Brandon began with me when he was about to start 8th grade. He did not talk until he was 4 years old. He had repeated a grade, had speech therapy for years starting in preschool, and had been in special education classes since Kindergarten.

When I met him at the end of his 7th grade year, he was unable to read even the most decodable “1st-grade level” words. Here is a picture of his attempt at writing the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.”

The special education team at Brandon’s middle school had just told his parents that they had tried all they could; they didn’t know what else to do.

Brandon was probably my most severely dyslexic student (he would often read a similar-looking or similar-meaning word when reading aloud: using/suing, fastest/safest, silence/stillness), but he was the embodiment of the “slow-but-steady” mantra. He worked SO hard and even drove to my house for a lesson when school had been cancelled due to snow.

As a senior in high school and just finishing Level 8 of The Barton Reading and Spelling System, I got a text from him that included a picture that he had taken of his computer screen at school, showing a graph of his progression on a school reading test used to determine if a remedial reading class is needed or not. Students need 1000 points in order to get out of the reading class and be freed up to take an elective.

I attached the graph for you to see. The first score (213) was from 9/9/13. The last score (1040) was from 3/17/15.

This graph shows neither the beginning nor the end of our tutoring; it is just a snapshot from the middle of our sessions. The student has now graduated from high school and has completed all 10 levels of The Barton Reading and Spelling System.

The moral of this story is two-fold:

  1. It would have been better for Brandon to get the right kind of reading instruction when he was younger, but this story and graph show that it is never too late to learn to read.
  2. Although Brandon’s teachers and special educators had big hearts and tried everything they knew to help him, they did not know about dyslexia and they were not aware of the teaching method needed to help him.