Jul 122013

Did you know that dyslexia spelling problems are most difficult to overcome?

On this page I’ll share programs that are used by parents in the Learning Abled Kids’ Support group as well as tips for helping your child overcome his dyslexia spelling problems.

First: A Quick Dyslexia Spelling Training Tip

After you’ve just about given up on teaching your child to spell.. There is a proven way to help spelling stick. When I was researching the most effective method for making spelling “stick,” The research showed that a Self-Correction Method For Dyslexia Spelling Problems is THE key to long term spelling retention for many students who struggle with spelling. Check it out!

Effective Dyslexia Spelling Programs

Along with the Self-Correction Method For overcoming dyslexia spelling problems, I recommend All About Spelling, followed by Megawords, then The Phonetic Zoo, for teaching your child about spelling structure. 

Direct instruction to overcome dyslexia spelling problems is vital in helping a child with dyslexia to overcome his spelling difficulties. It takes a lot of direct instruction and repetition. Therefore, I’ve found that teaching a child with dyslexia to spell well often requires more than one program.

As you probably know, children with dyslexia are notoriously bad spellers. Teaching a child with dyslexia to spell requires diligence and the usage of multisensory programs that provide specific, sequential, direct instruction in all aspects of spelling.

Often, teaching a child with dyslexia spelling problems can produce added reading ability too. There are several specific, sequential programs for teaching kids in order to overcome dyslexia spelling problems I’ve listed some great spelling programs below. 

If you want to know more about the Self-Correction Method For dyslexia spelling problems, you may want to visit our What Works: Self-Correction Method For Spelling page.

Frequently Used Programs For Overcoming Dyslexia Spelling Problems

All About Spelling is possibly the BEST program I have reviewed, and I think it is a fabulous choice for children with dyslexia because it incorporates Orton-Gillingham practices in the instruction.  I think the program would be highly effective for children with spelling problems, and even if they’re considered “typical” children with no known learning disabilities.  Disclaimer: I received Levels One through Four as free examination copies. I have not personally used the program with my own children because we had already remediated my boys’ dyslexia spelling problems prior to the publication of All About Spelling.

All About Spelling is the most comprehensive, multisensory, explicit, direct instruction program for working to overcome dyslexia spelling problems I have seen. It is designed specifically to teach spelling skills to children with language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia or auditory processing disorders. The teaching methods in the program are based upon Orton-Gillingham methods.  “All About Spelling” is a step-by-step program with plenty of instruction provided to the teaching parent so you will understand how to use the program effectively.

What stands out to me is this program can be MORE than merely a spelling program. In a similar manner to the program Spell to Write and Readdyslexia spelling problems“, or “Writing Road to Reading,” “All About Spelling” can double as a remedial reading program for students with reading difficulties. The methods used in “All About Spelling” are Orton-Gillingham based.  Therefore, I believe it would be a good program fit for teaching students with dyslexia to read,and here’s why:

ENcoding–taking words out of the brain and writing them on paper, which is spelling–is a more difficult task than DEcoding–recognition of words already on paper for reading. Decoding (reading) requires recognition and recall, whereas encoding (spelling) requires recognition of individual sounds within a word, recall of letters that represent the sound, followed by application of specific rules to determine which actual letters to use, and writing the letters (word) on the paper. 

Therefore, if a child can learn to spell well, he will likely learn to read too! Using an Orton-Gillingham spelling program like “All About Spelling” will provide instruction using methods proven to work for children who have dyslexia.

“All About Spelling” begins with the first required skill for spelling (and reading)–sound recognition and knowledge by teaching sound-symbol relationships prior to attempting to teach word construction for spelling.

Mastery of Spelling Skills For Kids with Dyslexia Spelling Problems

Mastery of the sound-symbol relationships is critical for success for children who have dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

The levels in “All About Spelling” are laid out perfectly, with mastery of each step being advised before moving on to the subsequent step. If a parent uses this program as designed, and INSURES mastery of each step prior to moving to the NEXT step, then it would be unlikely that a child would fail to make fabulous progress in dyslexia spelling problems. The only short-coming I see in the program–and it is a small one–Is I do not feel there are strong enough warnings to parents at the end of each step–Be SURE your child has MASTERED this step prior to moving to the next step.  Parents may be tempted to move ahead rather than review enough times to insure mastery.

Mastery means AUTOMATIC and CORRECT recall of a skill, concept, or rule, without hesitation and without guessing. Each step must be mastered to this level prior to proceeding to the next step.  IF this program ever failed to teach a cognitively-capable child to spell and read, it would likely be due to implementation errors (not following the program as directed) or moving through the program too rapidly–before the child has mastered each step.

As a step-by-step program, “All About Spelling” cannot be beat for both cost and quality. To me, it is a viable substitute for expensive, scripted reading programs such as Wilson and Barton.  “All About Spelling” has added emphasis on applying rules when spelling because it covers more than the recognition-recall needed for reading.  Additionally, the program has teaching prompts for the teacher/homeschooling parent, which makes this program easier to use than most other multisensory spelling programs.  If I were starting to teach my child TODAY, “All About Spelling” is THE program I’d want to use.


We bought and completed all eight levels of the Megawords series. This program improved my child’s dyslexia spelling problems more than any other stand alone program we used.  ** Note, “All About Spelling” was not yet available when we began homeschooling, we used direct instruction provided by me along with Megawords. 

Megawords is a comprehensive step-by-step program for grades 4 and up.  A child MUST have basic elementary reading skills prior to using Megawords. This program teaches reading and spelling of multi-syllable words and it is very explicit, sequential instruction that does not assume the child will be able to fill-in-the-blanks. With additional multi-sensory activities in the teachers guides, this is one of the few programs that can truly help a child with dyslexia improve both their reading and their spelling.  This would be considered supplementary instruction or as skill practice in addition to a good, solid Orton-Gillingham Reading Program.
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Megawords on Amazon.com

The Phonetic Zoo

Institute for Excellence in Writing sent us a free copy of this program for review. This is NOT a ‘beginning’ spelling program, and is a great follow-up program for either Megawords or All About Spelling. The words in the first level of The Phonetic Zoo are near a typical fourth grade level. Most importantly, The Phonetic Zoo has a unique way of presenting words, which may be helpful for older spellers who have dyslexia spelling problems.

“When we look at a word we see it as a whole. But spelling is sequential, and the correct sequence can be missed when seen as a whole. Spelling the word out loud, letter by letter, ensures accurate storage of the correct sequence in the brain. Hence, auditory input is the best possible way to store spelling information accurately.” The program is primarily auditory in nature, but uses clever images and catchy phrases to provide children with memory triggers. “The Phonetic Zoo combines phonetic spelling rules with the theme of animals and a zoo to illustrate the spelling rules.”  The Phonetic Zoo comes in three levels. Each level uses the same spelling rules but with more difficult words presented at the upper levels.

Logic of English

Relatively new on the market is “Logic of English,” which is an Orton-Gillingham based program that is comprehensive and multisensory.  The program appears to be easy to use, and provides a lot of great resources like a phonograms app, tactile handwriting cards, sandpaper letters, etc., but buying all of the elements of the program would be expensive. This looks to be a great program for kids with dyslexia spelling problems.

Additional Programs and Resources for Kids with Dyslexia Spelling Problems

An important factor for remembering how to spell a word is the auditory component.  A child should speak spelling words out loud when practicing.  A great resource for auditory practice is **SpellingCity.com – This is a clever and FREE website. I accessed and played around with it. I think it’s a fun way to have your child practice any spelling list you create. SpellingCity.com provides spelling practice through games and has humanly-spoken prompts. The games can add a ‘fun’ factor typically missing in spelling practice. There are a large number of spelling lists you can select from or you can create one for your child. When we first discovered SpellingCity.com, we spent time there “just playing”! I recommend making this site a fun part of your spelling practice routine. It’s not specifically written to address dyslexia spelling problems, but any practice you can get your child to do will help!

You might find my LearningAbledKids’ Phonogram Tiles (large download 317k) to be helpful when teaching word building and segmenting. I made the tiles when we were working on dyslexia spelling problems. This is a PDF document you can download and print. You can either print them on card stock, then cut them out, or you can print them on regular paper and use the peel’n’stick laminating sheets to make the tiles more durable and to make them slide around easily when manipulating. I printed them on card stock, laminated them, and then cut them out. They held up quite well! You can use these tiles for teaching your child many literacy skills.

Here are other programs for dyslexia spelling problems that may also be beneficial:

**Explode the Code – I bought a couple of used volumes of this program. This program is a comprehensive step-by-step program that aids a child with both spelling and reading from the most basic level.  This program starts with the basics and is recommended for anyone beginning to work directly with a child. This is probably one of the most comprehensive commercially available programs on the market that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you combine the teachings of Explode the Code with multi-sensory methods, you will have a great program.
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Explode the Code on Amazon.com

**Read, Write, & Type – Other group members have mentioned this program as a good one for working to overcome dyslexia spelling problems. In researching the program, I learned “This 40-lesson adventure is a software tool for 6-8 year olds just learning to read, for children of other cultures learning to read and write in English, and for students of any age who are struggling to become successful readers and writers. Children learn phonics, reading, spelling, writing, vocabulary, punctuation, and even keyboarding. Children see, hear, speak, touch, and move their fingers as they play each new level in this multisensory program.”

**AVKO Sequential Spelling – Other group members have mentioned this program. I accessed samples of this program online. This is a sequential spelling program based upon multisensory teaching methods. It is specifically designed to help kids with dyslexia spelling problems, and it works well for some kids, but the word families approach is problematic for some kids. It is a step-by-step program utilizing “word families” rather than phonemes. Many parents find this program to be easy to use and enjoyable for their child.

**Natural Speller
– Other group members have mentioned this program. In researching this program online, I found this is a sequential spelling program designed for children who don’t respond to “ordinary” teaching methods. “Everything necessary for spelling instruction for grades 1-8 is included in this book. Basic word lists are given for each grade with words containing similar patterns grouped together. Special word lists (e.g., calendar words, contractions, measurements, homophones, latin roots)) are also provided. Kathryn Stout strongly advocates keeping separate those words with similar sounds which are formed by different letter combinations (e.g., though, bow, sole). Lessons can be developed from the word lists or with words of your own choosing. Instructions are provided for teaching spelling and for studying words. (This is not a student text but a parent/teacher resource book.) Spelling rules are provided with charts that include suffixes and prefixes along with phonic and writing rules.”

**Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills – This program is written by a group of highly qualified individuals, including Sally Shaywitz. She is the author of Overcoming Dyslexia. This program is written for working with kids who have dyslexia spelling problems. “This book shows preservice educators how to use specific multisensory approaches to dramatically improve struggling students’ language skills and academic outcomes in elementary through high school. They’ll be prepared to help students develop skills in key areas such as phonological awareness, letter knowledge, handwriting, phonics, fluency, spelling, comprehension, composition, and mathematics.”

**Writing Road to Reading – This is a sequential program based upon Orton-Gillingham teaching methods. It’s designed to help a child overcome dyslexia spelling problems. I checked this book out from the library and ended up buying my own copy. The Spalding Method helps train the right and left sides of the brain as children see, hear, read, and write. It is cost-effective and efficient; students use pencils, paper, and their minds. Children learn to connect speech sounds to print and begin to write and read.

**Spell to Write and Read – I purchased a copy of this book at a used book sale. This is a sequential spelling program based upon Orton-Gillingham teaching methods. The program is designed to bring children to a competent level of reading and writing by teaching spelling as a primary subject. The program comes highly recommended by many parents of children with learning difficulties, but it is not scripted. I personally found it difficult to figure out. The sequential, and individually targeted nature of the program lends itself to remedial learning overall, but figuring out the individualization does require dedication and time. This program is written specifically for overcoming dyslexia spelling problems.

**Teaching Phonics & Word Study in The Intermediate Grades – This is a program book I bought and LOVE. We used this as one component in our program to overcome dyslexia spelling problems. It is a detailed guide for teaching your child the ins and outs of reading and spelling. The book is geared towards students who know the elementary basics of reading and spelling (single letter sounds). If you are clueless about where to begin in helping your child move forward into the realm of proficient reading and spelling, then this book is a wealth of information to guide you.
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Teaching Phonics & Word Study on Amazon.com

** Spelling Power – I’ve reviewed a friend’s copy of Spelling Power. This is a very popular program for teaching spelling. I’ve not used it myself, but have looked at the books and materials. This program utilizes a more traditional test-study-retest program. More than 5000 words are covered through the program, making it a robust program that will cover spelling for multiple years. It works really well for kids that need to improve their spelling, but it doesn’t provide enough multisensory instruction for severe dyslexia spelling problems. It’s a solid spelling program.
Spelling Power on Amazon

** Spelling Workout – This is a popular homeschooling program. It works really well for kids that need to correct spelling issues that are not severe dyslexia spelling problems. It’s a solid spelling program too.

** Beyond the Code – This is a great, simple program for teaching the basic phonemes. Many moms have found program works well for correcting dyslexia spelling problems at the simple word level.

** Dr. Fry’s Spelling – Other group members have mentioned this program and I’ve researched it online. This is a sequential program based on phonics that will enable your child to learn the structure of the American English language. As with the other sequential programs, this program will also assist your child with reading. Personally, I’ve got no experience with the program to say whether it is effective for correcting dyslexia spelling problems.
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**Spelling Workout – Other group members have mentioned this program and I’ve researched it online. This spelling program uses a sports theme to give students the tools they need for success. Capitalizing on the close tie between spelling and phonics, the program leads students from simple sound-letter relationships to more complex spelling patterns. The Teacher’s Edition provides detailed lesson plans for either a 3-day or 5-day plan. A LOT of moms like this program even though it isn’t really designed for overcoming dyslexia spelling problems.

**Phonics Pathways – Other group members have mentioned this program and I’ve researched it online. Teaches students of all ages the rudiments of phonics and spelling with an efficient, practical method. Written in an easy-to-use format, Phonics Pathways is organized by sounds and spelling patterns. The patterns are introduced one at a time and slowly built into syllables, words, phrases, and sentences. Phonics Pathways is filled with illustrative examples, word lists, and practice readings that are 100 percent decodable. While appropriate for K-2 emergent readers, this award-winning book has also been used successfully with adolescent and adult learners. This program is better than most programs for correcting dyslexia spelling problems.

**Spectrum Spelling – We’ve purchased and used a couple of the elementary level volumes of this program. The Spectrum Spelling program is an easy to use program that teaches the concepts behind word building. This enables a child to develop an understanding of how spelling works. Building on spelling skills will help with reading as well, although it is not designed specifically for dyslexia spelling problems.
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McGraw Spectrum Spelling on Amazon.com

**Spelling by Sound and Structure (Rod and Staff Mennonite, Anabaptist Publishing) – Other group members have mentioned this program and I’ve researched it online. This spelling program is not based upon multisensory teaching methods, but is very sequential. The program teaches spelling from a number of angles–synonyms, antonyms, definitions, picture clues, context clues, and categories of words, phonetic patterns as beginning and ending sounds, long and short vowels, consonant blends, digraphs, double consonants, syllables, plurals, verb forms, Latin and Greek roots, etc. This program is better for correcting dyslexia spelling problems than most standard spelling programs.

Here are some additional tools that may be helpful to you:

Spelling Can Be Easy When It's Multisensory