Possible reasons why some children find it difficult to spell correctly

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1 Possible reasons why some children find it difficult to spell correctly Rhyna Thiel What is spelling? Spelling is the ability to arrange groups of letters correctly so that they form designated words. Learners need to understand how these sounds go together so that a word can be formed. Failing to do so, results in a learner struggling to communicate accurately on paper. (Murphy, 2012) The role of the eyes in spelling Our eyes are the fastest moving part of our bodies and while reading, the eyes can scan words in a fraction of a second. The co-ordination of the eyes, therefore, is a vital part of the reading process and poor co-ordination can lead to visual difficulties. Visual difficulties result in poor eye contact, inability to focus or to fixate on one thing, poor scanning, tracking of the eyes, spelling, reading and writing skills. Eye-tracking difficulties results in children having difficulty in physically, scanning words and lines and/or what they perceive on the page may be distorted and this can lead to struggling with spelling (Murphy, 2012). While reading, many children with eye-tracking difficulties also devote most of their energy to seeing and saying the words and have little energy left to remember what they have read. Therefore they will read without comprehension or ability to remember how words are spelled. Why is spelling important? Think about it. After just a few short sentences, you would question the child of person s age, education, intellect, and credibility. So, does spelling matter? If someone wants to be taken seriously, it definitely does (Rippel, 2013). Spelling words help lay the basic foundation that your child will need throughout his education and life. Spelling is important because it aids in reading. It helps cement the connection that is shared between sounds and letters. Important aspects when it comes to spelling, reading and writing. Visual memory is the ability to recall visual images. This is an important aspect of reading, since it enables the learner to recognize words on sight. Visual sequencing is the ability to see or remember letters in order, e.g. b-a-t = bat Form perception is the ability to observe forms and size. This is an important aspect of reading, since it enables the learner to remember the shape or letters, word and numbers (De Jager, 2006) 1

2 The vestibular system and spelling When the vestibular system has not been well stimulated, a learner will experience difficulty in sitting still and this can have a negative impact on his ability to learn, read and spell with accuracy. Once a learner s vestibular system is fully developed, he becomes comfortable with where he fits into his environment and knows the difference between left and right - it will become easier for him to identify where other objects are and in what direction letters and numbers need to face - which is imperative for spelling. Genetic dominance as part of spelling difficulties Apart from the above reasons for poor spelling, a child may also have difficulty in spelling, due to his/her genetic dominance. A learner s genetic dominant eye can be the reason why that child finds it difficult to spell words correctly. The right eye is controlled by the left brain and takes on the same characteristics. It is a good reading eye because it tracks from left to right; it enjoys reading words and numbers. This eye is able to read factual information for an extended period of time, and if the right eye is the child s genetic dominant eye, reading and spelling may be easy (De Jager, 2006). The left eye is controlled by the right brain hemisphere and takes on the same characteristics. It is a good scanning eye and likes to see the big picture. It tracks from right to left and as a result is not as accurate as the right eye when it comes to reading or spelling. This eye prefers mind maps and pictures. Learning to read and spell can be a challenge for learners with a dominant left eye (De Jager, 2006). Preferred learning Style Every child also has a preferred learning style, which may also influence the ability to spell. Some children are visual learners and learn best by watching and seeing things. Some children are auditory learners and need to hear things out loud. Some children, especially the active ones, are kinaesthetic learners and need to do an activity to learn. The visual child may also enjoy hunting for words with similar chunks or vowel groups in a newspaper and magazine, and highlighting their finds in different colours. The auditory child wants to hear the words spelled out loud. This child may enjoy making up songs or rhymes or memory tricks when spelling words. Spelling out words with letter magnets and putting together two parts of a word written on different index cards can help an auditory child commit spelling words to memory. The kinaesthetic child will likely enjoy making up stories or comics when spelling words. 2

3 Parents who know how their child best absorbs information will be well-equipped to help them with spelling (Rose, 1987 & Warda, 2005). Ideas to help children with spelling are to teach useful spelling rules and encourage independent reading to increase exposure to printed words. Dr Melodie de Jager s (2008) 10 easy steps to Splendid Spelling is a good guide to help a child with spelling. Reflex inhibition with Mind Moves for better vision As with emotional or mental barriers to clear vision, neurological immaturities cannot be addressed with lenses only. To promote a flexible visual system to enhance spelling abilities, a reflex inhibition program called Mind Moves is recommended (De Jager, 2006). Each reflex develops a different aspect of vision: The Moro Reflex develops fixation The ATNR (Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex) develops myopic or near vision and tracking The TLR (Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex) develops convergence STNR (Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex) develops near-to-far vision. Mind Moves is fun movements to get the primitive reflexes going to build strong brain pathways and to put them to rest, to have wide awake senses and muscles that are ready to move or sit still, depending on the activity (De Jager, 2009). How does Mind Moves help with spelling? Mind Moves are grouped together in outcome-specific combinations to train the brain to gain. All the moves in these combinations develop the neural circuitry needed to become skilled in spelling, reading and writing (De Jager, 2006). Begin with the Core Workout (De Jager, 2006) to develop gross motor skills. Underdeveloped core muscles lead to poor posture. Instead of focusing on learning, the brain has to focus on staying upright. The Core Workout sequence stimulates an inner awareness of the left and right side of the body, left and right brain specialization, core development, crossing the midline and visual development. It also frees the eyes to move independent of body movement - necessary for reading, writing, reasoning and spelling. When a learner is able to cross the midline, then he has integrated the left and right hemispheres of the brain. By doing so, the learner is preparing his two eyes, ears and hands to work together in front of the body so that optimal learning and spelling can take place (De Jager, 2006). It is important that the brain and eyes work together to enable a learner to read, spell and write accurately. 3

4 Reading and Spelling Mind Moves: Mouse pad Focus on the thumb held at elbow distance from the eyes. Move the thumb upwards, first around the left eye and then around the right eye. Repeat five times. Swop hands and repeat the same process, always first drawing a circle around the left eye and then around the right eye. This move stimulates the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic receptive ability, while crossing the midline to integrate the left and right parts of the brain and body. It develops eye-hand coordination and visual integration. Power ON Rub the indentation just below the collar bone in line with the left eye. This move re-establishes the electrical flow via the Vagus nerve to the speech organs and stomach to help relax butterflies and talk with ease. Antennae adjuster Massage both ear lobes simultaneously from top to bottom using circular movements. This move develops the near senses, auditory processing, auditory perception as well as receptive language ability. Visual workout Keep the head level. Look at the thumb held at elbow distance from the eyes. Move the thumb to the left (At nose level) and then slowly to the right, crossing the auditory midline. First do this with the eyes closed, imagining the position of the thumb. Open the eyes and check whether the eyes and thumb are in the same position. Repeat three times. Then repeat 3 times with eyes open. Repeat the move with eyes down into the kinaesthetic position and then up into the visual position (each time first with closed eyes and then opened). This move stimulates easy transition between visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning. It promotes eye-hand coordination and crossing the lateral midline. Temporal Toner Starting in front of the ears, using both hands simultaneously, gently tap upwards around the ears. This move promotes temporal lobe stimulation to improve listening skills, auditory processing, vestibular stimulation, proprioception and balance. It also promotes integration between listening and communicating both in verbal and written form. 4

5 Reading and spelling require well stimulated eyes, ears and vestibular system, as well as adequate gross and fine motor control as tools to help orientate the learner in space. To be able to spell, a learner needs to see and hear a word, remember what the letters look like in sequence, and accurately copy the picture in his mind onto paper (De Jager, 2006). Enjoy the Mind Moves given to help your children spell, read and write with more ease and to help assist in their schoolwork References De Jager, M Mind Moves removing barriers to learning. Johannesburg: The ConneXion (Pty) Ltd. De Jager, M Splendid Spelling. [online] Available from: LLING.pdf. [accessed 23 February 2013]. Murphy, M Dyslexia as explanation: Reading Difficulties. Available from: (Accessed October 2012) Rippel, M We take the struggle out of reading and spelling. Available from: [accessed 21 February 2013]. Rose, C & Warda R., How to help children struggling with spelling. Available from: [accessed 23 February 2013]. 5

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