Dyslexia and spelling difficulties– part 1 | Dyslexia UK

Dyslexia and spelling difficulties– part 1

March 13, 2023 Keir Williams Comments Off

Dyslexia can affect people in different ways. Some people with dyslexia have difficulty with their spelling. This two part blog post will discuss why spelling is an area of difficulty for people with dyslexia, and different approaches used to address this complex issue.

The ability to spell has fallen out of focus recently. This might be due to the prevalence of text language and also due to the ease of assistive technologies such as spell checking and autocorrect.

English is an imperfect language (unlike some other languages like Italian). This means that   English words are not spelt phonetically (they are not spelt as they sound). There are also many words what have irregular spellings. This can cause difficulties for all people who are learning how to spell. However, written English does conform to a number of predictable rules and patterns that can be learnt with appropriate teaching.

Spelling relies on a combination of sounding out and memory. Although spelling sound by sound is flawed, being able to spell words phonologically correctly is a half way step towards correctly spelling the word and in some cases, it will be the correct approach. This means that the skill of sounding out words is a good habit to get into, and one that people with spelling difficulties tend not to do enough. And for the ‘weird bits’ in words, that is where the memory is needed.

There are 3 main approaches to develop spelling:

  1. The phonemic approach – This approach is useful for predictable, consistent letter-sound relationships, such as ‘ar’ sounds.
  2. The memory approach – This approach focuses upon memorisation of spellings. It is particularly useful for words that have unusual or irregular letter-sound relationships, such as ‘friend’, ‘gone’, ‘break’.
  3. The morphemic approach – This approach combines prefixes, suffixes, roots and bases of words. This approach develops the students understanding of the meaning of words, so is useful to develop comprehension.

Although detailed as separate approaches, they are all needed to spell effectively. 

In next weeks blog we will investigate each of these approaches in more detail. In the mean time, to read about a common spelling error for people with dyslexia, reversing letters, read this post: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/reversing-letters-dyslexia-or-not/

For some tips on useful spelling strategies, read this: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/dyslexia-spelling-strategies/

And for some information on spelling and handwriting, read this: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/dyslexia-and-handwriting-difficulties/