Overcoming Dyslexia: Marlin’s Success Story

The Making of a Life in Letters


Recently we heard from a published writer who, 50 years ago, overcame the diagnosis of dyslexia with the help of his parents and The Institutes program. He wants other families to know that they, too, can be helped.I was diagnosed with dyslexia in 1967, at the age of five, while in kindergarten. My pediatrician here in Montgomery, Alabama, made the diagnosis, and told my parents I would never learn to read or write very well. Sometime later, he learned about the work at The Institutes and told my parents, who investigated further.

Marlin as he completed patterning and entered second grade.

I remember flying to Philadelphia with both my mother and father, which was probably February or March of 1968 (I would have been six at this point). I remember the building where The Institutes were housed looking very large and imposing to my young eyes. I probably made about four trips to The Institutes, and then continued my program at home.I was patterned for nineteen months. I did crawling, cross-pattern creeping, and cross-pattern walking. I also remember doing eye exercises with a penlight my mother held. And I remember drawing connecting lines within printed geometric shapes. After just three weeks, the printing of letters I was doing in kindergarten improved tremendously. Before, I couldn’t keep my letters on the same line. In fact, I would begin at the top of the page and instead of writing all the way across, I would end my “row” of letters at the bottom of the page. Also, when I signed my name, “Bart,” I would leave out the “r.” That soon changed, also.In addition to dyslexia, I had mixed dominance – I was right-sided but left-eyed. Because of this, I was very uncoordinated, and was not good at any kind of sport. This, too, began to improve.I finished patterning in September of 1969, just as I entered the second grade.

Marlin with his mother, before he began The Institutes program.

Without a doubt, patterning made my life. I did well in school, graduated from the University of Alabama and Wichita State University, where I received a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. I’ve taught English and creative writing at various universities, and I’ve now taught creative writing at a juvenile detention facility just outside Montgomery for twenty years. I also teach in the low-residency MFA program at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I’ve published three collections of short stories and two novels. And I’ve just completed a third.

Marlin, the published author, today.

think one thing that helped me become a writer is that my mother would read to me while I did my creeping and crawling – after she was assured that I knew how to do the exercises properly, of course. I’m not exactly a famous writer, but I’ve had success, and one of my short stories was included in the annual Best American Short Stories volume for 2010. I was also awarded the 2016 Truman Capote Prize for short fiction. Maybe not too bad for a kid who’d never learn to read or write very well.

The author: Marlin Barton lives in Montgomery, Alabama with his wife, Rhonda. His most recent books are The Cross Garden, a novel, and Pasture Art, a collection of short stories.

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