privately, on the public school campus, during school hours. Each and every student that I work with (all 13 of them) have shown tremendous growth. At first, some teachers claimed their improving scores were just “a fluke.” But now their improving scores are known as “Barton scores.”
This past year, I opened an office in Mount Vernon and work there 2 days a week. I have students who travel from as far north as the Canadian border, and as far south as Seattle. And we are starting a dyslexia support group for parents in Skagit Valley.
The passion and drive I feel for these kiddos, and for this field, reaches the bottom of my soul. So thank you, Susan, for pioneering a way for parents to get involved, for empowering us with the knowledge to make a difference, and for all your support which allows us to be courageous and confident.
Certified Barton Tutor and Dyslexia Specialist in La Conner, WA
Most teachers really do want to learn how to help struggling students, as this Dyslexia Specialist (and former Waldorf teacher) shared:
I gave a workshop entitled “Dyslexia and Educational Support” last week at the annual Waldorf Teachers Conference.
Even though I was given the very last time slot on the very last day, my presentation was full.
The teachers were so grateful for information which opened their eyes to the possibility of dyslexia as the explanation they had been looking for, even if they didn’t realize it before. A few were already knowledgeable, a few were skeptical yet open, and for a few, it was life changing.
One teacher came up to me during a break, shared that she was dyslexic, and that her school was suggesting that she might not be able to continue teaching her class past third grade because her written end-of-year reports were so poorly written — despite her using a spell checker. She said, “I’d rather be in a room full of scorpions and snakes than have to write those reports.”
This was one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever had.
Susan Barton coordinates a Dyslexia Speakers Bureau. So if you need a good speaker on Dyslexia to educate teachers at a staff meeting, an inservice training day, or a conference, fill out the form at:
Susan will then connect you to a good speaker in your area.