Read and Spell Blog

What to do when you can't spell

Help! I can’t spell.

Everyone has difficulty with spelling from time to time. You might make a mistake when you use a word infrequently, or have trouble reporting a word’s spelling verbally when you’re put on the spot. These are common issues for a few reasons. One is that spelling is something we usually do in writing - delivering this information in another modality can be awkward. Two, spelling is information that we store in the brain as procedural knowledge.

This means it becomes automatic only after a person builds up extensive contact through repeat exposure to a word in reading and writing. You might have certain words you always mix up because you never learned the correct spelling, or because you wrote them incorrectly and now can’t tell the right from the wrong version. But some people struggle with spelling in a very different way.

For example, dyslexic individuals may put a word’s letters in the wrong order, miss out on a letter, or even add one that doesn’t belong. They often have difficulty spelling consistently, and can get a word right one day and not the next. This doesn’t mean they are “stupid” or “lazy,” it just means there’s something interrupting the encoding process by which words are split into their component sounds and those sounds are then mapped onto English letters.

Adult ADD Checklist of symptoms to look out for

An Adult ADD Checklist

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are commonly discussed in reference to school-age children, but some estimates suggest that up to 4% of the adult population also struggles with attention difficulties. The symptoms include difficulty focusing, impulsivity, forgetfulness, and sometimes periods of hyper-focus.

Individuals with attention difficulties may have trouble sleeping and staying organized. They can be prone to emotional outbursts and can feel overly flustered and anxious when under stress. Someone with an undiagnosed learning difficulty may struggle with a secret sense of shame, believing they are not as smart or as capable as their peers. Poor impulse control is also common. Attention difficulties are not something you grow out of, but many adults develop coping skills to help them get by.

A post for individuals wondering 'Am I dyslexic?'

Am I dyslexic?

Dyslexia is a specific learning difference that can affect an individual’s ability to break words down into their component sounds. This, in turn, impacts on reading and spelling ability and may result in them needing extra time and/or classroom and workplace accommodations to achieve the same results as peers. However, dyslexia is not a measure of intelligence, it is just a different way of processing in the brain – and it is also associated with some positives!

For example, dyslexic individuals may possess keen analytical and problem-solving skills. They may have sophisticated spatial awareness, can be talented and creative artists, and have a knack for seeing the bigger picture. They may “think outside the box,” and be great team players. Estimates suggest up to 10% of the population has dyslexia and it is not uncommon for adults to suspect they are dyslexic, particularly if reading and writing have always been a challenge.

But like most specific learning differences, dyslexia exists on a spectrum and no two people will experience the same set or severity of symptoms. Having a diagnostic assessment can help you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses and which strategies and accommodations will most benefit you.

Computer basics for adults to help at school and in the workplace

Computer basics for adults

For adults who lack familiarity with computers, life in the modern age can be a challenge. That’s because technology is involved in almost every aspect of our lives: we need it for work, school, keeping in touch, day-to-day task management, remote education and even online shopping.

Being able to use a word processor is required for students and working professionals because formal assignment and written reports must be typed. Referencing and research that used to be done in a library is now largely undertaken via online searches of the worldwide web and academic databases.

You need an email address to sign up for new services, make online purchases, apply for jobs and education programs, and communicate with friends and family. Even something as simple as locating a suitable local tradesman is more efficient when done through an online search vs. looking in the yellow pages.

And while tablets and smartphones account for a large portion of our daily technology use, computers are still an important tool.

Thankfully adult basic skills courses exist to help learners achieve the tech-fluency they need to feel more comfortable using computers and many local libraries and community centers offer free introductory programs too.

Learn more about adult dyslexia

Where to find help for adult dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning difference that can affect an individual’s ability to correctly identify and manipulate the sounds that make up spoken language. This in turn can negatively impact on reading and spelling skills.

Dyslexic adults are not less intelligent than other people, their brains simply process language in a different way. But because not everyone who has dyslexia is aware they are struggling with a specific learning difference, some individuals may believe they are stupid, not cut out for school, or are simply not skilled enough when it comes to reading and writing.

For dyslexic children and adults who don’t get the help they need, this can lead to feelings of low self-worth and a lack of confidence in the classroom or workplace. That’s why diagnosing dyslexia is an important first step, followed by seeking out support from local groups and national organizations, such as the British and American Dyslexia Associations.

There are different types of dyslexia and no two individuals will have exactly the same needs, but with access to the right accommodations and an effective strategy program, dyslexic adults can boost literacy skills, increase confidence and gain a better understanding of their own strengths and abilities.

How common is functional illiteracy?

How common is functional illiteracy?

Functional illiteracy is different from illiteracy. Adults who are functionally illiterate have some reading and writing ability, whereas a person who is illiterate has never been taught how to read or write. Thanks to government regulations that make school attendance mandatory, there are fewer illiterate people today compared to in past centuries. However, functional illiteracy is more common than you might think.

Some estimates suggest that 1 in 7 people in the United States and the United Kingdom struggles with literacy skills. Functional illiteracy is defined by the extent to which difficulties with reading and writing prevent an adult from serving as a functioning member of society.

Literacy skills are the key to graduating high school, getting a job, pursuing further education, accessing job training and advancing in your career. You also need to be able to read and write in order to use a computer, send emails and text messages to friends and family, engage on social media, and navigate the web.

Difficulty writing

Difficulty writing

Writing is a complex and cognitively demanding task that requires a child to bring together both lower and higher order skills, including manipulating abstract ideas while paying close attention to the spelling and punctuation conventions of written English.

If the physical act of putting letters on a page is problematic or a learning difficulty gets in the way of fluent language production, students may struggle to come up with legible and coherent compositions. This can lead to poor marks on quizzes and exams but can also affect learning when note-taking skills are compromised.

Because writing is central to most subjects across the school curriculum, over time poor performance on written assignments can result in negative associations with classroom learning, low self-esteem and a general lack of confidence at school. A child may believe he or she is a bad writer and begin to avoid writing activities, which in turn results in a less developed skill set.

The tragedy is that with the right strategy training and appropriate accommodations, every child can achieve his or her full potential.

The most common dysgraphia symptoms in children

7 Dysgraphia symptoms in children

Dysgraphia is a language based specific learning disability or difference that primarily affects writing. It can be difficult to spot in young learners, as not every child develops literacy skills at the same rate. Nonetheless, there are some hallmark signs of trouble which usually show up when a child first learns to write.

For example, these children often have problems holding a pen or pencil and forming letters and numbers, both in print and in cursive writing. They can struggle to express themselves in writing, from organizing ideas, to spelling and using punctuation correctly. Poor handwriting is common. The spacing between words may be uneven, letter size can vary and there will be issues staying inside margins.

Students with dysgraphia can find it hard to show what they have learned when assessment is done via writing assignments. Dysgraphic children also tend to find copying exercises challenging and may avoid coloring and drawing too.

As writing by hand is necessary for everything from putting your name at the top of a page, to making notes, completing worksheets and taking tests, learning can be affected when a child doesn’t get access to the accommodations and strategy training he or she needs.

When b and d letter reversal becomes an issue …

B and d letter reversal

Writing by hand requires a child to correctly identify the sticks, curves and/or circles that make up a letter, then reproduce those shapes in a particular orientation, using a set sequence of pen strokes. Before the skill is automatized, the handwriting process can be quite mentally taxing. New writers are also struggling to develop the fine motor skills needed to grip a pen or pencil and the language encoding skills required for reading and spelling.

Add to this the challenge of writing in a straight line and creating letters of the same height and width and you’ll find that reversing letters is a common mistake for beginners to make. This is particularly the case for symbols built from the same set of shapes, including b/d, p/q, f/t, i/j, m/w and n/u. Nonetheless, most children grow out of letter reversal by age 7 and it only becomes a cause for concern when errors occur beyond first and second grade.

Literacy blogs for adult education teachers

5 Literacy blogs

Teachers in adult education know that every learner brings a unique set of skills to the classroom and there is no one size fits all approach. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top 5 literacy blogs to help educators exchange ideas and keep abreast of the latest research findings.

One of the most important things we learn at school is how to read and write. Literacy skills allow us to be functioning members of society, working and living productive and informed lives. Everything from the directions on a bottle of medicine to a job application requires reading.

That’s why it’s crucial for adults who struggle with literacy skills to have access to education opportunities. Moreover, programs should not only provide reading instruction, but also take into account the emotional and social aspects of returning to school as a mature learner. 

When learning disabilities in adults go undiagnosed

When learning disabilities in adults go undiagnosed

Learning disabilities are neurological differences in the way the human brain processes, stores and communicates information. Some estimates suggest that over 10% of the world’s population is affected by a learning disability such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and/or attention deficit disorder (ADHD). In extreme cases, they can cause individuals to miss out on literacy skills development, particularly when schools do not recognize the symptoms early on.

For adults, having an undiagnosed learning disability can affect career choice, limit job advancement and lead to a number of psychological and emotional issues, including depression and feelings of low self-worth. This is particularly true when the person interprets his or her past educational failures as personal faults and experiences feelings of embarrassment and shame because of a perceived intellectual deficiency.

The tragedy is that with the right diagnosis, coping strategies and accommodations can be put in place to help every individual with a learning disability achieve their full potential.