Dyslexia and learning how to spell..

(45 Posts)
smee Tue 01-Oct-13 10:58:06

Just curious as to what anyone with a dyslexic child thinks about how sensible it is to push spellings? DS is 9 and really struggles. He has 10-12 words a week to learn and even though he tries, it's really hard to get them to stick.

A friend who's severely dyslexic told me it's daft to try and make him, as there are computers, etc, etc. My instinct is to try, but it's taking up increasing amounts of time and I think I'm in danger of making him feel stupid, as we have to keep going over and over the same words - even so they don't stay in his head. I try and have a laugh with him and keep it light, but it's an uphill struggle. This week we've got 10 words, but we're still struggling over the first 3. Would really welcome any thoughts or wisdom from those with older dyslexic children?

DS1 is 10 and I never work on his spellings with him nor ask for the results of his spelling test. I just let him get on with it and accept the fact that he will probably muck some of it up. When he was younger we would do his spellings but we would set a much lower target like get 4/10. His younger brother aged 6 is only learning 5 out of the 10 weekly spellings. His target for this week is to do better than last week when he got 0/5.

I do encourge DS1 to read and if I notice a mistake in his written work I will ask him to have a look at a word again. For example, he had written glof for golf the other day so I told him to take another look. I might not bother with beech for beach.

I decided that constantly picking him up on his spelling was going to destroy his confidence and in his written work it would wreck the flow of his work if I kept drawing attention to mispellings and have him go back. I don't want to disrupt him getting his ideas down in a logical order as I think that is more important and a big enough challenge for a dyslexic.

Sorry my post isn't entirely clear - I only point out spelling mistakes if I am looking through his work afterwards or he had got to the end of a question - I wouldn't interupt him mid-flow.

smee Tue 01-Oct-13 11:25:48

That's a good idea, Chaz - so saying let's just learn half or something. Does the school know you're doing that and approve?

mummytime Tue 01-Oct-13 11:46:48

I have done various things with my now 17 year old DS. Both Seeing spells... and Word Wasp have helped (Word Wasp increased his spelling age by about 2 years in 6 months).

He has also been helped a lot by using his computer, especially programming etc., as you have to spell things correctly.

I would seriously suggest he drops school spelling tests and does something like Word Wasp instead. But it does depend on how great his difficulties are. (I think there is research that spelling tests do not teach anyone to spell.)

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Tue 01-Oct-13 11:54:46

Dd age 13 is dyslexic and has major problems with spelling among other things. The educational psychologist has said to get her a zooped up version of spellchecker and to use her iPad for anything she has to write down. She has also been offered a scribe in exams.
School are only too happy for this.
Trying to focus on something that he isn't equipped to do is going to put him off learning.
Dd could get 20/20 in tests for spelling but ask her to write a story with those words in and they would all be spelt incorrectly. The EP said that the brain could only cope with one thing at a time. Getting her thoughts down meant thinking how to spell correctly went out of her mind.
Have you asked the EP who made the diagnosis what they think. They would be in a better position to know if it was worth struggling on or like in my dd's case to just go the technology route.

smee Tue 01-Oct-13 12:32:05

He is into programming and you're right, that's helped spelling!

I think I'll book an appointment with his teacher and go and see what she thinks. What you say about being able to learn, then forgetting when writing really chimes, Milly and I'll have a look at Word Wasp and Seeing Spells mummy time. Thanks both.

The school agreed to dropping the number of spellings. The teacher puts a star next to the ones on the list she wants him to learn.

Elibean Tue 01-Oct-13 13:27:29

Hey Smee smile

Not sure if it would help or not, but with dd1 (also 9) I put her weekly spellings into SqueeblesSP (the spelling version of Squeebles, basically) on the iPad, and it works wonders.

Partly because she sees the words briefly (you can set the amount of time) before spelling them on a keyboard, and partly because it's a lot more fun...

Is the school aware of his dyslexia though? I would have thought they'd make a shorter list, if so?

Elibean Tue 01-Oct-13 13:28:27

oops, just saw your next post - ignore last bit.

Remembering words then forgetting them is what dd1 does too. She also frequently copies them down wrong in the first place, so I check them before we put them into the iPad!

kitchendiner Tue 01-Oct-13 13:46:31

Really interesting to read this thread. My dyslexic DS is 13 and I have given up with the spelling and concentrate my efforts in other areas such as essay planning, proofreading, science. He is never ever going to be a good speller so it's more about finding ways around it like using a laptop and spellchecker. He now really needs to learn proofreading as there are still many mistakes in all his work. Learning to touch type would be useful too.

smee Tue 01-Oct-13 13:57:30

Chaz, that sounds like a good idea. Will see what teacher says and suggest it if she's amenable.

Waving to Elibean. smile Brilliant idea to use Squeebies. Why didn't I think of that?! He'll much prefer that I'm sure..

kitchen, does your DS's school work well with him, ie let him use a keyboard for his work?

Shootingatpigeons Tue 01-Oct-13 14:08:26

I am dyslexic and though I went to a very academic prep and grammar school I still cannot spell, traditional ways of learning spelling just don't work. With my younger DD1 I knew that she was dyslexic and she had intensive intervention age 6/7 which taught her spelling through a combination of phonics and learning the formal rules, applying that now means that if her words are not spelt correctly they are at least readable, and she scores at average level, that may not be something you would want to go through. Older DD wasn't diagnosed until 14 but in the last couple of years she has been applying some of the strategies suggested by the Ed Psych for her particular issues (she has a photographic memory so learning spellings in the traditional way was never a problem) to improving her grammar and spelling, and feels she has improved. However I think that when DCs are in the trenches at school it is difficult to motivate them to go the extra mile and use alternative strategies (we have the unused dictaphones etc to prove it ) .

Trouble with iPads etc is that sometimes you are so far from the word that they can't guess what you are trying to spell, or put something different in when you are not looking!!!

kitchendiner Tue 01-Oct-13 14:12:32

Secondary school has been way way way better than Junior. I was expecting a battle when I asked if he could use a laptop but the SENCO agreed immediately. I have very little contact with them as he is getting by and not far enough behind to qualify for TA help. When he writes, it's illegible (on purpose to hide his spelling) so we cannot revise from any of his school books. He should be given print-outs of the lessons but this doesn't happen. I have all the revision guides so if I know he has a science test then I will use those. He can use his laptop to make notes but printing them all out and sticking them in his books doesn't happen as frequently as it should. He just won't do it himself and it becomes a battle.

I would really recommend getting him to learn to touch type. There are several programs out there such as Nessy Fingers and English Type (we have English Type). It is also meant to help with spelling.

Try and focus your support on where it will be most beneficial. I have given up helping him with French and German as he won't be doing them for GCSE. I put most of my efforts into English, History, Science and Maths. English also changes at Secondary and it becomes more about comprehension and analysis which has been good for DS - he is in top group despite a KS2 Level 3 Writing. There are also other things to be good at such as ICT, PE, Drama etc.

horsemadmom Tue 01-Oct-13 14:23:09

We tried lots of things with DD (now 11) including writing the words in a sand tray and tracing them with her finger. This helped with common spelling patterns. Also writing in cursive instead of joined up helped the spellings to flow. One neat tip for proof reading- do it backwards! DD used to be hopeless in her written work as her brain would fill in missing bits and rearrange letters logically. Re-reading the words without context (even a spelling list after a test) disrupts this and DD could see the mistakes. Good news- much more use of laptop for homework in senior school! Bad news- now repeating the process with French and Latin!

smee Tue 01-Oct-13 14:58:38

Touch typing makes sense, kitchen. Very good idea, must get him motivated about that. Need to be a bit canny about choice of secondary school too, though I have a year to research that as he's still only year 5.

Am intrigued by the proofing work backwards idea, Horse. Will definitely suggest that to him and give it a a go.

Waving to Pigeons. smile Am in awe at how much you've done for your DD's. Such a slog, but I know it's paid off.

We've a long road ahead I know, but what I mostly pick up is that as a parent of a dyslexic child you have to be on it, as you really can't trust the schools to do their best for your DC. In some ways we've been lucky, as DS's primary have been great. They identified the dyslexia, we've already been told he'll have a scribe for his SATs/ extra time and they're experimenting with dictaphones, etc. What I really don't get is how they can be so aware of it in some ways and really not at all in others. The spellings is one, but my current big bugbear is the weekly mental maths test against the clock. For a child who struggles with recall that's an utter nightmare and so de-motivating. grr..

Anyway, thanks all. So incredibly helpful to talk to other parents who are a bit ahead of me. flowers smile

MILLYMOLLYMANDYMAX Tue 01-Oct-13 15:04:38

I don't know if any of you have gone down the Educational Pschologist route yet. Before her appointment I thought I knew where my daughters weaknesses lay but it was sitting by her while she struggled to complete a variety of psychometric tests that I realised just how bad things were. I spoke to another mum who's son had the tests that day who said the same thing. By all means talk to teachers but pursue getting them tested. The EP my dd had really laid things out clearly and from that we are able to target the type of help she needs. This means not academic lessons but lessons that teach her how to learn things. How to memorise things and lay it down in her short and long term memory which she has a problem with.

kitchendiner Tue 01-Oct-13 15:08:33

Before DS started secondary, I made an appointment and went in for a chat with the Deputy SENCO who has been my point of contact there ever since. Had I not done this then he might have slipped through the cracks but he was flagged up to all teachers as being dyslexic from day one.

smee Tue 01-Oct-13 15:44:28

Thanks Milly, we've got a very long Ed Psych report. you're totally right, as it's both fascinating and ever so helpful to have.

kitchen, when we get to Secondary school I will be forensic about ensuring the school know DS is dyslexic. Good tip!

mummytime Tue 01-Oct-13 17:48:16

The Mental Maths is because it is in SATs. But I just did a course on teaching Maths, and one of the things that came out is just how bad having a time pressure is for Maths. With my children (especially one DD) the instant there is a time pressure they panic and do worse. But they did do okay at the school tests in the end.

I choose the secondary school partly on the SENCO, who I think is amazing. She put my eldest DD on the SEN register having not been "bad enough" at primary. That DD has now qualified for extra time at GCSE, despite the far more stringent tests.

smee Tue 01-Oct-13 18:50:18

Ah, SATs - should have known!

bebanjo Tue 01-Oct-13 22:58:43

does he like lego, Plasticine, bread?
try getting him to make the word, while all the time saying the word and the letters out loud, he can do this alone if he feels foolish.
good luck.

NoComet Tue 01-Oct-13 23:08:01

The trouble is spellings don't stick, DD and I can learn easy spellings for a test, more complicated ones neither of us get 100%

But they don't stick.

I still miss spell the county I live in, you really would think I'd have learned that in 14 years

smee Wed 02-Oct-13 11:45:46

bebanjo, have tried a version of that in the past, but trouble is he takes ages doing it and quite enjoys it but then as starball says it won't stick. Have e-mailed his teacher asking for a meeting, so will have to hope she's got a plan..!

Shootingatpigeons Wed 02-Oct-13 12:20:33

Smee "What I really don't get is how they can be so aware of it in some ways and really not at all in others." I am afraid that is exactly the case. At least on the whole the teaching profession are aware that Specific Learning Difficulties exist and are on the look out for obvious signs, like the usual difficulties learning to read, spell etc. However my niece's friends who recently went through Teacher Training were appalled to discover that their training on Specific Learning Difficulties was almost non existent, in one case one lecture, and no reading around required at all. Since they had gone through school with my niece they were very aware of the consequences of having a SpLD and so will have an awareness of dyslexia but unless you have a really switched on school who have done lots of additional training they will probably have very little awareness of the full extent of the symptoms of Specific Learning Difficulties, how you can adapt teaching styles to help dyslexics or the consequences of forcing dyslexics to conform to learning styles that simply don't work for them. The symptoms of Specific Learning Diificulties vary so widely and bright DCs often develop coping strategies that enable them to cope with traditional schooling, albeit not performing to their full potential. I know so many parents who have struggled to get schools to recognise that DCs that were attaining at average or above average levels could possibly have a learning difficulty.

Last time I was at the Dyslexia centre there was an interesting article in a magazine in the waiting room that was highlighting research that shows that varying teaching styles to include those that work for those pupils with learning difficulties benefits all DCs in the class because in fact a lot of traditional methods only actually suit a minority who are good at rote learning, recall, working at speed, transferring info from the board etc. Dyslexics may be a minority at 10% (which means that there will be 3 in every class of 30, so not insignificant) but that doesn't mean tailoring teaching styles sometimes to meet their needs is going to have any more negative impact on the rest of the class than traditional teaching methods. However awareness of these inclusive teaching methods is practically nil in the Education profession. (Beats Railway Monthly)

One thing that cheered me up when I had a meeting with DS1's headmaster to discuss secondary school choices was that he mentioned his own son (who is older) is dyspraxic. I knew then he would take me seriously. Sad but true.

smee Wed 02-Oct-13 12:59:03

Yes couldn't agree more, Pigeons. DS's year 3 teacher told me he was dyslexic, then told me she was too. That was brilliant, but when I talked to other teachers they told me all sorts of nonsense. One teacher who I really rate who was deputy head at the time even questioned whether dyslexia existed. Another told me it wouldn't affect DS at all as he was bright. shock

Net result has been us kicking up huge fuss (DH is a governor so that's helped mightily) and the school deciding to embrace it. Cue whole day inset training for the entire staff and they've got so into it that they now term themselves a dyslexia friendly school. Still obviously they still miss things and there's a very long way to go before all kids are recognised/ helped.

Totally concur with that article you read too. I thought about taking DS to Dyslexia Action for extra help, but then compared what they could offer with things the school were already doing across the class. His school seem far more advanced in terms of different strategies than DA. Who dare I say it are a bit wet!

Just in case anyone's interested, I found this website interesting. Also agrees on a 'whole class' approach:

kitchendiner Wed 02-Oct-13 16:38:41

No teachers at 2 Junior schools "got" DS. Same story as above - "he hasn't got dyslexia because he can read", placed on bottom table, scribed work frowned upon, etc. Incredibly, it has been the total opposite at Secondary. I can only think that secondary school teachers are given more training in dyslexia. Also, they are able to see beyond the spelling mistakes and are more interested in the content. Due to the larger number of pupils, they are probably used to encountering more students with dyslexia. And they are not fixated on the 3R's which are the very things that dyslexics struggle with.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 03-Oct-13 13:04:37

smee wel done to you and DH for changing attitudes at one school at least. Yes we have had the teachers that don't believe in it, when little pigeons was diagnosed the Headmistress said to accept she was "bright but slow, like an over eager little puppy falling over herself all the time " (well drr yes, dyspraxia?) but that she found that every child who went to an Ed Psych "comes back with a label" How many parents fork out £500 if they don't strongly suspect a problem? To my friend whose daughter was severely dyspraxic (and had the multiple hospital visits to prove it ) she said she worried that an EdPsych report that showed she was very bright indeed had given them (imagine in Jean Brodie accent, she was scottish) "hope". I was also informed by big pigeons English teacher that in her opinion she had been "cured"

DDs selective secondary schools do quite well at recognising the problem, they generally end up with about 10% with a diagnosis but are not so good at supporting. The problem is that the standard of the people they recruit for Learning Support vary widely and they relie on the special arrangements in exams to level the playing field (which they are doing less and less thanks to Gove). However in the independent schools there are some real examples of best practise, two locally have drop in centres with staff and equipment on hand to support pupils whenever they need help and advice.

kitchendiner it is not just the 3Rs they struggle with though is it? Organisation, getting things down off the board, slow processing skills and poor working memory so they struggle with timing and misread questions in exams, and the associated anxiety . These are the fundamental difficulties that become more significant at secondary level.

Universities are generally very good at least. As long as students come to them they have assessment and support processes in place and all academic staff are fully briefed eg www.uea.ac.uk/services/students/disability/disability_SPLD

Shootingatpigeons Thu 03-Oct-13 13:07:17

See what I did there, sneaked in a spello in the first word, one of my basic ones like almost submitting my university application saying I had an O level in Aart......blush

Shootingatpigeons Thu 03-Oct-13 13:17:00

kitchendiner sorry if that comes out as sounding challenging. It isn't. It's just these are the daily challenges my DD faces doing humanities A levels, organising her thoughts for essays and getting them down, keeping on top of the paperwork, getting information off the board and the problems she faces in exam conditions and the associated anxiety. All of which I spend an enormous amount of time facilitating and supporting her in finding and implementing coping strategies. It doesn't end, except that I am aware I have got to get everything in place before she goes away. But the good news is that whilst GCSE was a bit of a perfect storm at least at A level she is finally coming into her own, the quality of her ideas becoming more important than the quantity of knowledge she can get down.

smee Thu 03-Oct-13 14:58:49

This is all ever so interesting.. Good to hear secondary might be better kitchen. Hope you're right!

What you say about organisation and speed, recall etc sounds spot on Pigeons. DS very much like that. He gets incredibly muddled and loses his place if he's asked to do too much. Yesterday he came back excited, as he'd been allowed a dictaphone to write a story with. Makes perfect sense as he stresses about writing, so that limits his creativity. The teacher sent him out and told him to have fun dictating his story, then asked him just to write just the first paragraph. Was lovely to see him so excited about creative writing and the teacher made a big point of telling me what an amazing story he'd written. Mind you that might have been a result of my rather blunt e-mail questioning whether she really needed them to call out to the whole class what they get in the spelling test each week. She sent an e-mail straight back saying she's not going to do that again. grin

kitchendiner Thu 03-Oct-13 15:25:58

Shooting Totally agree - the problems you mention are exactly those that we are now facing. I am having to give an enormous amount of support with trying to get him to plan things, re-read questions, proofread, etc. He is not sinking but he is certainly underachieving. It's not perfect - we are not getting print-outs of lessons or extra time for assessments, but it is nevertheless so much better than our experience of Junior school. I also hope that it is forcing DS to address some of these issues himself rather than bury his head in the sand. Being put down from top group Science has been a wake up call for him and going up to top group English has been great for his confidence, etc. The reasons for him going down of course related to the dyslexia and him mis-reading questions, missing out whole pages of questions and thinking that he could only do his best with a scribe (not always available to him). He is now having to address these things and I am confident that at the next reshuffle, he'll be back up to the top group. Smee Your school sounds great. I took in some fantastic work that DS had dictated to me and it was totally dismissed and not even read. Our Junior school also had SATS levels on the wall for other students and parents to look at!

smee Thu 03-Oct-13 16:21:47

Oh my, Kitchen how ridiculous. Takes me back to my primary school when we had to sit in ability order..! Good to hear your secondary's better. Hope it continues.

kitchendiner Thu 03-Oct-13 17:13:03

Yeah, I complained about all the levels being on the wall for all to see. Fine if you were on a Level 4 or 5 but if like my son and his severely dyslexic mate you were on Levels 2 and 3 then not good and no the business of the other parents.

sydlexic Thu 03-Oct-13 17:15:52

I found that using mnemonics such as Betty eats cakes helped. I could remember whole sentences and long stories easier than the right order for the letters. I learned one word a day, writing it several times also helped.

bruffin Thu 03-Oct-13 17:30:06

Mnemonics did work for DS
He was taught Big Elephant Cant Always Use Small Exits for Because. Unfortunately he thought always began with an O
DS can often spell words out loud, its just getting them onto paper there is a problem.

MsDyslexiaTutor Thu 03-Oct-13 17:57:54

I'm as it says above- a specialist dyslexia teacher.

-First your DS will - if they don't change things in the next 6 years- be graded in GCSEs taking spelling into account.

-Secondly, even with computers, spellchecks are not infallible. I have taught adults in the workplace who are dyslexic ( as well as hundreds of children ) and adequate spelling is needed in most jobs- ie I taught a policeman because he had to write down statements as the suspects spoke. I also taught a rocket scientist because his reports- very technical- were not able to be read due to some words, that were very similar, being spelled wrongly.

-Third- yes he should try to learn to spell but you should speak to his teacher about homework lists.

He/they should be focusing on key high frequency words first, and synthetic phonics from KS1, and 'word families'.

There is no point him trying to learn random lists of 'odd' and irregular words, though some like 'because' are taught with mnemonics.

If you can afford it, employ an after school tutor who is trained in dyslexia.

Go and talk to school and see what they have planned for him- he should have an IEP and be on the special needs register.

MsDyslexiaTutor Thu 03-Oct-13 18:09:28

It's also best to do little and often- to get words into their long term memory they need to be learning them for 5 minutes daily not 30 minutes once a week. Take 2 words at a time. Get him to say each letter at the same time as writing it - and use joined up writing which is proven to help.

Help him learn about syllables- divide words into syllables- and work on the tricky bits which might include a silent letter or something irregular.

Buy a cheap set of plastic or wooden letters and use these on the kitchen table to practise spelling- much better than continual crossings out in a book.

Practise writing words in the air- 'air tracing' which uses the eyes, ears, and hands. Say each letter as it's written. This is called multi-sensory teaching. It's different from just looking and writing.

smee Thu 03-Oct-13 21:03:17

Thanks bruffin and MsDyslexia. Lots of useful tips. Rather oddly, 'because' was one of the first words he ever managed to learn. We chanted it each day on the walk to school. It took a week, but he does still remember it. smile

Shootingatpigeons Fri 04-Oct-13 13:05:36

Interestingly I had a chat with my DD last night about spelling, because she said she would like to seek out her learning support teacher and thank her for what she did for her in Year 3. Without all the basic tools she was given she thinks she would still be struggling to write anything comprehensible. In particular she mentioned breaking words down into syllables so she thinks as she spells friend, fri end. We decided in the end it would be a bit stalkerish though she did find her on Facebook!

I would say though, slightly contradicting msdyslexiatutor though I entirely take her point, that in senior management, where studies have shown that dyslexics are over represented, probably because of their strengths in being able to think and see problems holistically, poor writing and spelling are incredibly common. Part of my career was facilitating strategy development at Board level in some of the biggest companies in the UK and it used to amuse me how many of the CEOs who were so impressive in the sessions I ran were clearly dyslexic when it came to writing anything down, with truly terrible writing, spelling and grammar.

mummytime Fri 04-Oct-13 13:25:32

There was an article I read recently, which said dyslexia drove some high achieves to do so well. As they couldn't read and write as well, they had to develop verbal and team working skills, which contributed to their success.

smee Fri 04-Oct-13 13:26:53

I've noticed that with DS pigeons, so it helps him to break words down. This week, with 'conscience' and 'conscious', he's fixed on remembering the 'sci' in the middle as a key to the whole. How lovely of your DD to want to thank her old teacher. smile

I haven't much experience of dyslexia in the workplace, but wonderful dyslexic friend with very high profile big job tells me he's fed up of having to explain that he needs help proof reading important docs before they go out. They're often astounded that someone who's clearly so bright can't spell, write legibly. He says he's bored of educating them!

Smee my dd is 9 and in year 4, she was being given too many spellings and is now done to 4.

Can I ask if anyone has any advice for getting extra help from schools, please?

bruffin Sat 12-Oct-13 09:21:49

School did wordwall and stareway to spelling with DS. They are both intensive 1 to 1 schemes which helped a bit.

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