How To Deal with Spelling Difficulties?

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To, too or two? Principal or principle?

There’s no doubt that learning English spelling can be frustrating for students; either it’s a child who is learning to read and write or an adult who is trying to learn English as a second language. And for someone who is already dealing with spelling difficulties or other learning disorders, the situation can be far worse.

Causes of Spelling Difficulties

Learning to spell is a complex process that involves many skills such as auditory, visual, memory etc. Any shortcoming in using one of those skills causes difficulties in spelling.

It is important to first identify what the kid is particularly struggling with and then approach in a way that doesn’t make them uncomfortable or pressured. Some students can be exceptionally smart but still be troubled with spelling. So, figuring out the problem can be complicated.


The most common type of dyslexia hampers a student’s ability to break down a word to its component sound. Not just hampering spelling and reading skills, dyslexia can affect processing skills too. A dyslexic person often struggles to remember things and takes a long time to memorize them, only to forget them again.

You’ll often find the spelling of a student with dyslexia inconsistent- the letters will be reversed; the same word will be spelled differently each time (and all of them might be wrong). The student finds it harder to memorize an abstract word that cannot be visualized. They also confuse letters or words that sound alike. Vowels and silent words are always tricky.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) both make the kid process information differently. The child has difficulty focusing on a task or being attentive for long which leads to spelling difficulties. They also face problems remembering the spellings of complex words or the spelling rules due to short-time memory issues.

More so, they often miss noticing the spelling mistakes they are making, repeating the same mistake over and over. They will skip some letters, or use the right letters but in the wrong order.

Children with dyslexia or ADHD both find prepositions particularly confusing as in most cases they are just for memorizing. Articles and conjunctions also fall in this category.

Dysgraphia and Dyspraxia

Dysgraphia and dyspraxia particularly affect writing skill. The student might find it painful to just hold a pen properly for a long time. Writing in a straight line, staying within the margin or writing at a sufficient speed is a huge challenge for them.

In some cases, the student struggles to express themselves through writing. They find it hard to write down the right word.

Spelling Mastery can greatly help with spelling difficulties. Check out our guide on SRA Spelling Mastery now!

English as Second Language

Sometimes, the spelling difficulties in adults or any other students might be because English is a new language for them.

Languages like German or Spanish has specific correspondence to each sound. So it’s easy to spell after hearing a word. But in the case of English, there are multiple spellings of the same sound or multiple sounds or meanings for the same spelling.

There are numerous spelling rules and exceptions to those rules. It’s hard for a student who is taking English as a Second Language to remember all the exceptions or identify the spelling differences.

Other causes

People with hearing impairment struggle to develop phonemic awareness. It is one of the main reasons why people with Down syndrome suffer from language delay.

Students who have problems processing visual information fail to make sense of what they are seeing. It is particularly hard for them to memorise spelling from a list of a word as that process is mainly dependent on visual memory.

Spelling Problems and solutions

Falling behind peers can be pretty overwhelming for students. It affects their confidence and social skill. They tend to be reluctant when it comes to joining group activities which may trouble their overall performance in school. Students with spelling difficulties might avoid using words they find hard to spell which hampers their writing skills.

That is why we need to find non-traditional ways to teach spelling that serves each student’s special need!

Strategies to deal with Dyslexia

Teaching the dyslexic students about the phonic rules will help them connect letter symbols to its sound. Focus on the structure of the word when teaching them

If you’re teaching spelling instructions, try to use methods that involve more than one sense such as sight, sound, touch etc.

You can take oral spelling tests of your students to make them more familiar with the sounds.

Strategies to deal with ADHD

Try to involve focus techniques when memorizing spellings, like tapping fingers or pencil with each letter.

Teach them to slow down during tests or when they are doing their home-works. Allow some break time during study sessions and let your students move around to refresh their minds and relieve stress.

Encourage them to plan, revise and proofread their writing multiple times. Also, give them a list of tasks they need to do before starting to write and submit their work.

Strategies for Dysgraphia

Oral spelling tests can benefit the students with Dysgraphia too. Also, as they struggle with fine motor skill, try using pencil grips or slant board for neater writing.

Teach your students to use graphic organizers to help them write down their thoughts properly.

How to help a child with Spelling Difficulties

Modern-day teaching use methods that involve multiple senses of a student. This way, they can remember the spelling in more than one way and avoid mistakes. A vocabulary test can also come in handy.

If a student faces a problem using a certain sense or skill, find a method that involves that particular skill-less and focus more on the others.

Introducing fun games for a child with spelling difficulties can help them learn spelling in a much simpler way. Check out our guide on fun spelling games to now!

Multi-sensory approaches

Draw the word in the air

As someone with Dysgraphia will be frustrated just by holding a pen, making them write the spelling on paper won’t be too fruitful. Ask them to write the word with their fingers on sand or dirt, or maybe on air! Tell them to speak the word aloud while writing it.

Use beads

Give your students a box of multicolour beads and tell them to make letters with them, and then make words with those letters. Tell them to make each letter with beads with a specific colour.

This method is useful for teaching letter shape too. You can use beans, stone chips, small wooden beads or even paper beads.

Stamps and Ink

Kids will love rubber stamps! Use inks of different colours (same as beads) and tell the kids to spell a word. This method also avoids writing and all the children with or without spelling difficulties will enjoy this activity.

People with spelling difficulties can learn a lot faster with interactive and creative spelling games! Check out the spelling shed review where interactive games make learning a fun activity.


Some might find it inconvenient to use a keyboard, but typing can help students learn to spell faster. They will need to differentiate similar-looking keys by the letters on them, which will help them memorize the letter shapes. They’ll also see the words they are typing on the screen, and after typing multiple times, their muscle memory will stop them from making a mistake.

Make sure the spellcheckers on your computer are disabled beforehand. It is recommended not to let students use spellcheckers before fifth grade.

Also, in some cases, students with dysgraphia might struggle even with typing. In those cases, start with writing the words with fingertips and then typing or writing.


  • If there is a student with spelling difficulty in your class, make them sit in the front of the class and away from windows. It will help them focus more on the class, preventing distractions.
  • Prepare one-to-one test in a quiet room, use headphones if needed. You can use SpellQuiz Spelling Tests to assess your students. It’s an online test so students won’t have to worry about writing. They just need to hear the words and type. The words are recorded by professional voice artists for clear pronunciation.
  • If you’re giving them a list of words to spell, try to have enough space between words as a densely written list might make them anxious.
  • Provide written instructions for your students and explain them multiple times in the class. If possible, hang a chart on your classroom wall with spelling rules or instructions.
  • If you feel the student is being overwhelmed, tell them to take a break for a few minutes or let them do some other activities. Then, ask them to continue from where they left.

Make Spelling Fun!

There are many fun and engaging spelling activities you can apply in your class to keep your students hooked. Make sure to check which activities are more suitable for your students’ age and performance.

Also, don’t forget to review the words they have already learned once in a while. You should also check if they remember the spelling rules. That way, they won’t be worried if there is a new word in a test or they suddenly don’t remember the spelling.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that it will still take a long time for the student to master the spelling. It might be frustrating even for teachers or parents to cope with the slow pace. But with patience, proper guidelines and consistent practice, it is possible to defeat spelling difficulties. You can also check out Spelling Bee Online tests to fully determine the expertise level of your child.

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