My son Kody completed all ten levels of the Barton Reading & Spelling System. He is now a Junior in high school. He recently wrote this paper for English class. I wanted to share it with you.
Being 17 years old and having dyslexia may not seem like a big deal. But what I’ve had to do to this point in my life may be hard for others to comprehend. For most people, when they hear of someone that has a disability, they feel bad and look down on them.
People do not understand how hardworking, motivated and determined we are.
From the beginning of elementary school to third grade, I was always behind in school and not progressing like other students in my class, no matter how hard I had worked. I was then tested for dyslexia.
Being told I have a disability by my mother was really hard to accept in the beginning; however, it may have actually been one of the best parts of my life.
I finally had an explanation as to why I wasn’t doing as well in school. Teachers finally would stop saying that I “wasn’t trying” or that I just needed to put more effort into school.
I knew that having a disability was not going to cause me to give up. I knew that I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else.
I pushed myself throughout the rest of elementary school and through middle school, trying to get on the same level as my peers. I tried many things — such as doing different reading programs (some that had helped amazingly, the Barton Reading & Spelling System, and others that did not), working with my teachers one-on-one outside of school, and spending every night doing four to five hours of homework when other kids would get their homework done in class.
The one goal I wanted to achieve by high school was to avoid standing out from everyone else. Going into high school, I was finally on the same level as the other kids in my grade.
Having known and experienced just how hard it can be to have a disability, I have insights as to what other kids are most likely dealing with. It may be peers making fun of them, being told they can’t do something just because of their disability, or teachers not understanding how they learn best.
For me, the most stressful part of class was being terrified I was going to be called on to read out loud and then being judged by my peers.
When given a writing assignment, I would sit by myself, away from everyone, so no one would be able to see my writing and laugh at me.
Being someone with a disability, I know that there are always going to be people who will never understand the journey that I, along with many others, have faced; nor what I have done to get to where I am now. I hope that sharing my story will help others understand not only the negatives of having a disability, but also to see the opportunities that are possible.
Through all the struggles I’ve faced and experienced, I have always pushed through and thrived. The biggest advice I can give to someone with a disability is not to be ashamed of it or let it label you as “abnormal” (compared to whatever “normal” may be).
In my case, I would never say, “I’m a dyslexic.” I would say, “I am a person that has dyslexia.”
A disability is one part of who you are; it’s up to you to show the world how you want to be seen.
Koby Koblitz, Barton Graduate
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
I would like share how very impressed I am with the Barton System.
As a Special Education teacher with more than three decades of teaching experience, I have used many different reading programs over the years. But I have never before encountered anything as comprehensive as your system. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into developing a true quality product.
The difference it is making for my dyslexic students is really impressive. Their reading and spelling skills, plus general self-esteem, grow visibly with each tutoring session.
I love using your program!
The Open Door Educational Services
This is why adults are my favorite type of student:
Howard will be graduating from Level 10 of the Barton System in a few weeks.
Howard is an adult who was referred to us from a literacy center because they were not able to help him.
When Howard was young and in school, he was teased mercilessly because he could not read. He defended himself the only way he knew how — with his fists. The schoolyard scuffles turned into street fights, knife fights, and jail time.
When he came to us, he could not read the word “cat.”
He did not pass your student screening, so I had to start him with LiPS program and then took him into Level 1. He made slow but steady progress, although he considered dropping out because he felt the early words were too babyish. Luckily, he stuck with it, and he continued to improve.
Once, when we were walking out, I said to him, “You’re getting a little better each day.” He replied, “And I’m holding my head a little higher each day.” After 45 years of feeling worthless, he finally started feeling good about himself.
I wish I could say this story has a happy ending. Sadly, last April, Howard was diagnosed with ALS and the doctors only gave him 1-2 years. It’s been hard watching this once big, strong man deteriorate so much. He’s lost most of the control of his muscles, but his mind still works. We’ve been working very hard to finish the Barton System before the inevitable occurs.
I’m happy to say Howard will complete the entire Barton program in a few weeks. This is important because Howard has never achieved any scholastic success of any kind in his life. Your graduation certificate will be his first diploma of any kind.
Of the hundreds of students I’ve seen at the Dyslexia Reading Connection, none have made me more proud than Howard. He’s worked his tail off despite ever increasing obstacles, he’s never complained, and he’s always worked hard. I’m so happy to see him finally succeed in an academic pursuit.
Dyslexia Reading Connection
This parent got Barton tutoring for her son in kindergarten — and it quickly healed his emotional scars.
Susan, I heard you speak about dyslexia in Appleton when my son was 5.
At the beginning of kindergarten, he was already saying that he hated himself because he was stupid — because he couldn’t read like the other kids. I was shocked to hear him say it with such strong emotion at that young age.
He’s now had a year of Barton tutoring at the Dyslexia Reading Connection Center.
If only if you could have been a fly on the wall at his last parent-teacher conference. He’s starting to read and is proud of what he’s accomplishing. He’s happy, confident, and a leader in his Montessori classroom.
And best of all, he WANTS to learn. That spark was not extinguished.
We are amazed and so deeply grateful for his progress.
Things are going really well, and I believe he’s going to continue having the school experience every child so deserves — where they feel safe and accepted, even if they learn differently.
And I’m so grateful to you for dedicating your life to dyslexia awareness and education.
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
I recently received this heartwarming email from a Special Ed teacher, who is also one of my heroes.
I am having amazing success using the Barton System in my resource room.
A young man transferred to my school at the beginning of 7th grade, barely able to read at a second grade level. He absolutely hated school and was often absent.
His parents had tried everything. They had spent thousands of dollars sending him to Sylvan and to private tutors.
They heard about the success I was having with the Barton Reading & Spelling System. After his school refused to get the Barton System, they fought for 2 years to get an inter-district transfer so he could attend my school and work with me.
He is about to graduate from 8th grade with excellent grades, perfect attendance, and is now reading at a 7th grade level. He was even elected by his peers to be their Student Body President.
Yet there is no one at the high school he will attend next year who teaches the Barton System. So a group of my students (who are now in the higher levels of the Barton System) are determined to start a Barton tutoring program there – and they have volunteered to be the tutors.
Geri Linari, Special Ed Teacher
Special Ed teachers are so frustrated with the school system that they often leave and become private tutors, as this one shared in a recent email:
Susan, I have a real passion for the students who don’t catch on to reading and spelling when taught using regular curriculum.
In fact, that’s why I switched from being a regular ed teacher to a special ed teacher. I attended several Orton-Gillingham workshops and seminars, and I bought the first few Barton levels with my own money to use with my LD students.
For the past 2 years, I taught Barton as best I could within the special ed system – and got some fabulous results. My principal was amazed at the increased reading levels of my students.
But with all the “red tape” and political stuff we have to deal with, the special ed system does not allow me to do what I am I really passionate about: meeting each student’s individualized needs.
I am not allowed to spend enough time, with the correct resources, in a small enough group to help my students become the best they can be.
Sadly, I know I cannot change the special ed system. So I have decided to leave and start offering one-on-one Barton tutoring.
I know not every parent will be able to afford to hire me. But I would rather serve a few children well, so they reach their potential, then continue to serve many students poorly.
Wish me luck. This is a big leap of faith, and quite a change for me. But it’s the only way I can do what I’m passionate about: helping these bright kids the right way.
One mother’s journey to help her son
by Debbie Copple
Shared with her prior written permission
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s kindergarten teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. Don’t worry. He just needs to work harder,” she reassured me.
My bright boy, who had eagerly waited for the day he could go to school to learn to read, had begun to tell me that reading was stupid, and school was stupid.
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s first grade teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He just needs to work harder,” was again the response that I received.
This was after he had become so frustrated one evening that he cried, “Reading is stupid. It makes my brain hurt,” and “I am stupid.”
I sought help for my son and was told that Vision Therapy was what he needed. Over $6,000 and 1 year later, he was even further behind. “Could it be dyslexia?” I asked his Vision Therapist. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He could do better, he just chooses not to,” she told me.
In second grade, Casey attended a public school. His teacher told me that he was reading on a Kindergarten level. I was shocked. “Could it be Dyslexia?” I asked the teacher and the reading specialist. “No,” was their reply.
Meanwhile, my bright boy was struggling, his self-esteem suffering, and he had behavior problems at school. Casey was heartbroken to see the U’s on his progress reports.
“Do you test for dyslexia?” I asked a psychologist. “Yes,” he told me. While waiting for the results, I searched the internet for information about dyslexia. I found a very knowledgeable woman, Susan Barton. She told me what areas of weakness (indicators of dyslexia) I should look for in his testing report.
When the psychologist shared the results, the weaknesses – the indicators – were there. I asked if my son had dyslexia and was told, “Dyslexia cannot be tested. Dyslexia is an all-inclusive term for learning disabilities.”
I stopped asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” I knew the answer. With God as my guide, I learned to tutor my son using an Orton-Gillingham based system, the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Casey’s grades quickly improved from U’s to A’s and B’s. His DIBELS scores improved from “High Risk” to “Above Average.” After only 4 months of tutoring, he was reading at a third grade level. Reading and spelling finally made sense.
Dyslexia is NOT determined by how great a parent you are, how much education you have, or how much money you have. Dyslexia does not discriminate.
Parents, you must listen to your gut instinct and listen to your child. Professionals can be wrong. They may have a big heart and a higher education degree, but they can still be wrong.
For professionals reading this (teachers, doctors, principals, reading specialists) my hope is that you will take the time to learn more about dyslexia, so that you too can spot the warning signs.
It is NOT my intention to discredit any of my son’s teachers, private schools, or public schools. My intention is to increase awareness. We need to do more to recognize and understand dyslexia.
Parents, if you have ever found yourself asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” the answer is “Yes, it could be.” Please do not wait another moment to get them help. It is their life, their future, their self-esteem.
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?