Making a Difference, One Person at a Time.


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Luke's Story

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I have a son who is sixteen years old and struggles with reading, spelling, and writing. He is dyslexic.  He also suffers from ADHD, which is the reason that everyone thought he was behind academically in the beginning. 

His second grade teacher recommended that we have his eyes checked. The eye doctor told us he had a tracking problem and we were sent to a specific eye doctor who gave us eye exercises to work on. This did not work.

My son attended a parochial school until the middle of third grade.  At the end of second grade he was evaluated by Peoria’s district 150.  He was diagnosed with a learning disability, with no explanation into what his learning disability was, just a “learning disability”.  When we all met to set up his IEP it was recommended that he attend a public school where he could get the assistance he needed.  My husband and I hired a private reading tutor, who was a reading specialist in the Pekin school district.  She worked with him diligently for 6 months before she told me that he was not making any progress.  It was brought to our attention that Luke was showing many of the basic signs of dyslexia.  The tutor led us to a website called Bright Solutions for Dyslexia where we found a lot of information that we needed to understand what Luke was going through.  We found out that there was a proven reading and spelling program that could help our child but at the time we did not have the extra money to purchase it or to pay for a trained Barton Reading and Spelling program tutor. This was a huge mistake on our part that I regret everyday.  The older our child got the worse his school experience became as his feelings of inadequacy grew.  His confidence plummeted and he gave up trying.

During Luke’s 5th and 6th grade years, he was blessed with a teacher who had some training in an Orton-Gillingham method of teaching and had received some education about dyslexia.  Even though the reading program the school offered was not helping Lucas progress, she taught him special techniques that did help him show some improvement.  

Starting the summer of his 7th grade year, I purchase and taught Luke the first three levels of the Barton Reading and Spelling program myself.  However, we again did not have the funding to continue. 

In May of this year, we again made the decision to seek out someone who could teach Luke using the Barton Reading and Spelling program. We knew that if we did not find someone on our own, who could help our son, he would end up being a high school drop out.  We came into contact with Melissa Garretson and she began working with Luke in June. They work together for 3 hours a week and he has completed levels 4 and 5. Currently, our son is a sophomore.  At this time he still reads and writes below his grade level however, he is placed in all regular classes with some IEP accommodations. He barely gets by in some classes and in other classes he is failing.

But, there is a difference between this year and the previous 10 years of Luke’s schooling.  This year, he is finally beginning to show progress.  This year, we have Ms. Garretson to support, encourage and teach Lucas using a method that we know will actually make a difference! This year we see light at the end of a what has been a very long tunnel. Children who are dyslexic and their families should not have to go through years of suffering through school when there are proven programs that can help these children learn to read and write.  Just because they have to be taught differently does not mean that our school districts should not be responsible for teaching them.  




Heidi's Story

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Sharing our story with you is difficult because it makes me relive years of frustration and pain. But if it spares other families from having to go through the same experience, it’s more than worth it.

Heidi was a pro at preschool! She loved everything about it. With Kindergarten began the use of written language and our struggles began. From the middle of that year until the end of 4th grade, there was a steady apparentness that Heidi’s intelligence level did not match her ability to read and spell. We noticed it, the teachers noticed it, and, most of all, Heidi noticed it. Beginning in 1st grade, she was sent to the reading specialist. In attempts to “fix her problem”, we were given fluency packets where she would read the same paragraph over and over to increase the number of words she could read in a minute. What actually happened is she read through the paragraph so many times that she would memorize enough words that she was able to move onto the next paragraph. In third grade the reading specialist added a computer program on fluency. Heidi would go early every morning to work on it before the other kids got to school, missing both morning announcements and time with her friends. After discussions with her teachers and not being satisfied that fluency was her problem, we talked with the district special education coordinator. She sent in the school psychologist who observed Heidi for 15 minutes and concluded she had ADD. In fourth grade we hit a new low as her social studies teacher marked every word wrong that was misspelled……..even if the answer was correct.

Heidi was a trouper through it all. She tried her hardest and did everything that was asked of her. Many times she broke down and asked why she couldn’t be like all the other kids. Then she would pick herself back up and give it her all. There were tears beyond number on her part and ours. Heidi’s self-confidence continually took a beating as she did exactly what was asked of her but saw no improvement and was humiliated because of something she could not fix. I remember a specific instance where Heidi brought home a spelling test on which she had received an “F” and the teacher wrote a comment that Heidi might want to study a little for the tests. In actuality, Heidi had studied spelling for 6 hours that week. I cannot put into words the helplessness and frustration you feel as a parent when you don’t know how to help your child. Our spunky, clever, tenderhearted girl was slowly being worn down because no one knew how to help her.

May 31, 2011 was the first day of summer swim practice. Another mother and I introduced ourselves to each other and started chatting. We discovered we’d both already had our kids doing schoolwork that morning so that our kids would not fall too far behind during the summer. When I shared some of our struggles with her, she suggested I go to a particular website and read the symptoms of Dyslexia.

A 5 minute conversation. At the pool. With another mom. That’s what put us on the path to helping our girl. When we talked with Heidi and explained what we thought she had, you could see the weight fall from her shoulders and the strain and frustration leave her face. We learned everything we could about Dyslexia and started Heidi in the Barton Dyslexia tutoring levels. We requested a 504 plan at her school and were told that her grades were not bad enough to warrant any accommodations. In the fall of 2012 we had Heidi officially tested and diagnosed with Dyslexia. We once again requested a 504 and were able to get that put into place. She has now completed the 10 levels of the Barton system, she has blossomed in jr high and high school, and her goal is to be a first grade teacher. We know Heidi will never be “fixed” and there are still many challenges, but we are working with her to give her the tools she needs to

manage her disability. I want to repeat: it was a five minute conversation at the pool with another mom that answered our questions. Not a teacher, not a school psychologist, and not a reading specialist. As little as watching a 45 minute video online would give every one of our teachers the awareness of what Dyslexia is and the ability to suggest that parents consider Dyslexia as a possibility when their child is struggling with reading and spelling. In my opinion, every teacher in our state should have a basic knowledge of the signs and symptoms of Dyslexia, every reading specialist should certainly know about and be trained in working with a learning disability that affects 1 out of every 5 students, and every administration in our state should include Dyslexia screening for children entering first grade.

Thank you for allowing me the chance to share our journey. I hope and pray that it will be a small part of a catalyst to better awareness and education for all students in the state of Illinois who have Dyslexia.




Trae's Story

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Our son, Trae was recently diagnosed with moderate to severe dyslexia. Statistics show that 1 in 5 children have dyslexia and it ranges from mild to severe. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading difficulty in elementary students. Dyslexia is not a medical condition; there is no medication that can heal it. However, dyslexia does respond to timely and appropriate intervention.

Trae had been struggling academically since preschool. As his parents we knew something was wrong, but we just didn’t know what. We were told several times he was just underexposed. Trae began attending Lincoln in the fall of 2012 and soon after his teacher put him in RTI for reading, and later on in the year she added Math. He started with Tier 1 and was also getting individualized tutoring the last month or two of the school year. Trae was also getting tutored one day a week after school for reading and math. Trae attended summer school this past summer in hopes of catching up in reading and math. After working tirelessly at school, at tutoring, and at home we were seeing little to no improvement.

When Trae didn’t show any improvement his summer school teacher suspected that he may have dyslexia. So we began our journey to diagnose his learning disability. Miss Garretson began teaching Trae under the Barton System while he waited for all his testing results to come back. Under the Barton System we began to see improvement and for the first time in a long time felt hope. We feel very blessed to have found Miss Garretson. This system works when nothing else has. It is so important to give these talented, creative, and smart kids a fighting chance to succeed in school.

Trae is currently under a 504 plan and receiving accommodations in the classroom. His classroom accommodations have been very helpful; however he is still struggling emotionally. Trae continues to struggle each day with fear and anxiety and he just started seeing a counselor to help manage this. It’s very common for dyslexic children to become fearful because of their constant frustration and confusion in school. Trae has stomach aches and headaches daily. It’s a struggle getting him to school each day. Dyslexia affects Trae the most but it also greatly affects our family life both financially and emotionally. “Like any handicapping condition, dyslexia has a tremendous impact on the child’s family. However, because dyslexia is an invisible handicap, these effects are often overlooked” according to Dr. Michael Ryan. Our journey with dyslexia has just started and it’s been a rough road thus far. We never imagined getting a diagnosis was the easiest part. Our hopes are that the school will recognize dyslexia and do everything in their power to help these kids.

Dyslexia is not going to go away. Our hopes are that with more awareness this will become a known learning difference! Even though, Illinois doesn’t currently have any laws in regards to dyslexia let’s be proactive in our response to it.



Nick's Story

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Nicholas had always been our child who we just couldn't figure out his struggles in school. As a kindergarten teacher I just couldn't pin point what was going on. A dear friend and neighbor asked one day after my sons very discouraging parent teacher conference if I thought he may have dyslexia.  I was honest and said I knew very little about it. I went home and did my research and I was shocked. He fit the criteria in nearly every category! I looked for help and had him screened. Our hunch was correct. He has dyslexia. He started private tutoring and made huge strides. I decided myself to become a tutor and last year took a class to become a dyslexia screener. Nicholas is in 6th grade and doing great. Dyslexia awareness is so important! It can change lives!!   

John's Parent's Story

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I am writing this to help provide a small insight into the frustrations associated with dyslexia. My son’s name is John and he is 13 years old and is completing his 7th grade year in school. He is the third of three children and is the only boy. His two sisters are both in honors courses. I am a speech pathologist who have taken many education courses. When John was in preschool and in the early years of elementary school, it was apparent to me that something was just not clicking with him. I informally screened him and took him to a developmental screening as I just could not put my finger on what was going on with him. Was it just that he was young for his class, a boy and the baby of the family or was it something else? When I questioned his teachers, they all responded the same way that he was a delightful child, with no red flags, and anything that he was behind in, he would catch up with as he got older. John has always been a well behaved child with no ADD or ADHD. He has never caused any problems in the classroom, so therefore was flying under the radar and as we would discover, was slipping through the cracks.


Third grade brought everything to a head. Every week John would come home on Mondays with his spelling pre-test. Every week he had missed 17-19 words from a list of 20-25. We would work diligently on this list all week. We had him write and re-write all the missed words. After several practice writings, we would quiz him. He would miss 8 words. We would have him re-write all the missed words 3-5 times and re-quiz him. He would consistently then miss 8 completely different words. He would typically make it through the test with a fair grade, but couldn’t spell the words the next day. This went on all year. One day, he got in the car after school, and burst into tears. To our surprise, he was now being pulled out for RTI. He was confused and frustrated, as were we. He was miserable!  This is when the consistent questions began. “Why am I so dumb? Why aren’t I as smart as the girls? Why can’t I be in the challenge classes? Why am I so stupid? Why is it so hard for me?”


And then it turned into definitive statements…





Fast forward a couple years. By chance, we happened to run into one of my daughter’s former teachers at the library. We had heard that she was taking a year off. As I questioned her about the year off, she told me that she would be tutoring. To make a long story, short, she was our angel. She was the one who identified John’s dyslexia. Over the course of two years, she took him through the Orton Gillingham dyslexia system, helped to educate our family, and helped John to regain SOME of his confidence. He was in 5th grade.


Today, John is a fairly good reader but continues to struggle with memorization, math, knowing phone numbers and dates, spelling and writing. He is an auditory and tactile learner, which is not always conducive to how teachers teach. He is a smart kid who can put remote control toys together without instructions but cannot consistently spell February correctly. Copying information down and taking notes is absolutely painful to watch John do. John does not have an IEP or a 504. At this point, he seems to not be impaired enough to qualify for the accommodations, that we feel he needs to be successful in upper grades. It is extremely concerning that teachers are not grasping what dyslexia really is and how to accommodate each individual student.

Things need to change. Our teachers are NOT being educated about this learning deficit. Teachers are not being educated in what the dyslexia is, how to recognize the signs and symptoms, what to do with kids that they suspect might have dyslexia and how to help these kids. Screenings are not being done and accommodations are not being made.



John's Story

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

My name is John and I have dyslexia. I found out that I had dyslexia when I was is 5th grade. The teachers at my old school knew almost nothing about dyslexia, and that made school even harder for me. The teachers would tried many time to help me with no results. I would take spelling tests which my parents would quiz me for days before the test. I would still miss different words every night. This troubled my parents and they felt like the teachers as well as themselves will missing something about my learning. My mother began to do some research on trouble learning for my age group. This led me to my tutor and the program that she had me followed a 10 book process. This 10 book series took me 2 years with weekly meetings with my tutor. Since I have finished the program I feel confident that I can handle challenges with my schooling. I still have times that I struggle. I have a lot of trouble with math because numbers are confusing. And note taking is hard, and is hard to pay attention is class. I hope that teachers become more aware of the signs of dyslexia so future kids do not have to go through the rough times I did before working with my tutor.



The beginning of our families journey

Posted on April 22, 2016 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Our families journey begins like so many others, yet we weren't aware at the time. My hope is that my sharing our story it may help others experiencing the same or similar journey. It has taken 7 1/2 years of searching for answers and tutoring to figure out our son is dyslexic....We didn't find this out through testing or the school system... we read a 4 sentence "ad" in our local paper that highlighted common symptoms of dyslexia and cried when we realized our problem now had a name. With a name we can fix the problem!

Our youngest son struggled from an early age, he was born with a dislocated elbow and had a cast for about the first 6 weeks of his life.  As he grew he struggled with crawling, which was attributed to the early elbow issue.  He walked late, had trouble moving food in his mouth to eat and struggled to talk.  We sought help when he was about 9 months old and began occupational therapy at that time.  We taught him basic sign language so he could communicate basic needs and worked hard to help him learn to speak.  He began speech therapy around age 2 and the only people who could understand him when he spoke was our immediate family, myself, his dad, brother and sister.  His grandparents asked us to "interpret" for them until around age 5.  He had FREQUENT ear infections...I barely remember a month we didn't take have him on antibiotics!

In preschool he was very social, loved attending and the teachers always had wonderful things to say.  He was a big helper and worked hard...but he wasn't catching on with letters, his alphabet and pronouncing words.  We were told "boys sometimes take longer" and "he'll be fine".  He loved to be read to and could "read" to us...when in fact he had memorized the book because we had read it to him so many times.  He finished 2 years of preschool and the teacher told me she didn't think he was ready for kindergarten...we agreed with her. His birthday is in June so he would be a young kindergarten student, we seriously considered holding him back a year.

Our district holds screenings for kindergarten and I signed him expecting to be told he needed to wait a year.  He was continuing speech therapy at this time through the early intervention program at the same school.  Imagine my surprise when the screener came out with him with a big smile and said "he passed mom! he'll do great"  I couldn't believe my ears....I knew he couldn't answer the screening questions reliably in spite of weeks of practice...yes we PRACTICED for the kindergarten screening...

And so our journey would begin that fall with kindergarten.  I hired a tutor for the summer again....we had him tutored between age 3-4 and 4-5 hoping by repeating basic phonics, sounds and so forth he would improve and be successful in kindergarten.  If only we knew then what we know now...our sons story would be very different.