How to Teach Children With Dyslexia to Spell

by Andrea Coventry

Children who suffer from dyslexia have difficulty reading, writing and spelling. The most common symptom is the reversal of letters and numbers. Children with dyslexia tend to learn better using multisensory techniques; here is a rundown of some of the most effective approaches.

Teach the “bed” hands. Face your palms toward the body. Make a fist with the thumb sticking up. The left hand will look like the letter “b”. The right hand will look like the letter “d”. Have the child compare the letter on the page to the hand shapes.

Use a wooden movable alphabet that is painted on one side. The child can feel the shapes, and the painted side gives a clue as to the proper direction of the letter. Spell words with the alphabet.

Teach sign language letters. A common reversal among dyslexics is “b” and “d,” as their shapes are exactly the same, just in different positions. The sign language letters are created differently, feel different and look different.

Practice writing words in either cursive or D’Nealian style. The formation of each letter is completely different, and can lead to less confusion.

Practice writing the words in the air.

Practice spelling the words orally. Some teachers will allow a spelling test to be taken and graded orally. Others may require that the child have an IEP (individualized education plan) in order to allow testing in this fashion.

Create the letters from Playd-oh or clay.

Do cheerleading spelling. The child has to think of the shape and height of each letter. For tall letters (t, d, f, h, k, l, b), the arms go above the head. For small letters (w, e, r, u, i, o, a, s, z, x, c, v, n, m), the hands go on the waist. For low letters (q, y, p, g, j), the child tucks in on the ground.

Spell the words to a beat or to a song.

Write words on tagboard. Have the child trace the words with markers or paint or glue and glitter or sand. When they are dry, practice tracing the words with fingers.

Use a computer and practice typing words on the screen.

Allow the mind to become a computer. Ask the child to close her eyes and pretend she is looking at a computer. Ask her to “type” the word on the screen. Then ask her what the first letter is, what the last letter is, what letter is in the middle, what letter is third and so on.

Allow the child to have an alphabet chart or alphabet strip when practicing writing words. If he knows alphabetical order, he can follow the line and see how to properly write each letter.

Things You Will Need

  • Wooden movable alphabet
  • Clay or Play-doh
  • Paint
  • Glue
  • Glitter
  • Sand
  • Computer
  • Alphabet chart or strip

Tips

  • Reward the child’s efforts.
  • Allow as many fun opportunities for reading and writing as possible.
  • Work closely with the child's teachers and other professionals.
  • Allow frequent breaks during work and study time.

Warning

  • Don’t pressure the child to the point of frustration.

About the Author

Andrea Coventry has been writing online since 2007. Her expertise includes teaching, working with children and Montessori schools. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Coventry is certified by the American Montessori Society.

Photo Credits

  • Credit: Tim Pierce Copyright: Wikimedia Commons