How Reading, Writing, Spelling Difficulties Are Connected

Filed Under (NLP coaching learning difficulties) on 01-04-2015

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If everything is connected, how are reading, writing, spelling difficulties connected? Read this frustrated parent’s query, and you may find answers to the difficulties of that special someone you know. 

The problem…

My son is 10 and a half years old.  He was always a very bright verbal preschooler.  He went to school and we were surprised that he did not pick up reading as quickly as we imagined.  His math was excellent.  Fast forward a couple of years and his reading is below average. He has started to make silly errors in exams and refuses to learn timetables etc.  He had difficulties with the fine motor part of handwriting, but  got over it. But his writing seems years below his verbal ability.  His writing looks like that of a 7 years-old in grammatical structure (does not use punctuation and joins sentences with “and then” like when he speaks).  His spelling is atrocious.

He has always been immensely sociable and kids adore him as he is very funny and likeable.  His achievement test reflected his below average school results – particularly in spelling.  The psychologist said that he was a very smart child with a learning disability – probably auditory.  The school did not test his hearing and said that he was too articulate to have a hearing problem.  We had his hearing tested. He has mild unilateral hearing loss. He apparently only hears 55% in the left ear when noise is in his right ear.  To me he looks a bit ADD as well. He won’t concentrate on and actively avoids homework, and is quite distractible in class.  Could the hearing loss make him appear like this?  Could this cause the difficulties with writing, his worst area?

His reading comprehension is well above age.  Is there likely to be something else going on?  Due to his wonderful social strengths we are very reluctant to use any amplification options.  He does not want to appear different. In his mind having to wear a hearing aid or have an FM system would be committing social suicide.  I tend to agree that this may not be the best thing for him.  I was just looking for any input on what to do with this information I have.  Can you help?

The solution to how his reading, writing, spelling difficulties are connected:

Yes, there definitely is something else going on here.  And the thing that’s going on is VERY positive for your son – if you know how to direct it!  Notice that none of the tests nor the psychologist told you that your son is incredibly VISUAL. He uses his visual skills inappropriately for words.  I hazard a guess that a very common thing that happens to many children happened to him. His brain got confused when he first came across words and has not found a way out of the confusion so far.

The fact that your son is excellent at math and reading comprehension perfectly confirms that he is highly visual!  Think about it: math is a visual science.  And how do you remember what a story that you read was about?  You remember because as you read it, you created pictures or movies in your head.  That’s visual memory.  And the label “learning disability” which the psychologist gave your son is a generic cover-all term that people who do not understand what’s going on give you, because it sounds professional and provides an easy way out of having to deal with your son at deeper depths.  The appropriate label for your son is “using his visual skills inappropriately for words”.

Can his slight hearing impairment contribute to the cause of this?

Yes!  But you can do things about this – free of charge! Think about this: if a person is visually impaired, what happens to their other senses?  Hearing is usually very good, and feeling [touch] also strengthens!  That’s nature’s way of giving the visually impaired person a chance to survive.  One sense [vision] goes down, the others [hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting] go up as a balancing act.  The same is true if hearing is weaker.  Because a person does not hear well, he compensates by a stronger visual sense.  Hearing goes down, visual goes up.

This beautifully ties in with the ADD qualities you’ve observed in your son.  ADD is a “deficit” of attention,  so there is no wonder that he is easily distracted!  There’s way too much information around him that he needs to take in!  No wonder that he doesn’t stay with one thing for long!  He feels compelled to have to take everything in visually – fast – because he feels that as his hearing is worse, he has only the visual sense to rely on for survival.  So the visual sense overloads and the result of the overload is easy distractibility in class and overwhelm. Nobody wants to be overwhelmed.  So  your son has found a coping strategy to actively avoid homework and other things that overwhelm him.


Your son’s brain got confused when he first came across words at a very young age.  The reason for this is simple: when you’re a child, everything around you is three-dimensional [3D] until you go to school.  Your toys, furniture, parents, siblings, people, food, clothes, everything.  You go to school and there they start teaching you how to read and write words and numbers.  Words and numbers are the first two-dimensional [2D] things in a child’s life.

If a child is highly visual, his brain will naturally want to find the third dimension in the 2D words or numbers.  And because the third dimension doesn’t exist in written words and numbers, the brain gets confused, because no matter how hard the brain tries to recreate the third dimension, it won’t be there yet again every time a new word or number comes up.  Did you notice that I talked about written and read words?  Well, that s exactly the reason! Not a motor fault in your son’s arm or hand.

It’s very common that people [of any age] develop the belief that they can’t write because there’s something motorically wrong with their arm or hand.  Don’t give into this – it’s simply the mind playing tricks.  The mind has to find a coping strategy and this explanation serves as the perfect coping strategy!  It’s an explanation and an excuse for not having to investigate further.  But investigate is exactly what you must do.  And here’re tips that you can use immediately. They won’t cost a cent!

Work with it, not around it

1. Writing: if your son has serious difficulties with writing, ask him whether he can draw something at first.  If he draws something, the very fact that he did will make the theory that there’s something wrong with his arm or hand invalid.  You can then teach him to send that belief into the museum of old beliefs, like the belief in Santa Clause!
If he cannot draw, give him a picture of a simple object, such as a star. Ask him to copy it on paper as he sees it.  His observational skills are excellent, so he won’t have a problem with this.  Once he can copy an object, he will draw. Once he can draw, he will write.

2. Invest in a large sheet of paper and stick it on the wall slightly above your son’s eye level.  For the first few weeks practise drawing and writing everything on this paper on the wall.  He’ll be working in his visual field. And he’ll feel that he can do it, because working in his visual field will take him out of feelings.

3. Feelings are in the belly and when we write on a straight table, we’re looking down – into feelings.  This doesn’t help if the child has an aversion to writing, because his feelings are negative. He feels that “I can’t do this” or “I hate this” or “I’m terrible at this“.  Therefore always take him OUT OF THE FEELINGS while he writes and reads!  Get him to look up, hold a page of any reading material at his eye level, and for the first few weeks write on a sheet of paper stuck to the wall.  Practise until he gets confident.  The more confident he gets, the lower the page of reading material will go, and the less he will mind writing on a straight table.  But it may take time before he arrives at this point. Be patient and endure!

4. To improve his hearing ask him to observe and imitate sounds around him.  When he hears the birds sing, can he hear any words that the bird calls resemble?  Can he hear any words in the ticking of the clock?  Or when he listens to the radio, can he imitate the accent or pitch of the speaker?  Can he imitate the sound of a car engine?  Being aware of sounds will force your son to have to hear them better. That will sharpen his auditory sense,  observational skills, and attuning to his environment.


5. Spelling has been atrocious because the boy most likely spelled by sound.  Spelling is visual – you must SEE the word you want to spell in your imagination. Then you can speak the letters!  So start teaching him spelling with three-letter words, such as cat, dog, bed, egg.

  • Firstly ask him to imagine the object of the word.  Let’s go with cat.  Ask him to imagine a cat.  Once he does, ensure that his imagined cat is still [=not moving], clear, and neither too close to nor too far from his face.
  • Write the word cat on a blank paper.  Let him look at it and ask him to put the letters as he sees them on the body of his imagined cat – as if somebody sprayed / stuck / wrote them on the cat’s fur.
  • Once he sees the cat with the word cat written on its body, ask him to spell it.
  • Then ask him some completely unrelated question, such as whether he likes pizza.
  • Ask him to see the cat with the word cat written on its body and spell it backwards.  You’re spelling backwards to check that he’s SEEING the word, not spelling by sound.  The unrelated [pizza] question is there to interrupt the pattern.
  • When he is confident (after some time of practising) that he can spell forwards and backwards well, ask him to fix his eyes on the word and let the cat walk away from behind the word.  When the cat is gone, he’ll see the word as a picture.

And this is when he’ll see the written word just like any good speller!  The more confident he becomes, the more irrelevant spelling the word backwards will be.

Reading, writing, spelling difficulties are always connected!

And this will stay true even in a world where many people type more than write. Reading, writing, and spelling difficulties will always be connected. Did this article make you curious about how NLP can help you or someone you know with reading, writing, and spelling difficulties? Let’s see what we can do.

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