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Is Poor Spelling A Sign Of A Disability

I am sure you have often heard many parents and teachers saying “he can’t spell” or “she is a poor speller,” or you might have received a card or a note from an adult with some spelling mistakes, and you think, “Surely by now, they would have learnt how to spell”!   So what are the reasons some people have trouble with spelling and is Poor Spelling A Sign Of A Disability

If incorrect spelling persists beyond the first years of school, this could signify a disability.  Learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or the inability to correctly process auditory or visual information could indicate not being able to spell accurately, to be sure professional advice should be sought.

With modern technology, like computers and cell phones, we don’t need to know how to spell; the built-in spell checker does it for us!   But we still must learn how to spell to understand or comprehend what we are reading!  Spelling involves many skills, and countless children and adults have difficulty with spelling and for different reasons.  

Why do they struggle, and how can we help them!

Is Poor Spelling A Sign Of A Disability

What Are Disabilities or Problems Affecting Spelling?

Spelling is a complex activity with many rules that require memory to translate words into print.  The following disabilities or problems are common to be the cause of poor spelling: However please remember that is not always the case that Poor Spelling is a Sign Of A Disability

Dyslexia and How Does It Impact On Spelling?

Dyslexia is a common learning disorder that affects reading, writing, and spelling. Dyslexic people think in pictures and not words and have difficulty learning to work with letters or numbers. People with Dyslexia often confuse letters that sound alike or may even mix up the order of the letters (now for won) and misspell many common sight words such as ‘it’ and ‘the.’

Symptoms Of Dyslexia And Spelling:

The first signs of Dyslexia can be perceived in young children, becoming more apparent once children attend school.  Some of the symptoms that would affect spelling are:

In children before school

  • Children start talking later than the usual milestone and are slow to learn new words.
  • Reversing sounds in words(b/d or m/w) or mixing up the order of letters (felt for left)
  • Difficulty with remembering letters, numbers, or colors and naming them
  • Struggling to play rhyming games or learn nursery rhymes

In school age children

  • Problems with understanding what they hear
  • Have difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
  • Do not remember the order of things
  • Spending a long time completing tasks involving writing

The cause of Dyslexia could be in the genes.

Children who are Dyslexic can succeed at school with assistance and emotional support from Teachers, Tutors, and Therapists and by using specialized educational programs and programs available on a computer.

Is Poor Spelling A Sign Of A Disability

Dysgraphia And How It Impacts On Spelling?

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder with difficulty in how people put thoughts onto paper.  People with Dysgraphia have handwriting difficulties associated with impairment in fine motor coordination.

Symptoms Of Dysgraphia And Spelling Are: 

Symptoms of Dysgraphia generally emerge with the first introduction to writing.  Children with Dysgraphia find it much easier to speak than write words down on paper, although they do not have problems with reading comprehension. Early treatment can help and prevent or reduce some of these problems.  The areas of difficulty with spelling are:

Difficulty connecting the sounds of language into writing

  • Not knowing which alternate spelling to use for each sound (letter y with an ee sound, e.g., happy)
  • Difficulty with learning when to use upper or lower case letters
  • Struggling to form sentences with correct grammar and punctuation
  • Omitting words or making word ending errors

Motor Dysgraphia impairs motor problems and motor memory.  Symptoms are poor dexterity, deficient motor skills, poor muscle tone, or unspecified clumsiness. 

Scientists are not sure what causes Dysgraphia in children.  This learning disorder usually occurs along with other learning disabilities such as Dyslexia and ADHD.

There are many ways to help children with Dysgraphia: use computers instead of writing; tests taken orally will allow the child to impart knowledge directly to the teacher; allow extended time to complete assignments or tests, and use scribes to write down the child’s thoughts.

How Does Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) Affect Spelling?

CAPD is a disorder that affects only a small amount of school-aged children.  It does not involve a child’s hearing, but it affects how the child processes the sound, affecting the ability to understand speech.

The child has to hear and understand the sound, then use what he listens to spell by placing the correct letters with the sounds they represent.  This action is known as encoding.  Areas of Auditory Processing that are vital to spelling are:

  1. Auditory-Visual Integration uses the skill to link acoustic sounds to visual signs.
  2. Auditory Closure is the ability to combine oral sounds to make words; for example, the letters h, a, and t, the auditory Closure would be to bring the individual sounds together to spell the word ‘hat.’ 
  3. Auditory discrimination distinguishes between similar or different sounding words such as ‘pot and pod’ or ‘scream and stream.’
  4. Auditory Figure-Ground is the ability to listen when someone is talking or is asking something, and there is background noise.  Does the noise distract from what the child hears?

Nobody knows what causes CAPD; it may be genetic or associated with trauma at birth and middle ear infection. 

Ways to assist children who have Auditory Processing problems are to: seat them in class where it is easy to hear and see the teacher; ask teachers to instruct more visually; and at home, look at your child when giving directions, and speak more slowly clearly.

Make use of professional help by engaging with speech-language pathologists and educational therapists.  Use computer programs to teach the child to remember information and identify sounds.

How Does Visual Information Processing Affect Spelling?

Visual Information Processing is the ability to interpret what the child sees. Children with poor visual memory will have difficulty remembering the word they have seen before and will not spell it accurately.

Visual discrimination and Form Constancy are other areas that affect spelling.  Children will find it difficult to distinguish between the letters b and d or p and q.  Children with low visual-motor skills find it difficult to copy shapes, letters, or words correctly in legible handwriting.

Visual Processing issues are common among children with learning problems, but it is not a learning disability.  Research does suggest that common causes could be premature birth or low birth weight.

Assist children experiencing problems with Visual Information Processing by always writing in large letters and using color pens when issuing instructions or writing out schedules.  Activities that can help are building puzzles, completing partially drawn pictures, and reviewing their work by identifying mistakes in written material.

Free Spelling resources

You can check out our free spelling activities and resources here just click on the picture to be taken to the resource page.

Is Poor Spelling A Sign Of A Disability


Spelling is a complex activity, and many children have problems with poor spelling.  If the problem persists, they may have learning disabilities such as Dyslexia and Dysgraphia or Auditory Processing or Visual Information Processing disorders.

When encountering or reading about these difficulties, parents can sometimes be very overwhelmed at first.  Do not despair; once the child has been correctly diagnosed by a professional in these fields, the process of adjusting can begin.

Start by finding the best methods to alleviate and therapists to help with the problems causing poor spelling.

With encouragement and emotional support from parents, children who experience spelling difficulties can become more accurate spellers.







I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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