This is why our bright kids with dyslexia often develop anxiety or depression — and dread going to school.
Jessica Spriggs sent this to me as an email, and gave me permission to share it. She wrote:
I’m very proud of both of my kids, but only Olivia wakes up every day knowing that she will face huge hurdles throughout her school day.
Lately, it has been extremely hard to convince her that going to school is a good idea.
She sits in class feeling defeated because she learns differently than most of her classmates.
She struggles getting through homework.
And even though she studies for tests, she may barely pass a test. She knows the material inside and out, but to apply it in the traditional way seems impossible at times.
Her teachers rave about her huge vocabulary, her poise, her generosity, and her creativity.
But there is always that moment when she feels like giving up.
Maybe it’s when her name is not posted for honor roll because she just could not make A’s and B’s despite hours of studying.
Maybe it’s when she has to think about which hand is her right hand, and she gets confused.
Maybe it’s the overwhelming pressure she feels when she knows she has to take a standardized test soon — and wonders if she can pass on to the next grade.
She has lots of anxiety, but this girl has gained strength, grit, power, endurance, and most of all, a backbone to handle everything thrown her way.
She is the face of dyslexia, but she will not let it define her!
She will concentrate on the things that make her happy: being kind, sewing, artwork, and public speaking.
This email, which was sent to me by a homeschooling parent in Florida, touched my heart.
Our story begins when my son, Larry, was in kindergarten. He missed out on play time because he struggled to identify letters and their sounds.
In first grade, sight words caused him to miss play time.
In second grade, timed reading and math became 75% of his grade. Third grade would bring the FCAT. I was told if a student cannot read 150 words a minute, they probably would not be able to finish that test.
So we homeschooled Larry in third grade. We also asked the public school to test him. They said he had ADHD. But by then, I had been homeschooling for half a year and I felt that probably was not true. So I hired a private psychologist to test him. It turns out our son had “classic dyslexia.”
Homeschool continued through 3rd and 4th grade. Although I slowed everything down, I continued using the same curriculum – but it wasn’t working. Larry was extremely frustrated. By 5th grade, he and I were at our wits end. Shortly after starting the school year, Larry broke down and said he was stupid and wanted to kill himself. That still brings tears to my eyes.
On that very day, I knew I had to find an answer. So I got on the computer and started frantically searching for a way to teach my son. I decided to go to a message board for parents with dyslexic kids. The ONLY thing they were talking about was the Barton Reading & Spelling System – which level they were finishing, and who had the next one.
Right then and there, I googled Susan Barton. I watched your video on dyslexia that was on your website. I was overcome with emotion as I listened to you talk about your story and heard your passion for dyslexic kids. You were the first person who explained dyslexia in detail, both its weaknesses and STRENGTHS. I called Larry in to listen to part of it and I told him, “This is who you are. You are a brilliant and amazing boy to have learned as much as you have – despite the way I am teaching you.”
You promised that with the Barton System, my son would read at or above grade level and his spelling would improve, and I believed you.
Needless to say, homeschool has not been the same. Larry is now a 7th grader, is in Level 6 of the Barton System, and now believes that he can go to college and excel.
Thank you. Susan. I am forever grateful that you have become an important part of Larry’s life and education.
As this parent shared, “slower and louder” will not work for a child who has dyslexia.
To hear Susan Barton’s advice for homeschool parents who use (or are thinking about using) the Barton Reading & Spelling System, watch my free on-line presentation by clicking on the following link:
By the way, that presentation also contains useful advice for parents thinking about homeschooling.
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?
Most homeschool parents do not know any more about dyslexia than teachers. But homeschool parents tend to focus on their child’s strengths while they continue to search for answers – as this mom shared.
I have homeschooled all 3 of my children, one of whom is severely dyslexic. It has been wonderful to be able to tutor my son in the Barton System while making every accommodation he needs to excel in all subjects.
Though he struggled with reading and writing for years before we found the Barton System, we always focused on his strengths, so he has never felt like he wasn’t as smart as others. Quite the contrary. He has excelled in math – completing high school geometry in 7th grade, and he is a history buff. He is also in a high school level literature discussion group (he listens to the books on audio), and he is involved in sports and theater.
My other two children are not dyslexic, so he has no qualms at all about asking his little brother or older sister how to spell a word now and then. To him, being dyslexic is really no different than someone being a faster or slower runner, taller or shorter, blue eyes or brown eyes, etc.
I am incredibly thankful to Susan Barton for giving so much of her time to present lectures on dyslexia. I went to one of her free presentations at my local public library about 4 years ago, and it literally changed our lives. I suddenly realized what was going on with my son, and shortly thereafter, had him diagnosed with dyslexia and started tutoring him with the Barton System.
To hear Susan Barton’s advice for homeschool parents (or those who are thinking about homeschooling), watch her free 30-minute on-line presentation by clicking on the following link:
A child with dyslexia needs 3 things: to be identified, the right type of tutoring, and accommodations until the skills gap is closed.
I just received this email from a parent whose child got all 3.
Susan, nine years ago you screened our son, David, for dyslexia. As you may recall, when my husband and I heard the results, we were both extremely concerned for his future.
Well, through years of Barton tutoring and some wonderful administrators willing to implement the accommodations you recommended, David will be graduating and is going to attend Emory University.
David has been in all general education classes and will be graduating with a 3.74 GPA. A monumental achievement for a young boy who could not read nor remember his ABC’s in third grade.
Thank you for being committed to helping children such as David. We are forever indebted.
Schools often tell parents of struggling students to wait, as this parent shared:
I need some help to decide what to do for my eight year old son. He is finishing second grade, but he has never read at grade level.
The principal wanted him to repeat first grade, but my husband and I refused, so he was sent to second grade. He has worked with the reading specialist one-on-one for two years with no improvement.
I asked his teacher last year if he could be dyslexic. She told me that was not possible. She claimed he just had a behavior issue. I disagree and feel that he lost a year because of her poor attitude.
He was diagnosed with visual acuity issues and Irlen Syndrome, but after eight months with no improvement and horrible migraines, we decided to involve our pediatrician. He sent us to a pediatric ophthalmologist at a university who said my son does NOT have a vision problem it all. His said my son has dyslexia, and he felt my son’s headaches were caused by the tension and stress of not being able to do the work.
Yet he recommended we wait until he is 9 to be tested by the school because the gap will be greater.
His school has promised they will test him for Special Ed services next year.
The problem is I don’t want the gap to get any larger. I want to help him now!
What should I do?
If you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, waiting is the worst thing you can do – because it will not go away. Your child will only get further and further behind.
Every parent who has contacted me during the past 20 years wished they had started providing the right type of tutoring sooner.
So do not wait for the school to test him. Start tutoring him now using the Barton Reading & Spelling System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system. Tutor him every day during the summer – while the pressure of school, homework, and tests is gone. You will be amazed how much his skills can improve with daily tutoring.
And if you think that qualifying for special ed services is the answer, read on.
A school psychologist shared:
From what I see, the biggest hurdle for these students is what happens AFTER the students are placed in special ed.
This parent shared:
I have a 12 year old son who is in 6th grade.
He attended a private Christian school until 4th grade. They noticed his reading struggles in second grade and put him in a reading lab. It was worthless.
We got his eyes checked, and the doctor said he had a tracking problem. We spent more than $ 2,000 on vision therapy and eye exercises that did not help with his reading.
He has gotten private tutoring, speech therapy, and gone to a number of tutoring centers. We have spent countless amounts of money on him. Everyone told us he would either grow out of it, or he would learn to compensate.
In 4th grade, we moved him to a public school, hoping to get more services for him. He did qualify for special education due to his reading. We thought we finally had the answer.
Wrong. He is now in 6th grade, yet he is still reading at a 2nd grade level and is a horrible speller.
They work with him one-on-one in the resource room, and they allow him to listen to books so he can keep up with what his classmates are reading. But he still is not learning how to read, write, or spell. I am soooooo frustrated.
I have cried. I have been angry. I have been humbled. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. God finally gave me peace about not pushing him so much and not being too hard on him. But he is not getting any better. He studies the weekly spelling list for hours and hours, yet he forgets the words by the following week.
Yet he gets A’s and B’s on his report cards, which amazes me. Our public education system has become a joke. He is in 6th grade and can’t read or write anywhere near grade level, yet they are giving him A’s and B’s.
There must be so many other children who are also slipping through the cracks, and so many parents at a loss.
I would like to start tutoring him using the Barton System, but he absolutely refuses to try one more program or tutor – because in the past, they have all done more damage than good.
So, parents, get your child the right type of tutoring yourself – as early as possible. It makes a huge difference, as this parent shared:
Dear Mrs. Barton:
Thank you so much for helping us help our daughter. We learned about Learning Ally through you. We learned about classroom accommodations through you. And we found a great Barton tutor through you.
It has been a joy to watch my daughter grow from being a reluctant 3rd grader to an engaged 4th grader. She still has a lot of work with her tutor, and we will have many other challenges, but knowing there are resources that we can use to help her be successful is an unbelievable comfort.
And this parent shared:
Susan, I have to thank you for all you do. The support and knowledge you have shared has helped me with my daughter in so many ways.
Two years ago (after we gave up on the school) we had her tested privately and discovered she has dyslexia and ADD. That’s why she would never read out loud in class, or even to us.
That was then…..
Yesterday (after two years of Barton tutoring and appropriate accommodations) she stood in front of the entire school …classmates, teachers and parents … and delivered an amazing (and confident) speech about why she should be SCA president.
She WON the election!
I knew she was special and had many gifts, but yesterday she proved it to herself and her school. She said “challenges make you stronger and wiser” (which is what her speech was about).
My husband and I sat back last night thinking of the last two years, and we realized how hard she has worked…but she never gave up.
Kids with dyslexia are tough. I am not sure I could do what she has done, but I am glad I was there to encourage her along the way.
Thank you for all your help and guidance. We couldn’t have done it without your support!
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.
Persistent trouble with spelling is the most obvious warning sign of dyslexia in adults, and it causes stress and embarrassment every day of their life.
Since dyslexia is inherited, some of their children will also struggle with spelling, as this parent shared:
I watched your video because my son is struggling in reading, spelling and writing.
I was in tears as I watched your video. I kept saying, “This is ME. Finally, someone knows why I do the things I do.”
I am 35 years old. I had reading tutors almost every year in school, yet I never understood phonics. I still cannot sound out an unknown word. When I write, I try to think of easy words that I know how to spell. As you can imagine, spell check does not work well for me.
I have a horrible time getting my thoughts onto paper. I get so nervous any time I have to write a note to my children’s teacher. Even writing just this much is hard. I have reread it 5 times – trying to catch and fix any mistakes.
My brother has similar symptoms. He was labeled LD and was in special ed classes. My mom eventually took him out because they were not helping.
I asked my mom the other day if anyone had ever used the word dyslexia to describe me or my brother. She said no.
I do not want my son or daughter to struggle like I did — and still do.
This 47 year old shared:
I really struggle with spelling and depend heavily on spell check. I am too embarrassed to hand write a grocery list due the number of mistakes I will make. I know I am misspelling the words, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how they should be spelled.
Oftentimes, I can’t get it close enough for the spell checker to know what I want.
This woman shared:
In elementary school, I was told I had a learning disability. It was not until high school that my parents had me tested outside of the school system and found out I had dyslexia.
I have had many challenges during my years in retail employment, particularly with cash registers and computers.
Trying to sign customers up for store credit cards, which is mandatory, was just impossible for me and gave me such anxiety. I simply cannot take the answers a customer tells me and get them into the computer.
Customers do not want to have to spell out every word, and to repeat their phone numbers and zip codes over and over again.
So after years of being totally stressed at different jobs, and even taking anxiety medication to try to perform my job adequately, I decided to go to college.
But the junior college will not accommodate me in any way unless I can provide current testing.
I’m a single mother with almost no income. That type of testing is incredibly expensive.
Are there any other options?
This man shared:
I am 56 years old, and I have tried a lot of things throughout my life to overcome dyslexia.
It started when I was in second grade. I can remember my mother crying when she tried to teach me my spelling words.
I attended summer tutoring for 4 years in a row to try to learn to read. Finally, the tutor said he would not work with me anymore because it was a waste of money.
I took phonics in college, but it did not help. In fact, I failed a speech-language class because I could not hear the sounds.
Many years later, I went to a dyslexia center. But they said they could not help me because I was too old.
Your video nailed me to a tee. When you talked about left and right confusion, that’s me.
I always use spell check, and yes, sometimes it does say “no suggestions” or I pick the wrong word from the list because I can’t read them all.
My company is trying to find something to help me. Is it too late? If not, what would you recommend?
And this 56 year old still stresses about spelling:
I have developed ways of hiding my dyslexia.
My spelling is pretty bad, so after I type something and put it through the spell checker, I re-read it five or six more times to make as many corrections as I can.
When I am doing creative writing, my spelling, punctuation, grammar and multiple typos show up much more than if I am writing technical material. Therefore, the more creative my writing is, the longer it takes me to re-read, proof and re-proof my work. You have stated before that dyslexics often work a lot harder than others to produce the same results (even in a simple e-mail) and it is very true.
A couple of months after I was hired as Executive Director of a nonprofit, I sent out a memo to all employees. I had some misspelled words and other minor mistakes in it. I had a couple of “word nerd” employees who immediately pointed out my mistakes (in a friendly and helpful way). But later, I walked into a room and overheard a couple of (not so friendly) employees saying something like, “Where did they get this guy? He can’t even spell right.”
I have been here four years now and have mellowed out a lot. I started sharing with people that I have dyslexia, and even poke fun at myself about it. It has been well received, and I have some great employees who will proofread things like grants and important letters before I send them.
I still obsess about correcting my writing, but not to an unhealthy level. It’s just part of the life of a dyslexic. Compensating takes a lot of extra time, but it’s just become a normal process.
Okay, I have re-read this 5 times. I assume you are rather forgiving of mistakes – so I am not going to read it again.
Homeschooling can make you feel like a failure if you do not understand why your child is struggling, as this parent shared: [audio https://brightsolutionsdyslexia.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/i-do-not-want-to-fail-at-homeschooling-again.mp3]
How do you homeschool a child with dyslexia?
I ask because I pulled my 2 very bright children out of public school at the end of first grade when they were struggling so much that they dreaded going to school. I did not know they had dyslexia at that time, and I was sure that I, a loving college-educated parent, could do a much better job of teaching them myself.
But that homeschooling year was one of the most humbling, emotionally taxing, and frustrating years I have ever had. My children’s resistance to my reading and writing instruction, and their terrible spelling no matter how much I drilled them, often brought me to tears. I thought they were not trying hard enough and were being ornery on purpose. So I often punished them in order to get better performance.
At the end of that homeschooling year, I felt like an utter failure. Their skills were not much better, and my relationship with them had changed from being a loving nurturing mom to a dreaded and harsh teacher.
So I put them back into public school for third grade. Yet we continued to fight during our nightly “homework wars.” Assignments most kids could do in 30 minutes were 2 to 3 hours of h***.
It wasn’t until November that someone suggested my children might have dyslexia. After private testing confirmed it, and after discovering their public school does not offer the type of reading and spelling instruction they needed, and neither do the private schools in my area, I am considering homeschooling them again.
I know I can use the Barton Reading & Spelling System for language arts, but how to I teach the other subjects, such as math, history, and science – when they are so far behind in reading, writing, and spelling?
That is such a common question that Susan Barton created a free 30-minute on-line presentation for homeschooling parents – that is also good for parents who are thinking about homeschooling.
To watch it, click on the following link, and when asked, type in your first and last name.
To download the handout that goes along with that presentation, click on this link: