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Friday, November 7, 2014

Improving Spelling for Students with Dyslexia


Not all students require the same remedial process even though they struggle with the same academic difficulties.  Diverse combinations of cognitive processing weaknesses and deficits can unite to create the "perfect storm" that can cause challenges with reading, math, writing, spelling and more.  In fact, no two students have the same cognitive profile, so to provide the optimal solution, one needs to consider both a student's strengths and weaknesses when designing a remedial approach.  

Occasionally, I like to present the questions emailed to me from parents and teachers.  This week, I will share an email that I received from a parent in England as well as my response.

Email received: 

Hi there:
Love the website!
Our son (age 8) is dyslexic and we have been told that he has a good visual memory (so he can easily spot a correctly spelt word and can even easily distinguish the correct meanings of similar sounding words e.g. sea and see). However, he has poor memory retrieval - so he has massive difficulties finding the correct spelling of a word. We have found that if he really concentrates and can think of a place where he has seen that word written previously, then he can eventually extract the word - but it takes time and is not a practical way of remembering spellings in a busy classroom. I wondered, which of your resources would be good to try to help him to build on the skill of word retrieval?
Many thanks

Here was my response:

Thanks so much for your email.  That is terrific that your son has a great visual memory, and it will come in handy.  I have a few suggestions:

1)  Develop his visualization capacity.  Visualization - which is a little different than visual memory (because your son has to conjure his own imagery) will help him become a better speller, reader, writer and will improve his long-term memory - auditory and visual.  I think it will be his secret weapon!  So the main publication that I recommend is Mindful Visualization for Learning: http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/teaching-visualization.html  I think the two of you will have a lot of fun with this.  It helps students develop their capacity to visualize through games that the two of you can play together.  
2) Exercise his word finding abilities by playing the game Spot it.  You can find it just about anywhere.  I purchased it on Amazon.com.  There are many versions and any of them would be great.  It is all about practicing quick retrieval.  I will place links to a few versions at the bottom of this blog.
3) Keep track of the words that your son finds tricky or difficult to recall.  Create a little book.  Each page can be devoted to one word.  Have him write the word.  Practice visualizing it (Once he thinks he’s got it visualized, ask him questions like: "what is the 3rd letter?", and “Can you spell it backwards?...").  Also on each page ask him to come up with a memory strategy.  For example, let’s take the word “what.”  Your son might notice that the word “what" has “hat" in it.  So his strategy might be - "What hat?"  Then he can do a drawing of a hat on top of the word “what."  Make it a fun and creative project that integrates coloring, collage, and anything else that he enjoys... 
4) Encourage him to develop his keyboarding skills and use a computer for his written work.  A spell check will help him to see the words spelt correctly which will improve his spelling over time.  Also consider purchasing Word Prediction Software, or a device like the Franklin Spellers to assist him with the immediate process. 

Before long, he’ll be a wonderful speller!! Keep in touch and I’ll be happy to help if you have any more questions.  

Yours sincerely, Erica

In Summary: 

When considering the best remedial approach, investigate each student's strengths as well as any reported difficulties so that a plan can be tailored to accommodate individual needs and achieve quick results.  Ideally, it is best to meet with families as well as review prior testing, teacher comments and other pertinent materials.  I hope you find this blogpost helpful.  If you have your own suggestions, please share them below.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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