How Dyslexia Affects Spelling (Skills)

If you have a child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, you may have noticed the difficulty with spelling that accompanies the difficulty with reading.  This is because both reading and spelling rely on understanding of the relationship between letters and the sounds they make.  These phonological skills are often weak in students with dyslexia.  Luckily, the multisensory phonics instruction that is best for teaching reading is also best to teach spelling.  

1. The Stages of Spelling

Children who are learning to spell must first learn the phonology of our language: the alphabetic principle.  They have to associate a sound with a specific letter or letter combination and then sequence the sounds in order to know how a word is spelled.  In the next stage, common spelling patterns are learned.  An example of this is the silent e rule, like in the word bite, where the silent e at the end makes the previous vowel use its long sound or say its name.  Later, as children begin to learn to read multisyllabic words, they should learn to break these words into syllables to spell them.  Spelling a syllable at a time allows the child to process each part into its sounds and sequence them properly.  Then as the child progresses further, they begin to incorporate prefixes, suffixes, and other morphographs onto words.  Finally, children learn the sounds that come from other languages into English, such as the /k/ sound for the ch in chorus.  Basic patterns, principles and rules account for about 90% of the spellings of words in English.  

2. Irregular Words

Some words in English do not follow phonetic patterns, and are often called irregular words.  Children need to know which words are irregular and must be memorized.

As children learn to read these words, they should also get instruction in how to spell them using memorization or mnemonics.  

3. Practice Identifying Misspellings

Over multiple exposures from reading and writing, a child will learn to identify incorrect spellings of words.  A child’s ability to identify misspelled words is a visual skill.  Because of this, children with dyslexia often benefit from writing down possible spellings of a word and choosing the one that looks correct.  The more a child reads, the better developed this skill will become.  LightSail incorporates identifying misspellings as an option in the available spelling activities. 

4. Dyslexia and Spelling

Children who are dyslexic may require more explicit instruction in how the sounds relate to the letters or patterns in words.  They will benefit from step by step instruction and practice that accompanies their reading progress.  Effective spelling instruction links the reading skill that a child is learning to the related spelling skill.  Children should not be asked to spell words that they cannot read.  LightSail uses a child’s lexile score to select words for spelling practice so that the words will be in their “just right” range for reading and spelling.  If a parent chooses, they can enter a spelling word list in LightSail for a child to practice a particular skill.  

5. Connecting Spelling and Writing

For children to gain accuracy and automaticity with spelling, they should be allowed many opportunities for writing that is authentic to their purposes.  This gives children the time to practice spelling rules and patterns.  It is this repeated written practice along with reading that will help students become better spellers.  LightSail gives many opportunities for connected writing.  Many writing prompts in LightSail ask the child to connect their writing to what they have read.  They have opportunities to write about topics they enjoy in areas such as science, history, and world studies.  They are offered opportunities to write from their own experiences and in differing formats.  All of these activities will allow a child to practice and grow their spelling skills.  

Posted on 9.Sep.21 in Struggling Readers

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