Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Visual spelling

What is Visual Spelling and how is it different from other learning approaches?

All good spellers can ‘see’ the words and have a clear visual image of the letters in every word they can already spell and can quickly create a fixed visual image for any new words.

Although everyone is able to do this, children and adults who have difficulty with spelling have not developed this skill in relation to words. When having to perform in written tasks, these children experience anxiety and low self esteem and are hindered further, making then unable to ‘see’ the words.

Learning to use visual skills for words compliments all other types of learning and methods of teaching the literacy skills children need to perform well in school.

Who should attend the sessions?

  •  Parent and child sessions

It is helpful for Parent and child to attend the session together to ensure the parent has a clear understanding of the child’s difficulties with spelling and to go through the same process as the child in learning a new strategy.

An understanding from the Parents point of view ensures that the child can be supported and encouraged at home with spelling and any homework tasks involving reading and writing.

Sessions may be for an individual child with his/her Parent(s) or a small group of children and parents together.
  • Parent and teacher sessions

Parents and teachers can find out more about this approach by attending an introductory session prior to the child attending an individual or group session.

  • Group sessions in school for children

Small group sessions can be offered in schools and it is recommended that teachers and Parents of these children have attended the introductory session to ensure optimum support and encouragement for the child at home and school.

  • Follow up or further individual sessions

One session may be enough to introduce the approach and to enable a child to begin to practice the approach immediately. Follow up sessions may be arranged after an agreed period of time but will be determined by the needs of each child.

A follow up session after 4 to 6 weeks to assess progress allows for monitoring of the effectiveness of this strategy for an individual child and enables additional suggestions to be made to further improve the skill.

  • Initial assessment and monitoring progress

A full cognitive assessment can be carried out to identify the specific nature of the child’s specific learning difficulties. This will also include baseline assessments of single word reading and spelling.

Follow up assessments of reading and spelling will help to monitor progress in these areas  after practicing the visual spelling for a period of time.

I am a Clinical Psychologist with many years of experience working with children who are struggling in school for a whole range of different reasons. I am able to carry out cognitive assessments to identify the specific difficulties of each child and I have found that learning to visualise words is very effective both in giving children a strategy that works and as a result, giving them the confidence and motivation to work on improving their literacy skills.

Enquiries or further questions welcome from teachers and parents.

Please contact:

Shona Lowes
Clinical Psychologist
Follow me on twitter:
Website: (currently being updated)

For further details on this approach please also see:

Further reading:

Seeing spells achieving by Olive Hickmott and Andrew Bendefy
Bridges to success by Olive Hickmott

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