Tag Archives: written expression

Parents are stressed

Parents are often more stressed about school starting than their kids, as this parent shared:

Linda is about to start second grade, and I am so worried.

Linda has ALL the classic warning signs! Some I didn’t even know were signs until I watched your video.

She used to say “teanut butter,” “Janjuary,”, and “Yew Nork.” It was cute back then.

She had two sets of tubes and had her adenoids out at 2.

At the end of kindergarten, the teacher said Linda could not write her ABCs on the assessment. She left out 7 letters. And Linda could not figure out which letters she had left out – not even when she sang the song.

Despite tutoring with the teacher ALL summer before first grade – no improvement. We read a book that had the word “star” in it at least 15 times. Linda read it correctly 14 out of 15 times, but on the last page, she could not read that word. I was flabbergasted!

Writing is such a chore. She definitely has dysgraphia.

And don’t even ask me how many hours a week we waste trying to memorize the weekly spelling list.

Toward the end of first grade, I had her tested at school for a learning disability. Her IQ is 120. She tested in the 99th percentile in verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning, but only the 42nd percentile in working memory, and the 13th percentile in processing speed. The school psychologist claimed that meant she was not dyslexic. He noticed her writing difficulties, but said Linda just needed to practice more.

This summer, I had Linda work with a reading specialist 3 days a week. It seemed to help a little. Linda is currently signed up to start with this reading specialist again when she starts second grade – next week.

Her latest “incident” has been trying to learn our phone number. Through her tears, Linda tried for 30 minutes to learn it. We sang songs, tried clapping it, etc. Nothing helped her remember it. She doesn’t know our address, either.

Does this sound like dyslexia to you?

As a Teacher and a Mother

This long post is worth reading — especially with school starting in just one month.

Dear Susan,

My husband and three children have dyslexia.

I also teach at the local public school. Recently, during a lunch break in the staff lounge, a high school teacher shared that when she has to teach reading to her students, she has them read “baby books.” When the students ask why, she tells them, “Because you did not learn to read when you were supposed to.”

At that point I left the room, and cried. I was so hurt by what she said. At the time I could not talk about it without crying. (I still can’t). So I wrote this letter. Please share it in your book.

Dear Colleague,

What an inspiring discussion the teachers were having at lunch today. I enjoyed hearing about, and sharing, how hard our students have been working. I am not sure if you noticed, but there came a point when I stopped talking. Probably not, since there was so much going on in the staff lounge. I would like to share with you the reason that I shut down.

You began talking about one of your students. You shared your frustration that she is not reading at grade level. You said her atrocious writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting is so sloppy that you can barely make out the words that she somehow managed to spell correctly. On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems you assign, despite the fact that you just spent an hour teaching that lesson to the class.

You wondered why her parents did not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night. You mentioned how lazy she is, how she could care less about the quality of her work, and how she puts forth zero effort towards improving.

You claimed you had tried everything and you do not know what to do with her anymore, so you will probably just end up passing her to the next grade level like all the other teachers have done.

Believe me, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. If they would just try harder, they would improve. Right?

I would like to introduce you to my daughter. She is excited to be entering high school this year. She is beautiful, polite, responsible, funny, caring . . . I could go on and on.

She participates in 4-H and showed her pig this year at the fair. She made over seven hundred dollars. She put some of the money into her savings account. Some will be used to purchase her next pig, and she can’t wait to go shopping and buy her own school clothes and school supplies with the remaining money.

She also participates in gymnastics, which she started when she was 18 months old.

When children are around her, they gravitate towards her. She loves to take care of babies and toddlers.

She enjoys preparing delicious food for others. Perhaps you would like to come to our home one evening. She will prepare her Pizza Chicken for dinner and Gelato for desert. She really is a great teenager.

Yet my daughter is scared and anxious about starting high school this year. She has dyslexia, and as a result, she is not reading at grade level. Her creative writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting on school work is so sloppy because she does not want her teachers and classmates to see that she has trouble spelling.

On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems assigned to her, even though her teacher just spent an hour teaching the lesson.

You wonder why her parents do not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night.

I love my daughter more than you can imagine. But I no longer force her to practice math flashcards or to write the weekly spelling words over and over every night. I know it will not help her. She will be able to memorize them temporarily, but believe me, she will not remember them the next day.

I know that she puts her brain to the test every day by concentrating so much that it often makes her feel sick. I know that she has put herself down all day long while in school and that she needs to build herself back up at night, so she can go through the same ordeal the next day.

Those are the reasons I no longer fight the “homework wars” every night. Instead, I enjoy the evening with my daughter as she cares for her pigs and rabbits, and as she does front handsprings across the yard.

Children do not want to, or choose to, have dyslexia. They want to learn. They are very frustrated that they can not learn to read like their classmates, that their spelling never seems to turn out right, that they can not memorize their math facts, and that they get lost in multiple step math problems. They can not try any harder than they already do because their brain will not let them.

As a teacher, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. I regret having made some of the same comments as you in the past. I never imagined that I would be the mother of a child with a learning disability. After all, I am a teacher.

As a mother, I am begging you to hang in there and not give up on your students, because if you do, you will be giving up on my daughter. They need you.

So please, let me be the mother who loves my daughter and encourages her to discover all she is capable of, and you be the teacher that encourages her and allows her to show what she is capable of.

Sincerely,

A Mother who is also a School Teacher

 

Say No to Summer School

Many parents send me questions like this at the end of a school year:

I have a daughter who just finished first grade. I am pretty sure she has dyslexia.

The last two months of school have been a nightmare of real and feigned sickness and tears every day as she tries to get out of going to school.

Jane struggles so much and ends her day so sad and frustrated due to journal writing, or even worse, having to copy poems from the board. What makes it even worse for her is seeing every other kid at her table do it faster and better.

My daughter’s school is recommending summer school. My worry is that their summer school is not going to help her – and it may make her hate school even more.

Most summer school programs just teach the very same reading program your child got during the school year, which will not help someone with dyslexia.

Summer School

So I tell parents to say “no” to summer school, and instead, get your child the right type of tutoring – with the Barton System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system — for an hour a day, every day, during the summer.

If you do not, second grade will be even worse – as this mother shared:

I am the mother of an extremely bright, frustrated, and sad 8 year old girl.

We have been struggling to find answers to her troubles within the school system.
Everyone knows she is very smart, but her written work reflects the exact opposite. She cannot spell or get ideas into written form.

The teacher claims she just needs to study harder, or she is just being a “difficult” child.

My daughter overheard her tell the principal that my daughter is “unteachable.”

Kids bully her and refer to her as “dumb” and “stupid.” This is so far from reality.

She is extremely articulate, has a wonderful imagination, loves information, and thinks things through very carefully. I want her to aspire to all that she can be. She is so bright and so interested in the world.

But if I don’t find some answers soon, she is going to fall through the cracks and continue on this downward spiral.

And by third grade, they all hit the wall in reading development, as this mom shared:

I must say that your video is superb! I cried a lot as you described my son. I wish teachers and administrators were required to watch it – as I’m sure my son would have been caught much earlier, and that would have saved him (and us) a lot of anxiety and stress.

For the past two years (during first and second grade) school became such a stressor that my husband and I not only looked forward to the summer break, but we would get start to get anxiety attacks in August . . . realizing school was about to start again. I’m sure whatever we were feeling was 10 times worse for our son.

My son just started 3rd grade and I can see that brick wall before us. He can read, but his reading speed is so slow. It took us 2.5 hours to get through 16 pages of a small chapter book last night.

By fourth grade, they often qualify for special ed. But that doesn’t make school any better – as this parent shared.

My son is in 4th grade. He has dyslexia. He is a special ed student.

His regular ed teacher is so ignorant of dyslexia. She wants my son to participate in a 4th grade spelling bee because she wants to “challenge” him.

My son is terrified and traumatized at the thought of standing up in front of his classmates and being humiliated – again.

Without the right type of one-on-one tutoring, they will be stuck forever at the third grade reading level, as this mother shared:

My son is in 7th grade, but his reading fluency and comprehension have been stuck at the 3rd grade level for years – despite years of special ed services, and despite my following their advice of forcing him to read out loud to me for 20 minutes every day.

When he passed 6th grade, I was thrilled because newspapers, magazines, and job applications are written at the 6th grade level. So we bought a box of brownie mix to celebrate. I was crushed when he could not read the cooking instructions on the box.

And adults who were forced to go to summer school when they were kids know it never helped, as this adult shared:

I have dyslexia.

My early school years were horrible. No one knew what to do with me, so they just passed me through each year.

But I had to attend summer school EVERY summer. I hated it, and it never helped.

I grew up thinking I must be stupid because it took so much time to read, study and retain information.

I am pretty sure my 7 year old daughter has dyslexia, too. I see so much of myself in her. She is struggling with reading and has started saying that she hates school.

I will do anything to prevent the torture I went through as a child from happening to her.

So, parents, if you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, just say “no” to summer school. Get them the right type of tutoring instead.

Spelling

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.

Retention does not work

Some states have a policy of mandatory retention for students who cannot pass the reading portion of the state standards test. But retention alone does not work – and never has, as this parent shared.

I am 34 years old, and I have struggled all my life with reading and spelling. As a result, I have this record playing over and over in my head that says I’m not smart.

My mother has a photo of me going into first grade. I did not want to go. My head is down, my arms are at my side, and my book bag is dragging along the ground. This was my theme during my entire school career. I hated school from the very beginning. I only wish someone had noticed all of the signs of my dyslexia.

Retention - Shame - little kid

Fast forward to 8th grade. I knew I was struggling – and struggling bad. I don’t recall going to classes most of 8th grade. I don’t know why I passed that grade since I didn’t attend much.

I skipped even more school during 9th grade because I was still struggling and felt stupid. I finally dropped out.

Many years later, I got my GED. I then attended a local community college. I have many credits, but not enough to get my AA. That’s because I have taken “Basic English Composition” 3 times – and dropped out 3 times. It is just too difficult for me.

At 18, I become a mother to a wonderful and incredibly smart boy named Jerry. I did not know the preschool warning signs of dyslexia.

But his kindergarten teacher informed me of his difficulty with letter recognition. Later, in first and second grade, I heard about more of his problems. He was eventually tested by the school, and he got an IEP for an Auditory Processing problem. The tests also showed he had a high IQ.

They advised that I read aloud to Jerry every day so he could hear good reading, which they claimed would teach him fluency. Despite doing that, Jerry “hit the brick wall” in 3rd grade. He was retained because he could not pass the end-of-year state standards test.

When I dropped him off at school during his second time through third grade, it was so hard for me to watch him pass all the other kids in the hallway and go back to the same wing he was in last year. I can only imagine how hard it was on him. It was a horrible year.

Fast forward. My son is now 15 years old and going into the 9th grade. Jerry continues to struggle with reading and spelling – despite getting special ed services for 6 years. He can’t even say the months of the year in order.

I watched your video on dyslexia last night and cried almost the entire way through it. You were talking about me and Jerry. I’m one of “those” kids. So is my dad, my aunt, my sister and my nephew. The inheritance pattern is so clear.

I feel very angry at the school system. I did EVERYTHING they told me to do – but none of it worked. Jerry has adapted and can get by – but even though he is smart, he feels so stupid at times – a feeling I know down to my core. It happens every time he is called on to read aloud in class, or when he can’t spell even simple words.

I am so afraid he is going to drop out – like I did.

What it took to get through college

I love it when teachers attend my free presentations on dyslexia – because they share amazing stories of how hard they worked to make it through college:

A new teacher shared:

I saw you speak about a month ago. Let me first say that you were wonderful! I am a new teacher, 24 years old, and I went with some coworkers. We left thinking that every educator should be required to attend one of your seminars.

I now think I might have dyslexia. I always felt that I was slower to understand things in school because I couldn’t read as well as the other students. I remember my teacher putting me in a remedial reading class. I got out of it by faking that I needed glasses and that was the reason why I couldn’t read. After that, I got really good at faking reading.

I graduated from college after struggling many nights trying to read the textbooks and just giving up. I am sad to admit this, but I am a college graduate who has never read an entire chapter of any textbook. It’s not that I didn’t want to read the books. It’s just that I would start reading, but I would get lost. I kept having to reread the same page over and over again, reading was exhausting, and I could not understand what I was reading because I read so slowly and inaccurately. Yet when someone explained it to me verbally, I would instantly understand it.

Even though I never read a full chapter of any textbook in college, I did end up graduating with an overall 3.1 GPA.

A teacher at a private Christian school shared:

Your talk was amazing. I have a degree in Theology, but I stopped buying textbooks after the first semester because I never read more than the first few pages of them.

Instead, I formed study groups where we would TALK about the subject and share the information that “each person” learned from reading the textbook.

I also loved the literature courses. I could not read all of the words in the books, but I could guess at enough of them to follow the storyline. I also discovered that many of “the classics” could be downloaded as text files, so I could use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read them out loud to me.

A teacher pursuing her Master’s degree shared:

I am 56 years old and have dyslexia. I see myself in so many of your descriptions: the disorganized desk with piles of paper, the messy room, the right versus left problems, and spelling. Lord, I can’t spell anything.

Technology tools, especially spell and grammar checkers, have been a saving grace for me. I use them constantly. My wonderful husband has also read and corrected the spelling, punctuation, and grammar in my papers, my emails, and my class work for the last 30 years.

I am now going for a Master’s degree. It is sooooo frustrating that I can make A’s on all of my discussions and demonstration classes, but I can barely get a C on multiple choice tests. I run out of time on every test because when I read the questions, I skip words or misread them. So I have to check and recheck to be sure I’ve read each long convoluted question, and each possible answer, correctly. I can then choose the correct answer, but it takes me longer. Time always runs out before I finish the test.

From a caring teacher and friend:

When you mentioned that dyslexics have poor written expression – even though they have a clear grasp of the concept when discussing it orally, I thought of a young lady I met in college. We started out studying together, but eventually, I became her scribe. When we discussed a topic, she clearly knew what she was talking about. But when she came back with a paper she had written on that same topic, it made very little sense. She would ask me to look over and edit her papers, but this was such a struggle for both of us (her during the original writing, and me during the proofreading) that it simply became easier to write together sitting in front of the computer. She would talk, and I would type.

She shared that she had a reading and writing learning disability and had gotten an IEP in third grade. She also shared that she had been told by several teachers that she was unlikely to graduate from high school and probably would never be able to attend college.

But she had an amazing work ethic. She worked her butt off. And she earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

Her story stuck with me, and I’ve been so angry at those teachers who dared to make such a negative prediction to this obviously bright young woman. I can’t help but wonder how different her educational experience would have been if only her teachers had known about dyslexia.

Dyslexia still haunts me

When adults share the emotional pain caused by dyslexia, and how it continues to impact them even as adults, it will give you the anger and courage needed to fight hard for laws that require early screening and early intervention.

I’m 23 years old now, and I barely graduated from high school. My fiancee and I just watched your dyslexia video, and the story you told about your nephew Ben made me cry. It brought back many painful memories. I am like Ben, but unlike Ben, I never got the right help. I would like to tell you my story, and then I’d like to ask you a few questions.

In kindergarten, I had to walk home. It was only about three or four blocks, but I would often get lost. Also, I still remember getting criticized by my teachers, classmates, and even my own parents when I was falling behind in reciting my ABC’s, my 1-10’s, and even my phone number and address.

They almost retained me in Kindergarten, but my mother talked them out of it.

In first grade, I started to learn to read, but again, I was falling behind. All the way through school, I feared my turn to read in class. It’s funny how good memories are sometimes forgotten, but bad memories never go away. When I was trying to learn to read, I can still remember my father telling me that I was lazy, and I just wasn’t trying. I guess my tears and frustration weren’t enough proof for him to see how hard I really was trying.

When I finally got tested for dyslexia in 3rd grade, they put me into “Special Ed.” If you ask a child what Special Ed means, they will probably say “retarded.” That’s what my peers called me, and that’s what I thought I was.

My parents sent me to many programs, and spent a lot of money. Yet I’ve held a grudge against my parents for years; I felt they failed me and didn’t try hard enough to get the right type of help. That’s because after years of “help,” I was still the same.

I struggled all the way through high school and barely graduated. In my junior year, the state created a High School Graduation Exam. In order to graduate, you had to pass 3 tests: reading, writing, and math. You could take them 3 times, but if you don’t pass by the end of high school, you only got an “Attendance” certificate. The first time I took it, I somehow passed the reading test. But I failed math and writing.

To this day, I can’t do math. I still mess up on simple things such as adding and subtracting. I still don’t know my multiplication tables. I’ve tried to learn them for years, but I just can’t remember them. I’ll have all the fours mastered one night, but when I try them again the next day, I’ll only remember a few of them. By the following day, I won’t remember any of them.

So I switched to a vocational high school where you could  take construction electricity to earn math credits. In that hands-on class, I was a super star.

But I still could not pass the math portion of the high school exit exam — or the writing part, which you had to do by hand and they graded it on spelling, punctuation, and neatness of handwriting.

Fortunately, many parents in the district (whose kids could not pass the test) fought the district and got them to withdraw the test. So I did graduate after all — with a D average.

After high school, I went from job to job, but I wasn’t happy. I needed a skill, so I turned to the military. I took the ASVAB for the Coast Guard, and once again, I almost failed it. But I scored just high enough to get into a mechanics position.

But Basic Training was a nightmare. I could not memorize and retain information, marching left versus right was almost impossible, and I still could not write down anything. In the end I had a mental breakdown, and got discharged.

That was two years ago, and since then, I’ve been going from one job I hated to the next.

But last January, my finance gave me an ultimatum. “Go back to school and try, or I’m going to leave you.”

So I’m back in school in the diesel mechanics program.

Although the Disabilities Office has provided some software, more time on tests, and a note taker for each of my classes, they are not teaching me how to overcome my dyslexia.

I still can’t spell, do multiplication (or most other math), memorize anything, tell my left from my right, or find my errors when I write. I even make mistakes when filling out a job application.

Yet there is so much I can do. Right now, I work as an assistant maintenance person at the fire department, and I’m good. Really good. I can fix just about anything.

Yet that’s not what this world wants.

I want help to overcome my dyslexia so badly. I will try anything. I just want to be like everyone around me.

If it’s too late for me, then I need to know what to do to help my children when I have them. I do not want them to feel like I do now.

Hopeless, helpless, and sad.

Students share

A Certified Barton tutor who recently attended an Advanced Certification session gave me a packet of letters her Barton students had written to me.

I hope these touch your heart as much as they touched mine – and will help you realize that with the right type of tutoring, students with dyslexia can bring their skills up to – and beyond – grade level.

From Matthew, age 10

Thank you for writing the Barton System. You have helped me grow. Thanks to you, I’m now a better speller. I was at below basic on my second grade CST. Now I’m above average on my fourth grade CST.

Gabe, age 17

When I first started tutoring, I could barely read at all. I am now reading high school level textbooks, websites, movie reviews, and more.

Thanks to this program, I passed the high school exit exam the first time – which I thought would never happen.

Samantha, age 12

Tutoring has helped me because I am not in Special Ed anymore.

I used to have trouble reading, but now I can read really good. Last year, I even got a ribbon for reading because I got 100 AR points.

I can now spell words and no longer have to ask someone else how to spell a word.

From Elysia, age 9

My favorite thing about tutoring is reading. Even if I was sick and missed school, I would still want to go to tutoring.

From Chloe, age 9

I used to hate reading, but now I don’t. Now I can catch up in reading with the class, so I’m not the last to finish.

From Aidan, age 9

Barton has helped me in my spelling and reading. I no longer have to pass when the teacher calls on me to read out loud.

Alina, age 12

I am currently on Level 10, Lesson 2, and love it. English is now my favorite subject.

I was so pleased when my teacher decided to have a class spelling bee and I won! I even asked for the origin of the words. I was then picked to represent my school for the ACSI spelling bee.

Scottie, age 15

School has become amazing now that I’ve learned so much. I don’t feel bad anymore when I read or write. I can spell right, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

Bryce, age 25

My aunt was a teacher, and my mom thought she would be able to teach me to read. So she enrolled me in her class.

My aunt had this horrible way of posting grades after every assignment. She would write your name and the grade you got on the board. There were 32 names, and mine was always at the end with a big F – every single week.

I loved my aunt, so that just made it worse.

Then I was put in special ed, and even there, I was at the bottom. People with autism and other disabilities could read better than me. What’s worse is I could comprehend and understand the scope of their disabilities, and I knew I was not like that. But everyone there could read better than me.

I began to think, “I can’t do this. Perhaps I was not meant to learn how to read.”

Now I am 25 years old, and to find a program like this . . . is just amazing. I only wish I could have started this as a child.

Warn the parents

If you combine the emails I get from teachers with those I get from parents, you can see why so many students with dyslexia drop out of high school.

A caring teacher asked:

I am a first-year 3rd grade teacher.

I have one student in my classroom who is very bright. She does extremely well in all of her subjects, except reading and spelling. Her spelling is atrocious, and so is her handwriting. When she writes the required sentences each week, her sentence structure and words are simplistic and not at all similar to how she speaks.

When reading aloud, she runs over punctuation marks, and she doesn’t even try to sound out unknown words. Even when I help her and eventually tell her the word, she will often not know that very same word when it appears again a page or two later.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming up, and I was wondering if I should warn her parents about the possibility of dyslexia.

Yes,  if you suspect a child may have dyslexia PLEASE mention it to their parents.   They know their child is struggling because they fight the nightly “homework wars.”

If dyslexia is not discovered and dealt with during those early grades, teachers in junior high often complain:

 I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful presentation I attended about 2 weeks ago at my school. I was moved to tears and then later, I became quite angry!

I am a teacher at the school that hosted your presentation. I teach 7th grade English Language Arts, and I’ve been searching for an answer to this question for years by going to conferences, holding discussions with my colleagues, and asking administrators: “What do I do with the students who read at the 2nd grade level in 7th grade?”

I will never understand our approach to education. How can it be that effective reading systems exist, we do not employ them, and yet we are expected to raise their scores and close the gap? (And we call ourselves educators.)

How much longer are we going to allow this farce to continue?

But the real tragedy is what happens to these children in high school.  Their parents send me heart-breaking emails, like the following:

My son has dyslexia, he’s 17, and I don’t know what to do.

He can barely read, he can’t spell, and his special education teacher isn’t helping. He’s slipping away, yet he really is a good kid.

He is giving up. He wants to drop out of high school.

Help. I’m desperate!

Or:

I am dyslexic, but I did not know it until my 6 year old son was diagnosed with it. I suspect 2 of my other children also have it, and ADD as well.

My oldest is 16, and he’s the one I am most concerned about.

The school has always labeled him a “problem kid.” Over the years, I tried everything the teachers suggested. But when their ideas did not work and I went back to them with my own suggestions, I became the enemy. Nothing I suggested was ever tried or accepted.

He is a junior in high school, but he only has the credits of a 9th grader — so he may not graduate. His teachers give up on him and just push him through. He has very low self-esteem, has been in a lot of trouble, and I just discovered he is starting to use drugs.

I feel like I have let him down. I worry that it is too late to help him. What can I do now?

Or:

My nephew, who is 20, has dyslexia but never knew it. School was so awful for him that he dropped out.

He tried to get his GED through a local college program, but it was way over his head. One of the teachers called him “stupid,” so now he will not go back. That is the last thing he needed — as he already had very poor self-esteem.

He has always wanted to be an engineer, but he says he is too stupid to be that — or anything else in life.

I want to help him. If I don’t, he may never be able to get a job, and he will live at home with his mom forever.

All of that pain is preventable if teachers would warn parents when a student shows many of the classic early warning signs of dyslexia, and if parents then got their child the right type of tutoring.

Amazing what putting a name to a condition can do

People have told me over and over again that the day they discovered they had dyslexia was the best day in their life — as this woman shares: 

Thank you for your on-line video. I watched it because I suspect my 5 year old has dyslexia.  Now I’m convinced. But just as important, I found out that I have mild dyslexia.

I cried when I watched your video because you were talking about my life. I related with everything you said. I was actually a B high school student only because my A+ in Art brought up the rest of my grades.

I was on the 7 year plan in college and avoided classes that required written reports. I still can’t believe you knew that. I had to take an upper-level developmental biology class that had all essay exams. The professor would give me partial credit because he knew I could sit and talk about the material, but I could not seem to get it down in written words.

M mother still teases me that I was in my 20’s before I knew my left from right. I knew the days of the week, but struggled with the months.

I still remember her trying to teach me to spell, telling me to look it up in the dictionary, but me not having a clue as to the first, second, or third letter.

My writing was in run-on sentences (still is, sorry). I knew the teacher wanted periods, then a capital, so I would go back over my work and if a sentence looked too long, I would take out a word and put in a period.

Because of your video, when I make word substitutions when reading to my girls, I will no longer cringe when I realize my mistake.

My dirty little secret in life is, of course, that I can’t spell. My husband can’t either. We have worried about the day our kids will find out our “secret.” Well, it is not going to be a dirty little secret any more.

I am not embarrassed to send you this awfully written note. I am not going to rewrite it 3 times, then wait 24 hours, and read it again before I send it — as I usually do. I can stop beating myself up thinking I’m stupid. I’m just mildly dyslexic. Too bad I had to be 42 before I figured that out.

Even though you don’t know me, I am so relieved that there is someone in the world who understands me, and I don’t have to feel crazy or retarded because I can’t spell, write, or read out loud.

I have to look at my whole life differently now. I have lots of new questions, like: is dyslexia why, after 30 years of keyboard use, I still have to look at the keys?

Thank you for giving me the answer to my question of what’s wrong with me. My head’s a little higher today. I think you healed 40 years of emotional scars in the few minutes it took to describe an adult with mild dyslexia. Amazing what putting a name to a condition can do.

%d bloggers like this: