Building Visual Memory for Spelling

Difficulty with spelling is the most common and persistent difficulty that accompanies dyslexia. Even after your child becomes a capable reader, his writing is likely to be riddled with spelling errors. One reason is the extreme variability of English spelling; almost every “rule” that can be taught has numerous exceptions, and many words simply are not spelled the way they sound.

Good spellers generally have strong visual memories for what words look like in print. Try to avoid study or practice techniques that expose your child to incorrectly spelled versions of the word. Many children with dyslexia have strong visual memories, but they will remember erroneous spellings as easily as correct ones, and they will have no way to remember which is right. Teachers might try to make spelling homework fun by offering a practice quiz where your child must select the correct word from a list of incorrect spellings or find the word in a puzzle where the letters are scrambled. Your child may enjoy some of these games, but they are counterproductive for learning correct spelling.


When practicing spelling words at home, observe your child to see whether she does better when asked to orally spell the words as opposed to writing them. This will give you a clue as to how to best reach your child. If your child does better with oral spelling, encourage her to say the letters out loud as she practices writing her spelling words.

One technique that sometimes works for children with dyslexia is to learn how to spell a word backward as well as forward. Encourage your child to try to visualize the word in his mind; with a clear mental picture, the word can be spelled backwards by “seeing” the letters in order and calling off the letters from right to left.

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