Spelling and Dyslexia

"I may be a rotten speller but I'm not stupid!"

Does this apply to you or your students?

English spelling is famous for being difficult - some people think it's amazing that any English children learn to spell accurately. Many people do have particular difficulty because their brains are organised in such a way that the skills needed for spelling do not come automatically. This difficulty is sometimes described as dyslexia.

It's estimated that 10% of the population are dyslexic to some extent - that means over 5 million people in Britain alone. One in 25 is said to be affected badly enough to need specialised help. These days, most schools and colleges do recognise dyslexia, but the extra help provided varies a great deal. Years ago, the situation was much worse: little was known about dyslexia and children who had literacy problems at school were often put in the lowest classes for all subjects. Many left school lacking in confidence and have not reached their full potential.

Most dyslexic people do learn to read, although they may not find this easy. Spelling, however, usually remains a problem - and it has nothing to do with intelligence. Some of the world's greatest achievers have been awful at spelling, for example:


Albert Einstein, scientist, thought of by many to be the greatest genius who ever lived.

Some other famous dyslexics:

  • Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb, the microphone etc.
  • Agatha Christie, author.
  • Richard Rogers, architect, designer of Llloyd's Building, London and the Pompidou Centre, Paris.
  • Richard Branson, entrepreneur and adventurer.
  • Henry Winkler "The Fonz", actor and author of Hank Zipzer books.
  • Tom Cruise, Cher, Bob Hoskins, Anthony Hopkins, Sarah Brightman and several other well-known actors.

It is no coincidence that many famous dyslexics are great scientists, artists or designers. Dyslexic people often have talents in this area. Some are lucky enough to have the opportunities to develop their talents despite their spelling problems; others have been held back by the mistaken belief that poor spelling means all-round low ability.

If you are affected by dyslexia, don't be embarrassed by poor spelling - boast to people about your other talents! A dyslexic writer and reviewer, Thelma Good always signs herself: "I am dyslexic and therefore a creative speller!"

Spellzone and Dyslexia

Spellzone is written by an experienced dyslexia teacher for:

  • Milder dyslexics whose problems may not have been identified earlier and who have a patchy level of achievement.
  • Those with more serious problems who have followed a structured, multi-sensory program but still have residual problems e.g. remembering the correct spelling choices for a particular sound.

Spellzone follows the principles of multi-sensory teaching: using sound, sight and movement to teach spellings and to fix them in the mind.

Teachers of dyslexics will be interested to know that Spellzone covers an area ignored by many spelling courses: the unstressed vowel or 'schwa' sound, which is the cause of many spelling errors e.g. calender or calendar? importent or important? definate or definite? Spellzone provides the student with strategies for learning words where the sound is not clear.

Spellzone is not a complete literacy program and does not claim to be a complete 'cure-all' for dyslexics, some of whom will need extra help at some stages of the course. However, it will fill many of the gaps in basic spelling knowledge and teachers of dyslexics will find Spellzone useful, either as the basis of a course (the Spellzone 'Spelling Ability Test' provides a baseline 'Spellzone Score' and creates a personal 'Course Pathway' for each student) or as a back-up to their own material.

The author of Spellzone

Shireen Shuster holds the British Dyslexia Association Post Graduate Diploma in teaching dyslexics and has had many years experience of teaching dyslexics from age seven to adult. She has taught at the Dyslexia Institute and has also worked as for a Special Needs Advisory Service, training teachers to manage dyslexia in the classroom. Shireen is the author of the widely used "Stile Dyslexia" and several other publications on phonics and spelling.

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Three steps to spelling success...

1. The Spelling Ability Test
Take the test to get a baseline score
and a personal course pathway.
2. Spelling Course
Work through your personal course
pathway based on phonic progression.
3. Word Lists
1,000s of targeted lists or your own to
use with fun activities and worksheets.

Find out more >>


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