Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …

about Dyslexia: Making Spelling easy

  • September 3, 2013 7:48 pm

Maybe you have charge of someone with dyslexia or maybe you know someone who just struggles with spelling. I hope this post eases those struggles a bit or at least sparks some ideas.

The Elder was an early reader, teaching himself at 2.5 years of age. So he masked his dyslexia well through his Superpower Decoding Skills thanks to autism. But when he got to writing age, around 7, it was more apparent. As I studied and learned more about the nature of dyslexia, I saw other indications in his reading and speech patterns. Before this, he didn’t talk to people and didn’t use sentences until after age 4 so anything verbal was celebrated and not necessarily analyzed. So there may have been earlier signs that I just didn’t see. And there are other cases of dyslexia in his family line. So I guess I wasn’t surprised by his diagnosis, but I was definitely very impressed by how well he had adapted to it. His reading comprehension has always amazed me, especially when he read something aloud and butchered it, yet could still answer questions correctly. I mean, Wow! Just Wow!

He was in Second Grade when I decided that he was not “outgrowing” it and I approached the IEP team in earnest. It seemed that everyone was in agreement of the problem but the solution was left open-ended and therefore never addressed at his school. Two years later it had really affected his other subjects and worst of all, his confidence.

“Dyslexic children require direct, systematic, and individualized instruction in reading and spelling. Public schools cannot always provide an adequate level of service. Indeed, some systems are woefully ill-prepared to deal with such children and may even deny, against all scientific evidence, that dyslexia exists.  Homeschooling can provide solid remediation without the burden of travel and can allow the parent to see directly the progress of the child.” (International Dyslexia Association (IDA))

Resource: “Homeschooling with Dyslexia: What to Expect

Last year when I first started schooling him at home, I implemented some curriculum and strategies specific to dyslexia to help him with his writing and with reading aloud. I’ve been doubly impressed at his progress in just one year. However, Spelling is still a struggle for him. While he was still in public school, I had worked with him at home using strategies from the book: Visual-Spatial Learners by Alexandra Golon. This being when his words were much simpler and I apparently had time to be creative and fashion works of art…

fire wire tire, motion question island station information subtraction

These worked. He understands syllables. He understands phonics. BUT put those two together and it’s like a whole new element to him. He has a wonderful memory and can remember spelling rules all day long, but does not recall them in application. He can spell “station” and “question” because he has these visual images in his head from THREE years ago. However last week he spelled “vacation” as “vacashun.”

I found a new curriculum for this year that really is different. It is not written for people with dyslexia per se, but it is geared for older students, say, those who already know that the “b” says “buh” but can’t spell no matter how hard they “sound it out.” It’s a sort of “remedial” course even though it doesn’t call itself that. It’s titled How to Teach Any Child to Spell by Gayle Graham, along with its companion student workbook Tricks of the Trade.

The biggest difference I took away of this approach is teaching him to proofread his own material. I don’t spell things for him anymore, just let him spell it as best he can. Then after letting it “sit” a while (I guess to keep from overwhelming him) I ask him which words he thinks he misspelled – the ones that don’t “look right.” Those are the words we go over. First I pronounce it by syllables the way it is spelled (not necessarily the way it is pronounced in everyday language). Then I come up with a visual way for him to remember it.

Here are some examples from this past week. The Elder misspelled “million” and “thousand” and “hundred.” (Yes, it was his math lesson – so we don’t need to have a separate “spelling” lesson! Yay!)

He spelled “million” as “millon” which is an improvement from “milyun.”  I pronounced it MIL-LEE-ON to distinguish the syllables and then reminded him that each syllable must have a vowel sound. Since he only has 2 vowels in his word, what vowel sound is missing? I keep over-pronouncing it until he gets it. Of course he said “e” but I corrected it to “i” with the plan that if he misspells it again in the future then it will go into his spelling notebook of his own frequently misspelled words. But we never had to enter it because the next 2 days he spelled it correctly.

He spelled “thousand” as “thousound.” I broke it into syllables and showed him the word “sound” in his spelling and how that would read THOU-SOUND instead of THOU-SAND. How do you spell “sand?” Of course he knew, so he fixed it. The next day he mispelled it again as “thosand.” He got “sand” right but not the first syllable. This is the visual I made for him to remember that the first syllable has the “ou” sound:


“Ouch! Thousand needs a band-aid.”

(Hey, there’s a grammar lesson there too! Interjections…for excitement…or emotion… yeah, I’ll be singing that all day now)

Notice that it’s not as fancy as before… Just a simple visual on a scrap piece of paper is all he needed.

He spelled “hundred” as “hunderd.” Classic dyslexia error, right? He knows how to pronounce it, and I’m sure he knows how to spell it too. That his fingers just didn’t get the memo on time. So I didn’t spend too much time on this one. I was going to get a “red” pencil to color the “red” in hundred, but he got it right away without needing a color cue. We made up the story “Hundred’s favorite color is red.” Did the trick.

The way I am doing it is not exactly Graham’s method but sort of a mixture of what I learned from her and Golon. There’s still a lot of Graham’s strategies that I want to implement. I do recommend that you read both books because it was eye opening to understand the difference between “good spellers” and “not as good spellers” and what it means to be a “visual-spatial leaner.”

Please share any successful tips and tricks you have for teaching your child how to spell!