Burt’s Story - Horizon Academy

Burt’s Story

Apr 17, 2024

Burt’s Story

As I think about the path that brought us to Horizon Academy, I’d say, I noticed several little things very early on with my son, Burt. He didn’t meet the developmental benchmarks for crawling or talking. His vocabulary didn’t develop as expected and it took him a long time to learn his colors. He knew the word “banana” and then it’s like he would forget it because he wouldn’t say it for a month. There were a lot of strange things like this that started to worry me.

Our pediatrician who was also a family friend said my son was fine and there was nothing to worry about. But I wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he referred us to a developmental pediatrician. This pediatrician actually told me I was a helicopter parent and that I was the problem. We were referred to yet another pediatrician, but they said it was still too early to do formal testing for dyslexia.

I did so much research! I tend to be a worrier, but I’m also a researcher and I have learned to trust my intuition. I kept going. I hired a speech pathologist to help him with his word development. She gave him private lessons and she was the first person to confirm to me that she thought he might have dyslexia. Burt was four years old and she agreed it was too early to know for sure, but she suspected it too.

When my son was entering kindergarten, I reached out to his teacher before he started and shared my concerns. He did two different types of screenings for dyslexia, and one confirmed that he had several symptoms and signs and that he, in fact, had dyslexia.

We sent him to public school and got a tutor. We hoped for the best, but honestly, the teachers didn’t have the training, and they didn’t have the resources. We tried to make it work for three years, but he just wasn’t progressing in his education. He wasn’t progressing mentally, emotionally, or socially. He really started pulling away from the world and retreating, going within himself. He would sit in the corner and he wouldn’t raise his hand, like he was hiding, even hoping to disappear.

Burt had a sense that he was falling behind his peers, that he couldn’t do all the things they could do. Going to tutoring twice a week just wasn’t giving him all the support and tools he needed to be able to keep up, let alone flourish. In second grade, we started the testing process for the IEP and he didn’t qualify. We were so confused. We knew he was struggling and this just wasn’t right.

I realized that if we stayed in the public education system this was going to be a lifelong battle, and I would be fighting every step of the way to get him what he needed. We knew there was no way this was the best education for him and that we had to do something more. 

We needed to find people who understood his needs, who understood where we were coming from, who knew what his needs were without me having to explain dyslexia to every single teacher he ever had.

I found Horizon Academy online. I think, initially, I had found Horizon Academy earlier, maybe even when our son was in kindergarten, but we didn’t actually make the call and place him there until two years later. 

There were many obstacles in our way. It’s a long commute for us so there were logistical hurdles. It is also expensive, and with all the challenges, we felt like it was too much to overcome. We didn’t think we could make it work, so we waited.

I finally got to the point where I realized the logistics didn’t matter, the commute didn’t matter, and the money didn’t matter because Burt needed this. We literally HAD to give it a try.

Burt’s confidence has exploded! He loves school and I never thought I would say that. He is proud of his work; he is improving by leaps and bounds; and he is even starting to advocate for himself. He’s being taught self-advocacy by Horizon Academy and it is critical for his success, not only in school but in life.

A lot of people get scared by the cost and the drive, but there is no amount of money or time spent in the car that would be worth giving up the joy that he gets from school.

It’s so nice not to have to fight to get my son what he needs. I am still involved, but I never worry if the staff have been trained or understand what he needs. I trust them to do it and do it well. I drop him off and I drive away. As a mom who is a self-proclaimed worrier, that really means a lot!

My one piece of advice to a family who is struggling is to just call. Talk to Laura Mombello in Admissions. As soon as I spoke with her, I knew she understood where I was coming from, and she put me at ease. It just felt right, and I knew we had found the right place.

You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you go to Horizon Academy. If we could change anything, it’s that we would have started sooner.

Jamie Domeier, Burt's mom