Dear Educator,

I would like to give you a little bit of background on a common, genetically-caused brain wiring called dyslexia, since one (or more!) of your students is dealing with it this year.

First of all, you may not realize how lucky you are to have one of these students! ☺ They are typically very intelligent and tend to be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. You will also find that many of these students are very kind, intuitive, and sensitive to the needs of others. Most also have at least one area that is a HUGE strength (3D art, sports, speaking, building, logic, inventing, comprehension of and insight into an orally-read story, acting/performing, problem-solving, and more.…)

These students are often misunderstood to be lazy or just not trying hard enough. These students have tried hard. Teachers (and even the students themselves) don’t realize that these students’ brains are working many times harder for a task that seems automatic to most students.

The good news for you and the student is that, because of advances in science, we now know how to help people with dyslexia! Your student will be receiving lessons using an Orton-Gillingham based method that is proven to literally rewire the brain so that reading and spelling no longer have to be a struggle. This 10-level system will train your student in phonemic awareness (the awareness that words are made up of sounds, and that sounds can be added, removed, or changed), and then will bring the student through a sequential set of lessons that teach reading and spelling simultaneously. The system does a super job of adding logic to reading and spelling. Even as a good reader and speller, I have learned SO much by teaching this way!

For maximum effectiveness of our system (The Barton Reading and Spelling System) we respectfully ask that your student not be pulled out of class for any extra reading instruction, such as Reading Recovery, Title Reading, Special Education Reading Instruction, or RTI Interventions. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the reasoning behind this. If your school is asking for documentation, we are happy to provide information on the student’s current level, what he/she is learning, and the frequency of lessons.

Within three years, your student will be reading and spelling at or above grade level, but as the student is progressing through these lessons, we ask for your understanding and flexibility to help move the student through school with as much success as possible.

An ideal teacher for a student with dyslexia would be one who:

  • Is willing to learn a little more about dyslexia
  • Will be supportive and encouraging, and will recognize the student’s strengths and intelligence
  • Will encourage and reward effort, not just the end product; grades should be less important than progress
  • Is willing to provide some classroom/homework accommodations until the student reaches grade level (see below for some common accommodations).
  • Will keep communication lines open with the student’s parents as the school year progresses

Thank you so much for keeping an open mind, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Dyslexia is not new, but because of technology and scientific breakthroughs, our understanding of it IS new!

DYS= “difficulty with” LEXIA= “language” (spelling, reading, writing, and speech)

DYSLEXIA is an unexpected difficulty with language despite intelligence, motivation, and education.

NEW understanding:

  • Live brain imaging shows that dyslexia is a genetic “miswiring” in the brain (scientists find this “neural signature” of dyslexia in all languages and in people of all ages)
  • A dyslexic reader CAN read, but the area designed to make reading automatic is not being used, so reading will be slow, choppy, and inaccurate
  • It is not rare—(Affects 1 in 5 to some degree)
  • It can happen to very intelligent people (Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, …)
  • “John Irving (American novelist and Acadamy Award-winning screenwriter) liked to make people understand that dyslexia affects your ability to read and to spell, but not to have an imagination and be creative.” –Sally Shaywitz, 2004
  • Ronald Davis, author –“At the age of 12, I was considered uneducable mentally retarded. At the age of 38, I could score 169 on the IQ test but I couldn’t read a menu in a restaurant.”
  • Dyslexia can be detected as early as 5 ½ years of age (watch for non-reading signs: chronic ear infections, delayed speech, trouble memorizing address or alphabet, difficulty learning to tie shoes, trouble pronouncing words correctly, a hard time with rhyming and late to pick a dominant hand)
  • It is not a visual problem
  • It does not make people see things backwards
  • It cannot be outgrown
  • Dyslexia affects as many girls as boys (generally speaking, girls will shrink back and make themselves invisible; boys would much rather look naughty than stupid in front of their peers, so tend to get noticed)
  • The word “dyslexia” CAN be used by teachers if they suspect it. (see attached email)

What You Might See

Spelling — Poor spelling, even on common words or sight words that have been seen and used over and over

Trying to spell by memory, and may treat every word as a sight word to be visually remembered

Reading — Slow, choppy, inaccurate (attempts will often have similar shape or same letters but in different order) Examples include: likes/licks, stop/spot/post/pots, lots/lost, on/no, from/form, who/how, saw/was, girl/grill, of/for, every/very, called/could, horse/house, how/now, mouth/month, left/felt, etc.

If not by similar shape or similar letters, guesses are often made based on picture clues or context clues (saying horse when the word is pony, saying kitten when the word is cat, or rug instead of mat)

Skipping or switching smaller words and prepositions (the, a, of, and, at, to,…)

Leaving off word endings/suffixes

Writing – Odd letter formation (starting the same letter many different ways, starting at the bottom and going up, using many strokes for a letter that only needs one stroke, no ascending or descending letters, letters have trouble sitting on the line)

Cursive can be excruciating

Odd pencil grip (usually with fist grip or thumb control)

Commonly leave off capitals at beginning of sentence, and sometimes use capital letters mid-sentence

Very little use of punctuation

Speech – mispronunciation of words, often switching syllables or sounds (aminal, emeny, bisketti, ambliance)

Hard time finding the right word (word retrieval) despite having a good understanding of the meaning of the word – may confuse words with similar parts tornado/volcano, manager/janitor, or may try to describe a word: “You know that thingy that you use when…”

Directionality Issues – People with dyslexia often think in pictures, and are very good at seeing 3D images (they are often good at interior design, landscaping, architecture, creating with Legos, etc.). Picturing the letter “d” as a 3D shape, it could be a d, b, p, or q depending on your perspective. Because of this, you will often see letter reversals, or confusion of letters such as, b/p, and n/u, a hard time learning the difference between left and right, a hard time telling the time on a clock with hands, and a hard time reading maps.

Trouble Memorizing – Unless the student can see the logic behind it, they may have trouble memorizing a list or a sequence of steps, such as months of year, days of week, order of the alphabet (without using the song), steps of long division, steps of tying shoes, and basic math facts).

STRENGTHS! — Look for these, too: Excellent thinking skills, an ability to figure things out, curiosity, a great imagination, talent at building things, inventive, athletics, great people skills, music, good logic, mechanical skill, global thinkers, very intuitive and sensitive.


Your student has a list of classroom and homework accommodations and will talk with his/her parents about what accommodations might be needed, but here are a few examples:

    • Not calling on the student to read aloud in front of his/her peers unless the student volunteers or is given time in advance to preview/practice the passage
    • Being flexible when grading spelling and writing; grading more for content, ideas, organization, voice and word choice, and less on spelling and conventions
    • Allow for oral testing, or using the student’s strengths to show his/her knowledge (e.g. let student produce an oral report or a skit on Social Studies content).
    • Allow student to avoid independent reading at home until student has reached the end of Level 4 of tutoring. Student can listen to Books on Tape/MP3/iPod or can listen as an adult/parent reads aloud.
    • Allow parents to act as scribe (write down answers that student dictates, even if answer is incorrect) for written homework.
    • Realize that the student will not learn spelling by trying to memorize a list of words. Even if they do okay on the spelling test, the words will be soon forgotten. If you give a weekly spelling test, the student can take it if he/she does not want to stand out as different, but please do not grade the test. This will also free up time at home to be used for homework or other learning.

To Learn More, Or Get Help With Dyslexia

        • #1 Recommendation!–Watch eye-opening, 3-hour free webcast called Dyslexia: Symptoms and Solutions, found on
        • For information about dyslexia, more classic warning signs, accommodations (webcast and handout), what works for people with dyslexia and what does not, and more, go to
        • Explore my website:
        • To learn more about brain imaging, and what dyslexia “looks” like, read the book Overcoming Dyslexia, by Dr. Sally Shaywitz. I found chapter 1, “The Power of Knowing” and chapter 4, “Why Some Smart People Can’t Read” to be especially fascinating.

“In an era when we can image the brain as an individual reads and literally see the brain at work, it is unacceptable to have children (and adults) struggling to read when they could benefit from what neuroscience has taught us about reading and dyslexia.” –Dr. Sally Shaywitz, neuroscientist at Yale University