The Truth About Dyslexia and Spelling

by | Feb 3, 2020 | By The Subject, Teaching Tips | 7 comments

For most people with dyslexia, reading improves steadily over time. Also for many dyslexics, spelling does not. Spelling continues to be a problem for many people with dyslexia throughout their lifetime.

That will be the topic of this week’s Mailbox Monday:

“My 14-year-old has been through two years of an Orton-Gillingham program with a private tutor. His reading has improved immensely, but his spelling is poor. He has trouble writing a simple note and lacks confidence.

When he writes papers, he dictates to me.

Do you have a recommended spelling program? I have looked at so many. I’m concerned with his attitude if I start one from the beginning with the easier words, but I’m not sure what to do.

I guess I just know it’s going to take time and effort, and we are both tired of all the remediation.”

Why teaching spelling to kids with dyslexia is so hard

Reading, or decoding, is much easier than spelling, or encoding because:

Reading involves recognizing words while spelling involves reproducing the word. Producing the correct spelling is much harder than recognizing a word, especially with context clues.

There are more possible spellings for most words than there are possible ways to read them. In English, we have 26 letters, but we have 45 sounds and more than 250 ways to spell these sounds. For example, the sound of /j/ can be spelled J, G, and DGE. And it gets even more complicated with vowels.

Students spend much less time spelling than they do reading. Because our kids are often delayed in writing or using accommodations such as speech-to-text or dictating, they get much less practice.

How to Help Your Child With Dyslexia to Spell

You basically have 2 options and which one you choose depends on your unique family.

Continuing Spelling Remediation:

Using a program like All About Spelling or AVKO Sequential Spelling can provide the practice kids need. These kinds of programs will get kids thinking about spelling patterns that many of our English words follow.

Another form of remediation is learning how to spell the most common words. By learning these words, our kids will be able to spell 90% of the words they encounter. They can use spell checkers for the other 10%.

Read this post for a list of the 1000 most common words (in order) and a super effective, multi-sensory method for teaching these words to your kids.

How to Teach Sight Words to Your Kids With Dyslexia (with a list of 1000 most common words)

Use Accommodations and Assistive Technology for Spelling

There often comes a time as our kids get older that there is less time for remediation and/or the kids get burned out on it. This is an excellent time to begin using assistive technology as an accommodation.

Accommodations are supports that we give our kids so that they can perform at their intellectual ability despite difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling. These are things such as using audiobooks, dictation or voice to text apps, and spell checkers.

Read more about The 10 Best Accommodations for Dyslexia here.

Remember, this use of accommodations and assistive technology for spelling is also a remediation. Much like the use of a math facts chart reinforces those math facts, using spelling checkers and voice to text will also reinforce correct spellings.

There are tons of apps available to choose from today. Read this post for my recommendations of The Best Spelling Apps for Dyslexia.

Honestly, of all my adult kids with dyslexia, most of them still regularly use spell checkers for work and school. It is a huge blessing.

Wondering how to teach your kids to use Assistive Technology, read this post full of ideas for when to teach and how to teach it plus my top recommendations for assistive technology for every subject.

Also, in this particular question, since the child still has difficulty with writing basic notes, one idea is to provide a handheld phonetic spell checker. This Franklin Phonetic Spell Checker is one example. There is also a great iPhone or iPad app called American Wordspeller that works similarly. My kids have also used an old iPhone to have access to Siri. Alexa can help too! Having these tools and learning how to use them can be very empowering for kids – especially teens. Every time they look up a word, they are getting more practice and exposure to correct spellings.

The Truth About Dyslexia and Spelling

If you are frustrated by your child’s spelling ability, remember that the truth is most adults with dyslexia still have trouble with spelling. Give them a foundation in phonetic spelling, build on that with sight word or common word knowledge, and leave the rest to technology.

How have you helped your child with dyslexia be a proficient speller? Share in the comments below!


  1. Melanie Hausen

    My son went from not being able to spell 3 letter words to being able spell hundreds of words in just over a year with all about spelling. I highly recommend it!

  2. rahulll

    i think every parents should have read this .. because when their child are not able to write or read correctly they think he is fool and their is less capabilities in child and that will create wrong belief in their mind so its parents duty to understand the facts and knowledge by reading article just like you and viewing the videos that’s all

  3. Corrie

    Thanks for the spelling ideas. Do you have any resources for Canadian curriculum? With border closure it has become much more difficult to order curriculum out of the States. Do you have anything comparable to suggest in Canada?

  4. Christopher clark

    im 32 and dyslexic. I don’t understand how you people force us to be like you. We’re not broke. Yall just don’t understand us. You just want us normal like the rest of the world. Fact is are brains aren’t the same we got something you don’t and you got something we don’t. You want me to think dyslexia is a disability srry its a gift you don’t understand.

    • D H

      I totally agree. My husband is dyslexic but yet very successful accomplished career. The key is to know your limitations and find the right resources to support. All people need this strategy. Yet, there is no reason to deny trying to learn what you struggle with. Both must be a balance.

    • Andy Red

      Well yes, but it also depends on context. If your job requires you to communicate through writing, then it can be a problem where you either a) create a poor impression of your company or b) cause confusion, which in certain circumstances is a bad idea, like designing safety-critical control systems or instructions. Avoiding unnecessary death is why the military is so hot on precise communication.

      So it’s not about trying to make you conform, but just appreciating that language is a useful system of shared understanding, and that the consequences of going outside the rules, can on a large scale degrade the overall richness of that resource. For example, where a lot of people now seem content to spell similar sounding words with different meanings, like using ‘there’ in place of ‘their’ or ‘they’re’, is losing richness and clarity of meaning.

      But, I of course appreciate that language is alive. Much of what we currently have compared to even 100 years ago, has probably mutated through misuse and misspelling, whether intentional or not. But just appreciate what we have not as a straight jacket, but something useful of value to human understanding, that we ideally we should be able to play with mindfully.


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