After I got the actual diagnosis of dyslexia for one and then two of my children, I set about finding a way to help them. I decided even before I got the diagnosis that I would not be happy with simply giving them accommodations only. I am an English major and love to read and write. While my dyslexic kiddos may never have the same enthusiasm that I have for reading and writing, I wanted to make the process less painful for them. We decided to use the Barton Reading & Spelling System for dyslexia.
Hiring a Tutor or Doing It Myself?
I have a friend whose son has dyslexia and has gone to tutoring twice a week for years. When I called the tutoring center they use, I discovered that tutoring for an hour twice a week would run us $70 per session or $140 for the week. There was no way we could afford that hefty price tag, especially with two kids with dyslexia. (We would have been paying $560 a month for each child; $1,120 for us since we have two kids that would need tutoring!)
I read several books at the library and learned about a variety of methods, but one system that really caught my attention was the Barton Reading & Spelling System. I called my friend whose son gets tutoring and discovered the tutoring center uses Barton. Decision made.
About the Barton Reading & Spelling System
The Barton Reading & Spelling System was started in 1998. The inventor, Susan Barton is not dyslexic, but she has a nephew, Ben, who is. He struggled for years with school; eventually in his sophomore year, the school told the family that nothing more could be done and that Ben should find a career that didn’t require reading, writing, spelling, or math.
Susan Barton disagreed, and set about finding a way to help him. She volunteered to help others learn to read and write, learned of Ortho-Gillingham programs, and after a year of tutoring, taught her mother how to tutor. Susan lived 800 miles away from her nephew, but her mother just lived 8 miles away. Over the last two years of Ben’s high school career, his grandmother tutored him, and he graduated at a 7th grade reading level. (He’d been at the 2nd grade level his sophomore year.)
The Barton Reading & Spelling System has 10 levels, and once a child completes them all, she will be reading and spelling at a mid-ninth grade level.
Each level comes with training CDs that feature Susan Barton offering hours of training to use the level. She always trains with a tutor beside her acting as the student so you can see what an actual tutoring session looks like. Although carving out time to watch these videos isn’t easy, they’re invaluable, and you shouldn’t tutor without watching them.
How to Afford the Barton Reading & Spelling System
While tutoring your own children and buying each level of the Barton Reading & Spelling System on your own is much, much cheaper than paying for private tutoring, it’s still expensive. Levels 1 and 2 cost $250 each, and the rest of the levels cost $300 each.
However, there are several ways you can make this more affordable:
You can buy a level used for a slight discount, paying $200 instead of $250 for Level One or Two, for instance. However, be careful when going this route. You need to have the sensory tiles that come with each level. Make sure the seller is including these because as someone who is buying the product used, you won’t be able to buy them. Many people hold onto their tiles from each level because they’re used in subsequent levels. You can find levels for sale in Facebook groups that focus on Barton as well as on eBay. There’s also a certified reseller endorsed by Susan Barton that you can go through.
Use Your Flexible Spending Account
If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for medical expenses, you can get reimbursement through the FSA. You must first have a letter from your physician stating that the Barton Reading & Spelling system is medically necessary to treat your child’s dyslexia. This is how I’m currently paying for our Barton levels.
Get a Scholarship
Remember my friend whose son gets dyslexic tutoring? They don’t have the money to pay almost $600 out of pocket for his tutoring, but she has found scholarships to cover the cost. One is a local scholarship. The rest of the money is funded through his Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA). ESAs are available in five states: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. My cousin has a daughter with dyslexia, and she gets free tutoring for two years through the state. This program is available in Ohio and Kentucky. So check in your area; you may have a similar opportunity available.
Why I Prefer to Buy Directly From the Barton Site
Even though you can save some money buying used, I prefer to buy directly from the Barton site for two reasons.
First, if your child goes quickly through Level 1, you can send the level back to Barton, and they will send you Level 2 free of charge! My first child I used Level 1 with finished the level in 1.5 hours! It took me longer to watch the training videos than to have her complete the entire level! I appreciated that I was able to save $250 by not having to buy Level 2.
Second, if you need additional tiles, you can simply add them onto your order since you bought directly from the company.
To Sell or Not to Sell
Many people sell their Barton level as soon as their child finishes so that they can use the money to defray the cost of purchasing the next level.
However, if you can afford it, you may want to hold onto your levels. I’m on several Barton Facebook groups, and often I see people who regret selling their levels because they need to review material in previous levels with their child. These people then have to buy a level that they sold not long ago. That’s a frustrating experience!
In addition, higher levels use tiles from earlier levels. One of my children is in Level 3, but we still rely heavily on the tiles from Level 2. If we did not still have them, we wouldn’t be able to use the level.
How Long Does It Take to Finish Barton?
Susan Barton says if a child has classic dyslexic, not profound dyslexic, and doesn’t have hyperactivity issues, the child should finish all 10 levels in two to three years. My learner who is currently on Level 3 began the program in early December. In three months, she’s made it to the middle of Level 3.
My other learner does not have such a long attention span. We’re lucky if we get in 15 minutes a day. I don’t know how long this child will take to complete the program, but my guess is that it will be two to five years.
In generally, Susan Barton recommends at a minimum you do two hours of tutoring a week across at least two sessions, but tutoring four to five days a week is preferred.
This is just a small overview of the Barton system. Finding out that your child has dyslexia can be overwhelming, but know that there are tools to help. For us, the Barton Reading & Spelling System is working. I can’t wait to see where my children will be five years from now!