Could It Be Dyslexia? - Cynthia Dapello

"Matthew is getting close to finishing 9th grade. He's been enjoying high school, and participates in the water polo and swim teams. He's a part of an engineering cohort that he'll go through during his 4 years of high school that will teach him different aspects of engineering fundamentals and careers. He's working with a teacher advisor to start a Robotics Club on campus next year. He's been maintaining Straight A's and carrying honor classes, and yesterday he found out at a school assembly that currently he has the highest GPA out of the entire freshman class!
I wanted to let you know that all the work you did with him "unlocked the door" and allowed all of his potential to come out. Thank you so much!!"
     ~Catherine, Mom of Barton Graduate

"No one ever thought I would graduate. Not only did I graduate - but I also made the Honor Roll!"
     ~Gabe, 18 - High School Graduate - Rancho Cucamonga, CA

"I can't say THANK YOU enough. Gabriel (as he likes to be called these days) has accomplished more than I could have imagined when I first brought him to you. You have been a miracle in his life in many practical ways. He has much to learn and grow, but he is definitely on his way. Thanks so much.
     ~Gregg, father of Gabriel (above)


Nichole, my oldest daughter is dyslexic. Not only is she dyslexic, she is ADD, dysgraphic, and has aspergers syndrome. She is what is called a complex child.

Her pre-school teacher told me that something was different about her. She couldn't memorize her ABC's, had a lot of trouble spelling and writing her first name, struggled with remembering the names of colors, and did not understand rhyming. I put her in tutoring - yes, tutoring in preschool.

In Kindergarten, she was taught to read, but she didn't learn. She could not sound out the words, she did not understand how the sounds could be broken apart and put back together. As a teacher myself, I worked with her on this all year. I assumed she was a slow learner - so she started tutoring again. She would catch up next year, we all thought.

In first grade the teacher mentioned that she had a hard time focusing. I called the public school (she went to a private school) and asked for testing (note about schools and testing) but was told that she was not old enough. I should just wait and most likely she would outgrow it. I didn't want to wait, so I took her to a private tutor and had her tested for learning differences. The testing showed that she was at a beginning Kindergarten level in reading and had ADD so the pediatrician put her on medication. That helped her attention, but at the end of first grade she still couldn't read, write or spell even though she went to that reading center all year.

So, on to second grade she went. Her teacher said that she was having great difficulty learning and was discouraged. He suggested that we get tutoring for her so she could catch up. When he heard that she was already in tutoring, he was at a loss as much as I was. Nichole switched tutors and began to go 3 times a week. In addition to tutoring, we had to finish her class work at home and then her homework. She did not have time to play, but education is important, right?

I also went back to the public school and asked for her to be tested. They did the testing this time and said that she was fine. They told me she had an IQ that was below low average (mild mental retardation) and she was doing better than they expected her to do. She was actually working above her level. She did not have a discrepancy and thus did not qualify for any special education help. I was dumb-founded! That just was not true! (Later, when she was tested before high school, her IQ was found to be normal)

OK, third grade. Nichole is still not reading, writing or spelling, and still having trouble memorizing (the multiplication facts were a disaster!), but at least she can now spell her first name without stopping to think about it. I was really getting worried so I took her to one of those "train your brain to work better" places. She walked on balance beams, tracked a ball with her eyes, placed blocks in specific order, etc. It was craziness I thought, but if that is what we needed to do to help her to read, than I am all for it! (link to what does and doesn't work for dyslexics) In addition to that, Nichole still tutored every day after school and spent countless hours completing class work and homework.

During this time I went to a seminar about dyslexia that was presented by Susan Barton. I cried during the whole thing. Ms. Barton totally described my daughter! Nichole was dyslexic. I finally had an answer to why she struggled so much. I immediately called the school district and told them that my daughter was dyslexic. They told me that they did not service dyslexics. (note about schools and dyslexia) So I found a place that tested specifically for dyslexia. I read everything I could about the subject, I attended seminars and conferences with renowned specialists in the field, and I taught myself the Barton system. The testing showed that Nichole had profound dyslexia and dysgraphia. They recommended that we begin an Orton-Gillingham system to teach her to read, write and spell.

After completing levels 1 & 3 of the Barton System (an Orton-Gillingham system), Nichole transferred to a school in Santa Ana for part of 4th and 5th grade. This very expensive private school for dyslexics taught using the Slingerland (an Orton-Gillingham) method. She was now learning to read, write, spell and type!!! She tested in reading at a high 3rd grade level. Amazing, in 1.5 years, she had gone from a mid Kindergarten level to a high 3rd grade level in reading! However, the cost of the school and the drive to and from Santa Ana each day was just too much.

I remember vividly when she first started to sound words out and read. We were on vacation and she began to read the billboards on the side of the freeway. It was music to my ears. I was so proud. It was about this time that she began to carry a book around with her everywhere she went. She read whenever and wherever she could. A whole new world opened up to her.

She came back, in 6th grade, to the private school where she had been. She continued to tutor every day after school, improve her typing and work with the Barton system. By the end of 8th grade, she tested at grade level with her reading!

She is now in high school, in the SDC program. She is reading the text books on her own and completing assignments using her word processing skills. Nichole passed the reading/writing portion of the CAHSEE (California high school exit exam) the first time she took it in 10th grade! She still reads all the time. She is doing so well that she has made the honor roll each semester! Nichole has always been outspoken about her dyslexia. She was relieved, as we all were, to finally have a reason to why she struggled so much. However, it wasn't until high school that I realized how much damage was done to her self-esteem because it took us so long to know how to help her learn.

She was in English class and two students were choosing teams to play a game. The first captain said, "I choose the smart girl," and pointed straight at Nichole. She was the first one picked! She told me that the captain didn't know her name; he just called her "the smart girl." Nichole continued, "You have to say that you think I am smart because you're my mom, but now I know that I really am smart. My classmates call me the smart girl."

This is why I have retired from teaching and have begun a career in the field of dyslexia. I want every child to succeed. My hope is to help as many children open the door to reading as I can. I tried everything to help Nichole learn. So much money was spent on tutors unnecessarily. They all meant well, but it wasn't the type of help Nichole needed. Now that I understand dyslexia and have been personally trained by one of the best in the field, my goal is to spread this knowledge so others can get the help they need without struggling like Nichole did.

Bryce's Story

"This is the most thorough program I have been in. It is repetitive in the most useful way for a dyslexic, but not annoying. I like how concrete, practical, and intuitive the rules are. I would love to teach it someday, if I am blessed to finish. One of the most important things about this program is that it provides hope for a dyslexic. I only wish I could have started this as a child.

"Even after the first few sessions, I was able to see how it was affecting my ability to remember in a positive way. I could remember names, words, recognize street names as I was driving, and my ability to file at work greatly improved. At this point, it has even affected my reading, especially with knowing the sight words. My cadence has improved because I am not thinking about those words anymore. Understanding the importance of the sight words vs. rules for regular words has been immeasurable.

"I realize now that even phonics is too advanced for us. It is extremely difficult to understand. I appreciate that your program breaks it down for us to an even smaller level; breaks it down to baby steps, so we can understand. [phonemic awareness] I feel like everyone should learn to read this way, but I do understand that some don't need it. I really want to learn it completely and then teach it, because someday I may have a child that will have dyslexia and I do not want them to wait until they are 25 to get this understanding.

"I don't feel trapped in this program. Often times when I was in English class or even in special ed, I felt very trapped. We would do all this work for the week and at the end there would be this big spelling test and I knew I was going to fail and it was going to be horrible. With this program, the element of a test and all of the pressure associated with it is out of the way; it is fluent. A fluent conversation of, 'This is how you sound out words. Oh, you didn't know that? Let's go over it again.' It's not, 'Oh, you're wrong.' Because with dyslexics we are always wrong... or at least we always think we are wrong. I think about how a level playing ground of understanding has been created in this program between the tutor and myself. I don't feel this hierarchy. No more, 'Billy knows this, but you don't...what is the matter with you?' I'm 25 and I've heard that all my life. The Barton system, is beyond a breath of fresh air. It is my saving grace.

"I remember when I was sent to my aunt's house because she was a teacher and my mom thought maybe she could teach me to read. So, my mom enrolled me in my aunt's class and she was teaching me like everyone else. I remember my aunt had this horrible way of putting up the grades after every assignment. She would post your name and the grade that you got on the board. So out of 32 names, mine was always at the bottom with a big F. I remember just how horrible that was, every single week. I love my aunt and that just made it worse. I was then put into special ed and even in there I was at the bottom. People with autism and other disabilities could read better than me. What's worse is I can comprehend and understand the scope of their disabilities and knew that I was not like that... even the students who had ADD. But, once they sat down everyone could still read better than me. I began to think, 'I can't to do this. Perhaps I was just not meant to learn how to read.'

"Now, I am 25 years old and to find a program like this... it is just amazing. I have seen so much progress in myself, but in the back of my mind I think, 'It's going to stop working... everything does.' But, I am going to keep working. I just want to read and write and do the things I want in order to function in life. I feel that this program is not only going to give to me, but will allow me to give to the next generation. This is true wealth."
     ~Bryce, Age 25

Scottie's Story

My 16 year old son was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 5th grade and this is his story.

In preschool, Scottie had difficulty learning his ABC's, in kindergarten, he had difficulty learning the phonetic sounds of the letters. Beginning in kindergarten, Scottie began after school tutoring. Between kindergarten and first grade, I enrolled him in an auditory processing course over the summer, attempting to get him ready to learn to read in first grade. Sadly, there was little improvement.

In first grade, the class began to learn to read. The teacher sent home short stories that the student was required to read aloud to the parent. Scottie was only able to read sight words. Any unfamiliar words, he'd just guess at, based on the story, he couldn't sound the words out. Weekly spelling tests were just a task at memorization. He'd get A's on tests, but if asked to spell the same words the following week, he'd have no idea how to spell them. After school tutoring continued.

Second grade was more of the same. After school tutoring continued.

Each year, I was told by teachers "boys are slower to develop than girls", "every child develops at their own pace", "he'll catch up by the 3rd grade" and I accepted their professional opinions and continued working with him at home and kept him in after school tutoring.

In third grade, his reading deficiency became more apparent. The class had an assignment where the student had to read the front page (while being timed). When the time was up, the student had to turn the page over and answer questions about what was read. Scottie had a meltdown. He was totally overwhelmed with seeing so many letters on a page. He'd get stuck on a word he didn't recognize and rarely finished the story. It was heart-breaking to see him so frustrated and so upset with himself. In the third grade, he also began reversing his math facts (9 x 5 = 54, not 45).

At the beginning of each year, I'd discuss Scottie's reading disability with his teacher without much feedback or suggestions.

Over the years, Scottie had fine-tuned his memorization skills which got him through lower grades, but it was becoming harder each year to keep up as more reading was expected.

It wasn't until the 5th grade that Scottie was fortunate enough to have a teacher, Mrs. Cynthia Dapello, who was familiar with dyslexia. During my routine meeting with Scottie's new teacher at the beginning of the year, and upon my description of his reading difficulties, Mrs. Dapello went to her computer, printed off a list of dyslexia symptoms and asked me if any of the symptoms described Scottie. Finally, a teacher recognized Scottie's learning- to-read challenge! At least now we had a name for his reading disability and could begin to get the specialized classes he so desperately needed.

Scottie started the Barton Reading and Spelling Program in the 5th grade. He excelled in school in 6th grade and continued the program. He took a year off from tutoring in 7th grade but began to struggle the last semester so he was enrolled back in the Barton program. He completed the program last year, during his freshman year in high school.

The Barton Reading and Spelling program helped him tremendously. It's sad that Scottie had to struggle all those years before he was diagnosed with dyslexia. If he had started the program earlier, it would have saved a lot of frustration and tears. Schools should screen for dyslexia in the early years and provide the necessary classes for these students.

While not unusual for dyslexic children, Scottie has a very creative side. He sees details that most people overlook; he loves to build things and as a young child, he would spend hours making toys from simple household items. He would often get praise from teachers for his attention to detail in his required drawings for school. He has a love for "old" classic, nostalgic items and when something grabs his interest, he will learn as much as he can about it. First, it was classic bicycles, then old cameras, and now that he is older, it is classic cars.

Scottie is so fortunate that he had a teacher, Mrs. Dapello, who believed in him and was willing and patient; she never gave up on him.
     ~Nancy, Mom of Scottie
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