How to Teach an ADHD Child to Spell

To help children with ADHD who are poor spellers, the following techniques have been found to be helpful.

  1. Tackle your school's word list (Most schools have a list of spelling words that kids have to know by the end of the year. This is especially true for children in the lower grades (k-3)). Go through the list and figure out which words your child knows. Then make out flash cards with all of the words on them. Make a deal with your child that for every word she learns, he or she earns a reward.
  2. Give your child an incentive to read. Turn on the TV and stick a DVD in. For every five minutes of a movie she watches, she has to read one page in a book. You just pause the movie every five minutes and have your child read a page.
  3. Utilize real-life situations. Everytime you go to the store and your child wants something, tell her she has to read the label to you. If it's cereal, then she has to tell you what kind. She has to read the brand name, as well as the name of the cereal itself.
  4. Take advantage of car rides or long trips. Play games that enhance her skills, like saying a word and having her spell it.1
  5. Scramble the letters of the words on the child's list and have him/her rearrange the letters to spell the words.
  6. Let the child write out his/her spelling words with colored glue onto notecards. When the glue has dried, have the child trace over the letters with his fingers. The success of this has been researched and it has been found that ADHD students "selectively attend to novelty such as color, changes in size, and movement." The color and texture help the child to learn in a way that is specified to his/her needs.((Fachin, katharina. "Teaching Tommy: A second-grader with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." Phi Delta Kappan. Feb. 1996. Sheramee Werner))
  7. Remind students of particularly difficult spelling rules and how students can watch out for easy-to-make errors.
  8. Everyday examples of hard-to-spell words. Take advantage of everyday events to teach difficult spelling words in context. For example, ask a child eating a cheese sandwich to spell “sandwich.”
  9. Frequently used words. Assign spelling words that the
    child routinely uses in his or her speech each day.
  10. Dictionary of misspelled words. Ask the child to keep a personal dictionary of frequently misspelled words.
  11. Partner spelling activities. Pair the child with another student. Ask the partners to quiz each other on the spelling of new words. Encourage both students to guess the correct spelling.
  12. Manipulatives. Use cutout letters or other manipulatives to spell out hard-to-learn words.
  13. Color-coded letters. Color code different letters in hard-to-spell words (e.g., “receipt”).
  14. Movement activities. Combine movement activities with spelling lessons (e.g., jump rope while spelling words out loud).
  15. Word banks. Use 3" x 5" index cards of frequently misspelled words sorted alphabetically.2
  16. Try the sequential spelling method.
  17. Elephant writing: have the child hold one arm alongside her head, she bends her whole body as she writes with her finger. This uses gross motor skills.
  18. Write words on a large chalkboard, on the driveway with sidewalk chalk, in a cookie sheet filled with cornmeal, and any other multi-sensory method you can think of. The child can make the words out of sticks, Play Dough, write in shaving cream, etc.
  19. Word families: this controversial technique may help. Some children need to group words and ideas together to remember them. Phonics pathways is written according to word families.3
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