The truth about dyslexia and spelling

Why is reading easier than spelling?

For most dyslexic people reading slowly improves but spelling does not and it still is problematic for many people into adulthood. Reading, or decoding, is much easier than spelling, or encoding because:

  • Reading involves recognising words while spelling involves reproducing the word. Producing the correct spelling is much harder than recognising 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.
How to help your dyslexic child with their spelling

How can you help your child with spelling?

  1. Follow a cumulative multisensory phonics programme, that includes overlearning. About 80% of English spelling is actually regular, there are always exceptions, but learning explicit rules can be helpful to dyslexic learners.
  2. Learning high frequency words, that do not always follow regular spelling patterns, is helpful. This BLOG gives helpful multisensory spelling strategies.

3. A useful resource on multisensory spelling strategies can be found here written by Swindon Borough Council.


Finding spellings quickly and efficiently in a conventional dictionary can be difficult for those with dyslexia.

The ACE Spelling Dictionary arranges words by sound and therefore, it is a very effective resource for students with dyslexia.

ACE dictionary for pupils with dyslexia
An old electronic dictionary

Assistive Technology

Technology has produced many amazing products that can revolutionise the world for people with dyslexia.

For spelling:

  • predictive text
  • spell check within word processing programs
  • phonetic word prediction
  • speech-to-text software

Many of these features are now inbuilt into Microsoft Word and iPads for free and there is also more specialist software available.

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 knowledge, and leave the rest to technology.

Other resources: