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:
If you cannot afford testing, do what this mom did.[audio https://brightsolutionsdyslexia.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/if-you-cannot-afford-testing.mp3]
My son had always struggled with reading. I knew something was not quite right but never could figure it out. I asked his first grade teacher if it could be dyslexia. She assured me it was not, and she was not worried about his reading. She was concerned about his lack of focus.
But at the beginning of 3rd grade, one of the items on my son’s school supply list was an NIV Bible. I bought it . . . and cried. I knew he could not read it, not even close. He could not even read the children’s Bible we had at home. He was CLEARLY far behind, and it was much more than just being distracted.
So I started to do some research on the computer. Why could he read a word in one sentence but not the next? Why were all his words missing vowels? Why couldn’t he sound out words? He had plenty of phonics instruction. Why did a clock baffle him so much? Why was he still reversing letters and had handwriting that looked like he was just learning to print?
I found your website. There it was! I could check off about 95% of the symptoms. My son had dyslexia!!
Yet when I shared this with my son’s school, they were skeptical and encouraged us to get formal testing because they did not think it was his issue. But the cost of professional testing was high. We had to decide which was more important: get a diagnosis (knowing his school did not have the right type of help) or skip that and go directly to the solution.
We chose to get the Barton Reading & Spelling system so I could tutor him myself.
We have now been using it for 2 years, after school twice a week, and we are half way through Level 7.
Recently, we had to miss church. So I encouraged my boys to read a Bible story and I pulled out our children’s Bible that I knew my son could now read. Instead, he pulled out his NIV Bible, that same Bible I wept over 2 years ago, the same one I feared my son would never be able to read. He opened it up and read aloud while his 3 younger brothers listened.
He enjoys reading now, and his fifth grade teacher has never mentioned “lack of focus” or “not being prepared.” Instead, she talks about my son’s amazing “writer’s voice,” and his grades are all A’s and B’s.
My son embraces his dyslexia. We do not romanticize it or deny that it makes things hard for him. But he knows that the brain differences that gave him grief with his reading and spelling . . . are the same brain differences that created his amazing imagination, his fantastic building skills, and his love of music.
Thank you, Susan, for the work you do. It has clearly changed my son’s life.
This heartwarming email from a parent made my day.[audio https://brightsolutionsdyslexia.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/what-a-great-teacher.mp3]
I want to share something amazing about my son who was recently diagnosed with dyslexia.
This morning his teacher stopped me to tell me what an intuitive student he was. She said his character is well beyond his years and that it never wavers. She also said he is such a beneficial member of his class because of his compassion and ability to self reflect, and that he has basically set the standard for the class with his global “out of the box” thinking.
When my son was recently diagnosed with dyslexia, I did a lot of research. I found the information on your website about the strengths of dyslexics. That teacher was mentioning many of those strengths.
So I was beaming with pride when I told her of his diagnosis.
Thank you for sharing how children with dyslexia are special. It was nice to hear confirmation of what I have always thought of my son — and I now know why he is so special. He’s dyslexic.
The following adult had received one year of Barton tutoring when she wrote this letter to Oprah (with the help of her tutor) to try to convince Oprah to do a show on dyslexia.
I am 76 years old today.
I spent the first 75 years of my life wondering why I could not read or spell as well as other friends and family. I didn’t know why I had such a hard time finding the right word when I spoke, or why I couldn’t say the words correctly when I could retrieve them.
I didn’t know why I so often got lost in cities I had lived in for years, or why I still had to stop and think for a moment before I knew my right from my left. I didn’t know why I had such trouble memorizing things that seemed so easy for others.
Or why someone like me – someone who has started and run two businesses – could still not read well, or spell correctly enough to take a message and then be able to read it afterwards.
I didn’t know that I had severe-to-profound dyslexia.
For 75 years I prayed for God to help me. Last fall, I prayed again – that God would please, PLEASE, send me someone who could teach me how to spell.
The very next day, I ‘just so happened’ to sit next to a Dyslexia Specialist at a local event, and we ‘just so happened’ to strike up a conversation about what she does for a living. She ‘just so happened’ to tell me about the signs and symptoms of dyslexia, and I immediately recognized them in me.
Best of all, she ‘just so happened’ to tell me that there are solutions! That people who have struggled with dyslexia, for even 75 years, could still learn to read, write and spell! I made an appointment for her to test me. I cried when she told me that I had dyslexia. They were not tears of sadness, however. They were happy tears! Tears of joy! I finally had an answer!
I have been receiving the right kind of tutoring, twice a week, for a year.
I read the word authentic for the first time last month. I can now spell words that I could not even say before. I am 75 years old. Believe me – there is hope.
I have been thinking back on my 75 years. I thought of the very worst time in my life – the time when my daughter died.
Then I thought of the very best time in my life – it was the time I realized I could learn how to spell! When I finally, finally, realized what my life’s problem was. I am dyslexic.
Many children with dyslexia will not qualify for special education services during their early school years. But these days, they almost always get put into Tier 2 or Tier 3 of RTI.
One problem with RTI is how they measure “improvement,” as this mother shares:
I am the mother of an 9 year old boy. I want him tested for dyslexia. But the school says they don’t do dyslexia testing.
Instead, they gave him a test to determine if he needed special education services. But he passed the assessments and the IQ part, so they dropped it. They concluded he was just immature for his age and recommended retaining him, which we did.
Yet he still reads below grade level. At the beginning of his second time through 2nd grade, he was reading at a beginning first grade level. We are now at the end of the year, and his reading has only improve by 3 months — to a middle of first grade level.
To me, he should have improved more, given that he has had an entire extra year of PALS plus Tier 2 of RTI. Yet the school claims because he improved, he will not continue to get RTI next year.
Parents, never accept “some” improvement as good enough. If your child is not making more than one year of gain in one year of intervention, the gap is not closing. It’s getting bigger.
Another problem with RTI is that the right intervention is stopped too soon — before a student has finished the intervention program, as happened to this student:
I have been concerned about my son since kindergarten, and I have fought every year to have the school test him for a possible learning disability or dyslexia.
The school finally tested him in second grade, and although it showed some struggles, they said his scores were not bad enough to classify him as having a learning disability. Yet he struggled significantly with reading (he could not sound out any real or nonsense words — and messed up the vowels), read very slowly, and had terrible spelling.
His handwriting was so poor that I hired a private OT to work with him during third grade.
In fourth grade, he was put into Tier 2 of their RTI program. He began to get small group instruction using the Wilson Reading System, which is when he finally began to enjoy reading. Yet at the end of the year, because he had improved, he no longer qualified for RTI.
Our son is now 11 and in the middle of 6th grade at a junior high school. Although he will read if we push him hard, he refuses to read out loud any more (and he does have to read a passage several times before he comprehends it), his spelling continues to be horrible (even the simple high frequency words), and he struggles in math because he still does not know his multiplication tables.
Despite that, believe it or not, he has mostly B’s and A’s on his report card.
Yet he now resists all attempts to help him, and he has emotionally shut down.
We fear that as the demands of school increase, he will not be able to survive the challenges.
Parents, if you know or suspect your child has dyslexia but their school is not (or is no longer) providing the right type of intervention, then get it for them after school . . . by either hiring a tutor who uses an Orton-Gillingham based system or by getting the Barton Reading & Spelling System and tutoring your own child.
Parents often don’t believe me when I tell them that most school psychologists have had no training in dyslexia. But I get emails like this every day:
From a school psychologist in New York:
I would LOVE to attend your Screening for Dyslexia conference.
Our number one question during RTI meetings is if there is a possibility a child might have dyslexia. This topic is vague to me even after years of reading and doing independent research.
Yet as the “expert” at these meetings, I struggle with remediation techniques that may work after I screen a student and determine deficits.
Or from this school psychologist in Colorado:
I am a school psychologist in Colorado. I agree to your notion that we have no specialty in diagnosing dyslexia, however the prevalence of parents’ requests seems to grow and grow. Unfortunately, when parents cannot afford outside assistance, we are the only ones that are left.
I have been to several workshops, symposiums, etc, yet do not feel completely educated on the subject. Do you recommend any books or specific journals on the topic? How about books that may target age groups lower than 8 years old in looking at dyslexia?
That lack of knowledge causes this:
My son just finished second grade and is dyslexic. I am sure of it. His father is dyslexic, and his father’s father is dyslexic. He has almost every single warning sign listed on your website and in many of the books that I have read.
Yet when he qualified for special education services in May, they classified him as having an “Emotional Disorder” — even though his reading scores were really, really low. The school considers “average” anything from the 16th percentile to the 85th percentile, and his reading score was exactly at the 16th percentile.
The school psychologist told me that my son’s anxiety and depression were “off the charts” and that he CAN read — but his anxiety gets in the way and he becomes “too stressed out” to read.
When I tried to explain that he was most likely anxious and depressed because he CANNOT read, the psychologist just flippantly said, “So it’s one of those which came first things — the chicken or the egg.”
They never looked at his spelling (which is horrible, with all of the classic dyslexic spelling mistakes) or asked him to write anything (he HATES to write, even a few sentences).
His IEP only lists services for emotional issues (meet with the counselor once a week). What do I do? Just let him flounder?
He won’t be able to read the board or any of the books used in third grade. Do I just let him founder with no accommodations? That seems so cruel.
He already hates himself for being “stupid and different” — his words, not mine.
Dear Ms. Barton,
I just finished watching the Dyslexia: Symptoms & Solutions video on your website.
I am a permanently certified Elementary Teacher with a Master’s degree in Reading & Literacy, but I am angry and embarrassed that I received no instruction or information about dyslexia in six years of college. You are absolutely right that we need to get this information into college prep courses and out to teachers in our local districts.
Last year, I had a bright girl who struggled with reading. Her reading assessments made little sense. Her reading rate was very slow and her fluency was low, but her reading comprehension was excellent. I recommended her for testing, but the school’s testing showed there was not a large enough discrepancy to qualify for special education or even accommodations. So she struggled with reading the rest of the year, despite working very hard. The obvious difference between her intelligence and her reading struggles continued to bother me.
I ran into her family a few months ago, and I asked about her reading progress. Her mom was worried because her daughter had made no progress. The mom also shared that she, herself, had struggled with reading as a child, and she wondered if her children inherited it from her. She claimed she had been telling teachers of her concern since her daughter had been in first grade, but everyone assured her it was just developmental.
When the mom suggested that her daughter might be dyslexic, I dismissed it. I mean, with my educational background, I should know about something like that, right?
Fortunately, I did the one thing those other teachers failed to do: I looked into it anyway. As I began my research, I was disappointed to find only 2 books about dyslexia at our local bookstore. But one was Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s Overcoming Dyslexia. I was amazed at how much I learned about dyslexia. And then I found your website and learned even more.
I now realize I’ve had several other students who also exhibited this odd mix of reading struggles and high intelligence, and I continue to worry about them still today.
I have decided to write an article for NEA Today (The National Education Association magazine). I recently searched for “dyslexia” on the magazine’s website and received zero responses. This is a magazine which is read by many teachers, but it appears they have not had one article in recent history about this learning difference.
That just doesn’t make sense when 20% of our population is dyslexic and many are not even aware of it.