This blog, Emily, a qualified teacher and dyslexia specialist, explains why dyslexic students often find spelling challenging. She then outlines 6 key points to consider when supporting a child with Dyslexia
Fed – wed – red.
These English words are from a very early module in Touch-type Read and Spell. They each have three distinct sounds. To be able to differentiate between the sounds is to have something called phonemic awareness.
This, and the ability to make connections between sounds and letters and letter combinations, is required to develop fluid reading and spelling skills.
Dyslexia can impact on spelling when students are not able to hear the small units of sound that represent meaning. They therefore have difficulty in encoding and decoding sounds, skills which are necessary in order to manipulate them which lead to poor spelling.
Early recognition and appropriate dyslexia friendly intervention are key. Dyslexia is usually something you are born with and often runs in families. What helps greatly is to recognise the dyslexia as early as possible and find and apply the strategies that work best for an individual’s particular circumstances. That applies not just to spelling. Here’s an example: If someone has difficulty remembering left from right and is about to take a driving test, a red painted fingernail, or a red dot on the right hand can make the difference between pass and fail when the instruction is given to turn right at the next corner!
Choose a teaching strategy based on phonetics and linguistics. One particularly well-respected approach is to be found in Alpha to Omega. Dr Hornsby firmly believed that a dyslexic individual following her programme should not be asked to spell anything which hasn’t been specifically taught. The word lists from Touch-type Read and Spell are based on the word lists found in this book.
Learn to touch-type the TTRS way. Touch-type Read and Spell students say that taking the course gives them a new strategy for remembering spelling. They visualise the keyboard, and ‘watch’ where their fingers fall. Students with dyslexia need to “over learn” to establish spellings in their long-term memory.
Teachers might not let you get away with it, but don’t worry too much about the rules of spelling – it should be what helps you get the letters in the right order! Find a way that works for you!
Make a real effort to learn the spelling of words that sound the same but are spelled differently (homonyms). There are several strategies which come under the heading of ‘mnemonic devices.’ These are memory tools or learning tricks to help you to memorise by using phrases, rhymes, acronyms etc.
There is more than one way of spelling many words, depending on the context. Have a look at these examples:
She can write, right?
This is a base for the bass.
Long may she reign in the rain.
Rely on the finger memory that comes from the automaticity (the ability to do something without really thinking about it) of touch-typing, and the strategy mentioned above where the student visualises a keyboard and watches where the fingers fall.
Then, design some dictation exercises to practice over and over.
Another mnemonic device is to work out a creative sentence or phrase where the first letter of each word spells out something you have difficulty remembering. An example is a way to spell BECAUSE – a word which commonly causes difficulty. So here we go with Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Exits.
The directionality of letters and numbers can also be a problem. Here, as one example, is a way to remember the letter ‘b.’ Think of the down-stroke as a bat ‘l’ and then add the ball ‘o’ to give ‘I o’ and put them together ‘b.’ It’s worth spending some time to learn more about letter reversals and dyslexia.
If you design mnemonic devices for yourself, you will have an easier time remembering them. Be creative; be silly. In fact, the sillier the better to make it easier to remember!
Remember, teachers have to learn more about the different types of dyslexia and helping children with dyslexia in the classroom while parents and/or carers need to understand their child’s type of dyslexia and what works for them. If you have found this article interesting please do have a look at our other articles.
Touch Type Read Spell – a multi-sensory course that teaches touch-typing to help children and adults improve their reading and spelling skills
British Dyslexia Association – The BDA has a series of guides relating to supporting children and adults with Dyslexia, including this spelling guide