Dyslexia and Spelling

spelling dyslexia One of the most interesting phenomena of homeschooling a child with dyslexia has been watching his approach to spelling.  It is quite a myth that people with dyslexia can’t learn phonics…they can!  However, the rules of phonics can become a crutch for many who see its do’s and don’ts as unwavering guides for how to form words. This leads to phonetic spelling errors such as “a-l-l-w-a-z-e” for “always” and “e-n-u-f-f” for “enough.”

While phonics instruction is wonderful for reading, it can have incredibly detrimental effects in the teaching of spelling for students with dyslexia.  Although there are certain patterns of spelling that hold true for some English words, the language is chock full of “exceptions” to the rules, and therefore needs to be taught separately from phonics in most cases.

People with dyslexia seem to respond best either to individual word memorization techniques, visual spelling instruction, or sight word methods of learning spelling. 

  • Word Memorization – this method involves creating some association between the word meaning and the sequence of letters in the word to help the speller memorize and retain the particular spelling of each word.  Games like Letter Blocks at Vocabulary.co.il, where letters are chosen sequentially to create words, are wonderful for practicing this technique.
  • Visual Spelling – instructors using visual spelling techniques will use either color, pattern, or symbols to help students differentiate between letters in a word and memorize their placement. 
  • Sight Word Spelling – sight word memorization involves a visual-spatial processing that has the student stare at a word for an appointed amount of time until that word is imprinted on their memory.  If true imprinting has occurred, the speller can usually spell the word backward as easily as forward because their brains have memorized the placement of the letters rather than any sequential or symbolic memory triggers.

No matter which technique is used, students with dyslexia can improve their spelling by practicing their weekly spelling words the fun way by inputting them into lists at SpellingCity.com, and playing games with the words, or printing out the handwriting worksheets for each list.  This is a sure-fire way to help any student get the review they need in a format they will enjoy!

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