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?
Tracie Luttrell, the principal of Flippin Elementary School in Arkansas, just posted this – and gave me permission to share it.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students who attended summer school everywhere made such great gains.
Before school ended, we screened all K-12 students in our district whose teachers felt had markers of dyslexia. We found 107 students who “fit the dyslexia profile.”
So we hired 13 teachers to provide each student with one-on-one tutoring for an hour, twice a week, for 7 weeks during June and July using the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
These students made TREMENDOUS gains. The difference in their writing and spelling from the beginning of summer to now is unbelievable!
It got really exciting when their parents noticed the difference. Many parents did not understand the science and logic behind the Barton System, so they did not know what to expect. Parents shared their child’s confidence and reading skills improved, and their children were starting to read billboards and items around the house.
During those 14 one-on-one tutoring sessions, none of our students finished Level 3. But they all made amazing gains. In fact, some of our youngest students are now reading words WAY above their grade level.
These 107 students now feel smart and successful. They are going to SOAR this year in school because they will continue to receive Barton tutoring during the school year.
As soon as school starts, we will screen all students in 1st and 2nd grade who have not already been screened. We will also screen all of our kindergarteners after they have had some instruction.
The key to helping dyslexic students is to catch it early and INTERVENE.
The only requirement of our new Arkansas Dyslexia Law this first year is to screen. But we can’t stop there. We must also provide the help that they need!
When schools and teachers know better . . . we DO better!
Certified Barton Tutors who have gotten additional technology training, and special files, can provide Barton tutoring over the internet.
That is a great option when a student (or a tutor) is away for part of the summer, or for students who have no local Certified Barton tutors, as this person shared in a recent email.
Susan, please issue graduation certificates to two of my Barton students who just completed Level 10. One is in New Jersey. The other is in Oregon. But as you know, I am in Utah.
Thanks to your Remote Barton tutoring option, I have been able to serve many students who otherwise would not have been able to have a tutor. I have helped an adult student in Italy. I currently have students in Alaska, Alabama, Missouri, Oregon, New Jersey, Texas, and Georgia.
Most of them are in small towns with no resources.
I truly love tutoring. Thank you for creating the Barton System and for your continued support these many years.
Rosemarie Hoffman, M.A.
Certified at the Masters level in the Barton System
Parents who want a list of Remote Barton Tutors can send an email to Susan@BartonReading.com with the word Remote as the subject.
Barton Tutors who want to learn how to do remote tutoring should click here.
Parents, if your child’s school does not provide the right type of tutoring, then you need to provide it after school.
Some parents hire a professional tutor for the reason this tutor shared:
The Barton System continues to feed my soul. I am so grateful for having this opportunity to witness firsthand how your program changes lives.
A mother was in my living room the other day listening to her son read the stories from Book 3, Lesson 1. He had gotten this far in only 8 sessions with me, yet his school had threatened to retain him in first grade.
His mother started sobbing and shared that in college, she had failed Freshman English seven times. So she finally dropped out. “Why didn’t they have this when I was a child? I could have succeeded,” she cried.
Naturally, I started crying too.
Thank you, Susan, for changing the world!
Many parents tutor their own children using the Barton System with great success, as this mother shared:
I am replying to your email to share with you our joy.
My 10 year old son, Mike, is at the end of level three. Today I told him to read the end-of-the-lesson story aloud by himself, while I checked for your e-mail.
I quietly noticed he was applying the rules, checking for tricky letters, and moving right along – all by himself. Before he finished, he even noticed his fluent reading.
He turned to me and said, “Mom, I can read. This woman (meaning you) understands me!!!”
It was a moment I’ve been praying for. Thank you for all the hard work that you do.
But I get the biggest thrill of all when the parent gets tutoring, as this Barton tutor shared:
Jerry discovered his own dyslexia at age 50, when his son was diagnosed. Jerry shared that he could not physically keep doing logging, but he had always turned down desk jobs because they involved paperwork. He was always coming up with inventions to solve mechanical challenges, but he could not follow through and market them because of his spelling and writing challenges.
So I started tutoring him using the Barton System. He has been getting tutoring 2 to 3 times a week for about a year.
Six months ago, he was hired by a local technology company. Jerry works with the owner designing new products. He is doing well and has received several raises and promotions.
Just last week, he wrote his first letter ever – to his son Frank in boot camp. His son said he cried when he read it. He wrote back to tell his dad that he was his hero!
By the way, the Barton Reading & Spelling System is not the only system that works. For a list of other Orton-Gillingham-based systems that work, click here.
Technology tools help adults with dyslexia survive. But as the following emails prove, they never stop wanting to improve their reading and spelling skills.
One woman wrote:
I watched your video on dyslexia, and I am exactly like your brother’s child.
I am 48. I am using Naturally Speaking software to write this. Otherwise, I would spend my entire day trying to fix my spelling mistakes.
I’m at the point where my heart is on the floor. I have tried every program in school, out of school, and on the internet.
At the moment, I’m doing a program that is supposed to increase your brain power to try please my mother for the last time.
My tears were flowing as I watched the demo of your program. Your program is the best I have seen in all my life. It makes so much sense to me.
I’m upset to realize that the form of dyslexia I have is complicated. I am also sad because I know this problem will never go away.
I don’t have to tell you the agony that a person living with dyslexia goes through. Because of that, when I was 16, I decided not to have kids. And that was a wise decision.
Things that happen in the classroom also happen at work, as this man shared:
I am 30 years old. I have always struggled with reading. I received extra help in school through Title 1 Reading, Special Ed, and summer school. As you might suspect, I hated school and would avoid going whenever possible.
Recently, I was at a seminar for my work and was asked to read out loud to the group. I was mortified.
Is there anything that would help me – an adult who has struggled for so many years – read better?
Yes. Adults with dyslexia can improve their reading and spelling at any age – so they will not have to avoid careers, as this woman did:
I am a deep thinker. I love learning about different religions and talking about God with my friends. So I would like to get a Masters degree in Theology.
But with that degree, I would end up being a teacher – which I am afraid to do because I would have to write things on the board.
I would also have to grade papers, so I would need to know more about punctuation than just a period and a comma.
And I might even have to read passages aloud to the class.
As the following man shared, companies that employ dyslexic adults are often willing to pay to improve their skills.
I am 56 years old, and I have tried a lot of things during my life to overcome dyslexia.
It started when I was in second grade. I can remember my mom 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 any more because it was a waste of money.
I took phonics in college, but it did not help. In fact, I failed a speech therapy 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.
I am in charge of a region with 145 centers that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. My company is trying to find something to help me. Is it too late? If not, what would you recommend?
No, it is never, ever too late to greatly improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of adults with dyslexia. The oldest student I personally worked with was 69 years old when we started. The oldest Barton student I have met was 83.
If adults get at least 2 hours of one-on-one tutoring by someone using an Orton-Gillingham based system designed for adults, such as the Barton Reading & Spelling System or the Wilson Reading System, their skills – and their self-esteem – will get so much better.
It is best to catch dyslexia early.
But even in high school, it is NOT TOO LATE to greatly improve their skills — which will change their entire future.
A high school student gave me permission to share this talk that he gave at a fund raiser for his private Christian school in Idaho.
My name is Michael Warner and I am the first student at this school to fully complete the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Before I knew that such a program existed, I endured many different types of special education plans and teachings. All, however, failed. After enduring nine years of mental, emotional, and social abuse due to my dyslexia, I came to this private school.
For the first time, I wasn’t only trying to match my mental capability, but to exceed it. I say this with my own choice of words… with no help whatsoever.
Although I never thought it was possible, I remember dreaming of the day that it would just click and I would just get it…although it was never coming.
Just to give you an idea about how much I have learned from the Barton System, I have in my hand my FCAT scores. For those of you who don’t know, it is the Florida version of the WASL. In reading, I got a one.
According to that score, I had the equivalent reading level of a third grader. I was in the ninth grade when I took this test. A freshman in high school! Tell me that wasn’t emotionally damaging…a third grader! That test told me that in reading and spelling, I was close to mentally retarded.
My public school in Florida would not let me be in college prep classes. They tried to control what I learned so I would become a construction worker because they thought I was too stupid to do anything else. Everything around me told me I would never measure up to anything.
Then I came here. You found out I had dyslexia, and put me in the reading program. Halfway through that program, students were clapping for me in the middle of class because they could see how much I improved. That shows you the spirit of the students at this school.
After two years here, I wanted to become a programmer. So I had to leave and go to Newport High School to take the classes I needed. Do you have any idea what it feels like to finally pursue your own dreams?
So I went to Newport last fall and I took the WASL. One try and I passed everything — reading, writing, everything.
Some students take three or four tries to pass it, and they take special classes in order to pass it. I passed it on the first try.
I’m here to say how much this private school has changed my life. All I can say is thank you. I can finally be who I want to be.
former student at House of the Lord private school
in Oldtown, Idaho
I do not often hear from a sibling of someone with dyslexia. But a parent just sent me this essay, which her daughter wrote for a school assignment.
I was in 5th grade when my brother Haley was diagnosed with dyslexia.
The first time I heard Haley had dyslexia was on a school night when my mom was reading to Haley in bed. All of a sudden, I heard my mom scream, and I ran upstairs thinking something was wrong. But my mom was just giving Haley high fives and kissing him because had read a sentence all by himself.
At first, I was mad because I felt, “Hey, when I get straight A’s, I don’t get that much praise. Yet Haley read one simple sentence and he got a ton of it.”
About an hour later, I went into my mom’s room to ask why she praised Haley so much. That’s when she told me Haley had dyslexia and dysgraphia. It took her about half an hour to explain what it was, and how it would affect our family. When she shared that, I felt ashamed of my jealousy.
So that night, while Haley was sleeping, I went into his room and gave him a kiss and a hug. I told him I loved him and would support him through everything.
Since then, our life has been a great adventure. My mom and dad have worked so hard for both of us.
My mom starting using the Barton Reading & Spelling System with Haley, and he made so much progress that she started tutoring other kids. Now she runs a clinic called Haley’s Hope where several tutors help children and adults with dyslexia.
My dad has taken over helping Haley and I with our homework.
I am so proud of everyone in my family.
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.