Barton Reading & Spelling Levels 1-3, My Completely Honest Review (Part 2)

Two weeks ago, I shared the first half of my Barton Reading & Spelling review.  Our family began using the program about a year ago to help our severely dyslexic young daughter learn to read.  I am happy to say the program is working.

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Our daughter is reading quite well for her age.  In fact, I suspect she now reads better than many of her same-aged peers.  That being said, the program is not perfect.  It has pros and cons.  These are the issues I discussed last time:

  • PRO: THE PROGRAM IS TRUE TO THE ORTON-GILLINGHAM APPROACH
  • CON: SOME OF THE MATERIALS NEED AN UPDATE
  • PRO: THE PROGRAM CAN EASILY BE TAUGHT BY JUST ABOUT ANYONE
  • CON: YOUNGER LEARNERS MAY MOVE AT A SLOWER PACE THAN THE PROGRAM INDICATES
  • PRO: THERE ARE WAYS TO MAKE THE PROGRAM MORE AFFORDABLE

If you missed the post that covered these topics, you can check it out here.  Today, I will provide five more opinions of my own on the Barton Reading and Spelling Program, levels 1-3.

6. CON: THE PROGRAM DOES NOT SPELL OUT ACCOMMODATIONS FOR CHILDREN WHO HAVE ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES

Current statistics indicate that approximately one in five people has at least a mild form of dyslexia.  A large percentage of the children who struggle with dyslexia also have ADD or ADHD.  Susan Barton acknowledges this.  I suspect there are also other conditions out there that have a tendency to overlap with dyslexia, though I do not have statistics here to back me up.

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Susan Barton offers a few suggestions for dealing with ADHD while tutoring, such as making sure a child has a small, handheld object to fidget with while learning.  And she is available over email to answer questions.  But emailing the lady in charge gets a little cumbersome when someone has a lot of questions.

What if the child has difficulties with their speech?  How do you help them correctly enunciate letter sounds?  What if the child cannot sit at a table long enough for effective tutoring?  Can you let them lay on the floor instead?  How do you teach phonics to a child that cannot even remember the names of all the letters in the alphabet?  Is there a program for that?

Families with special circumstances will likely need to communicate with Susan Barton a fair amount in the beginning of the program.  There may also be necessary adaptations to meet a child’s individual needs.

7. PRO: BARTON READING & SPELLING PROMOTES POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Susan Barton stresses throughout all of her training videos the importance of not frustrating students.  She is keenly aware that children diagnosed with dyslexia have already suffered enough when it comes to learning.  The last thing she wants is for tutoring through her program to make things harder.

Her program provides specific terms, phrases, and techniques that minimize student frustration.  She wants students to feel empowered and smart.  When a student does well, they are to be commended for a job well done.

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If a student is struggling, tutors are to offer “a trick” that helps them get through commonly challenging issues.  Never is a student meant to feel inadequate, stupid, or like a failure.  The Barton program repeatedly stresses this point.

8. CON: THE PROGRAM MINIMIZES THE ROLE OF NUTRITION IN LEARNING

Proper nutrition makes an enormous difference in the ability of a child to learn.  Barton minimizes the role of anything other than Orton-Gillingham tutoring, and I think it is at the disservice of her students.

On her website, Susan Barton has a list of many popular alternative methods people often try in order to “fix” dyslexia.  She calls out those methods and makes it very clear that none of them will fix anything.  She is right.  Taking vitamins, eliminating gluten, and all the other options out there are not a magic solution.  Dyslexia cannot be cured.  And since it is a brain processing disorder, the brain has to be taught new techniques in order for reading to happen.

What Barton fails to acknowledge, though, is that many of those alternatives (like nutritional interventions) can be of enormous help when used alongside Barton tutoring.  Kids learn better when their brain chemistry is functioning properly.  If they are thinking clearly, children with dyslexia are in an improved position to receive new information.  Last spring we had the opportunity to spend a weekend listening to child learning specialist Dianne Craft.  She talks extensively about the role of nutrition in special needs learning.  If you are looking to supplement Barton, the website diannecraft.org is worth a peek.

After a thorough vetting of Dianne Craft’s nutritional approach, we asked our pediatrician her thoughts.  She gave us the green light and we gave it a shot.  I am glad we did.

9. CON: BARTON DOES NOT INCORPORATE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY TECHNIQUES

This might just be a little soapbox of my own, but I wish Barton incorporated physical exercises that utilize occupational therapy techniques.  In addition to discrediting the factor of nutrition in dyslexia remediation, Susan Barton discourages families from relying too heavily on the role of the brain-body connection.

Our brain’s right and left hemispheres must effectively communicate with each other if information is to be transferred from short to long-term memory.  This is verifiable science.  Many children benefit greatly from occupational therapy techniques that improve the brain’s ability to work properly.

Dianne Craft talks about this extensively.  So did our daughter’s occupational therapist.  The exercises we do are a little time consuming, but they work.

10. PRO: OUR DAUGHTER LIKES IT

This is perhaps the biggest benefit of all.  If Barton was boring, tedious, too hard, or difficult to understand, it never would have worked for us.  Our daughter learns best when she is challenged, but not frustrated.  Engaged, but not over-stimulated.

Barton allows her to use all of her senses while learning, but she still remains focused.  If a concept is just not sticking, we figure out a game or technique to help make it work.  We take our time when the going gets tough, and work through things pretty quickly when it is not that hard.

Every day is a little different from the previous one.  Sometimes we work with letter tiles.  Occasionally we use a paper and pencil.  Every now and then we do a worksheet.  There is a pattern to the program, but without repetitious monotony.  And it works.

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Using Barton Reading and Spelling was a game-changer for our family.  It has been expensive.  And time consuming.  And a LOT of work.  But it is effective.  For that reason, I highly recommend it to anyone looking to help their dyslexic student learn to read.