There are a number of reasons for spelling problems. Each year we assess a lot of kids with spelling problems. The following list includes the most common causes we see.

Common Causes of Spelling Problems:


SpellingWhat it looks like: The child studies his spelling words all week and does great on Friday’s spelling test. However, just minutes or days later he has forgotten how to spell the words and is spelling them wrong.

The cause:  Memory is not a good way to learn spelling. How many words can one person possibly memorize the spelling of? Certainly no one can remember the spelling of all words in the English language. An eight year old has a vocabulary of 10,000 words.

The underlying cause: For these kids memorization is a coping strategy. They need a coping strategy because they have deficits in phonemic awareness, phonological processing, and/or auditory processing.

Reading and Writing Problems

If a child is reading below grade level, of course there will be spelling errors. These kids can’t recognize the word when they see it so it makes sense that they can’s spell it.

Reading, writing, and spelling programs are all caused by phonemic awareness and or phonological processing deficits.

What’s Necessary for Good Spelling

Kids who are good spellers are strong in phonemic awareness and phonological processing. They clearly and easily “hear” the sounds in the words and so they can spell them.

Some examples that we frequently see: (/ / indicates the sound rather than the spelling)

  • that misspelled as phat. The child doesn’t know how to get the /th/ sound but knows it involves two letters. But which ones?
  • foot misspelled at fet. The child doesn’t know how to get the /oo/ sound?
  • liked misspelled as likt. The child can’t discriminate between the /d/ and /t/ sounds.
  • reversals of b, d, and p. Your kid does NOT see backwards! If a child has difficulty hearing the differences in these three sounds, it will be very difficult to know which one to use.
  • problems with /w/, /r/, and /l/. For some kids, these sounds are very close to each other. Because they don’t have /r/ in their first language, some Asian people will say flied lice for fried rice. Elmer Fudd called Bugs Bunny a waskally wabbit instead of a rascally rabbit.
  • /ch/ and /sh/; /v/ and /f/ and /th/; /g/ and /k/; /m/ and /n/; and many, many more.

Solutions to Spelling Problems:

Phonemic awareness and phonological processing can be trained. But they cannot be taught. There is a big difference.

Teaching involves giving information, talking to the child. That can’t strengthen these skills any more than telling a child about bike riding will enable the child to balance on two wheels.

At Accomplished Learning Centres we use special programs that are designed for the purposes of training phonemic awareness and phonological processing deficits.

The Fast ForWord family of products does it with computer games. With the Language Series (K-Grade 6) and Literacy Series (Grades 6-12) a child plays three to six different games every day. As the child plays, the games put the child through hundreds or thousands of repetitions of the sounds of the English language. As the child plays the games the software diagnoses which letter sounds the child has difficulty with. The child quickly passes the sounds that aren’t problematic and continues to practice the ones that are. When the sounds make sense, so does spelling.

“We did an hour of spelling practice every night and still our daughter would only get 5 or 6 out of 20 on spelling tests. After only six weeks of Fast ForWord something incredible happened. We had a very busy week with no time for spelling practice and she got 19 out of 20 on her weekly spelling test. Since then we no longer practiced and she gets 20 out of 20 almost every week.” – An excited mom

“Rob struggled in school since Kindergarten. He did Interactive Metronome at ALC a few years ago. Rob has done very well since his program with us and is graduating this year with 94% in English. He will be going to university in September to become a biologist.” – A very happy father

“Six 100% spelling tests in a row! And we also notice her voice quality has changed. I wouldn’t call it baby-talk, but she always sounded odd. Not anymore. Fast ForWord is working in ways her father and I never believed possible.” – A happy mom

Because all of our programs train the language areas of the brain, they all help the child “hear” the sounds and so improve spelling.

Fast ForWord and Interactive Metronome are online. Like our other programs, they are available in remote/distance formats for home use or can be done in our Langley and Abbotsford offices.

Call 604.539.1386 for information or to schedule an assessment. The assessment is the best way to determine which program is best for your child.