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Dyslexia and Phonological Difficulties


The International Dyslexia Association define dyslexia as

“…a deficit in the phonological component of language…”


A poor ability with phonological skills is one of the most important identifiers and causes of dyslexia.
75% of people with dyslexia show signs of a phonological processing problem.
Many definitions of dyslexia include a problem with phonological skills.

What is it?

words get jumbled in my head

Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds of language.
A phonological learning disorder is a difficulty working with sounds and linking them to the letter symbols they represent.

What are the difficulties?

It is important to understand the types of challenges these students will face throughout the day.

1. Manipulating Sounds In Your Head

Say these letter sounds aloud. c … a … t
Close your eyes.
Can you remember the first sound?
What would be left if you took away the first sound?
dyslexic signs
A student with weak phonological skills would struggle with this task
because they have got to hold the sequence of sounds in their head and change them.


2. Sound Discrimination

Discriminating between short vowel sounds will cause difficulty.
Listen to the vowel sounds in the middle of these words “bet … bit”.
It is common to mix up ‘i’ and ‘e’.


3. Rhyming

Listen to this word “hop”.
Can you think of a word that it rhymes with?
“stop, drop, flop”
Identifying words that rhyme will be difficult.


4. Phoneme Isolation

Which sound do you hear at the start of these words?
“find” “friend”
Separating out individual sounds will be difficult to do.


5. Syllable Division

Listen to this word
Can you split this word into separate syllables?
Identifying the different components of sound in a multisyllabic word is difficult for students with a phonological weakness.

Dyslexia is helped by learning to to recognise syllables

6. Blending Sounds

Listen to these sounds
Blending sounds into a whole word will be harder and cause these sorts of problems:
Missing out or forgetting one of the sounds, e.g. hep
Matching a sound to the wrong letter symbol, e.g. halp
Mixing up the sequence, hlep
It’s completely forgotten and a random word is guessed!


7. Mixing Up Similar Sounding Words

A phonological difficulty can make it hard to tell the difference between similar sounding words.
allocate instead of accolade
pacific instead of specific
probably instead of properly

Dyslexia causes similar sounding words to be mixed up

8. Finding The Right Word

People with a phonological difficulty often can’t think of the right word for what they want to say.
This means they often have difficulty expressing ideas spontaneously.


5 Helpful Strategies

Phonological development is often helped by linking pictures or actions to sounds and letters.
These act as memory cues because they can be more easily remembered.


1. Use Pictures

Say this word aloud.
There are three sounds that are difficult to separate.
Associate the word with a picture.
Draw a wheel around each sound.
Funny pictures are more memorable.

Draw a wheel around each sound bi-cy-cle

2. Use Actions

Say this word aloud.
Relate an action to the sound then do it.
This helps to strengthen the link.
Skip and say the separate sounds – “skip-ping-skip-ping”

Skip and say the separate sounds – "skip-ping-skip-ping"

3. Smaller Chunks

When blending a sequence of sounds, break up the word into two parts.
Cover the final letter.
Sound out the first part.
Stretch out the last sound and reveal the final letter.
Chunnnnn ….k


4. Speech Therapy Techniques

Use a mirror so the student can see the shape they are forming.
This helps to develop phonological understanding.

Use a mirror to see the shape of your mouth

5. Own Voice Dictations

Record your voice saying a word you find difficult to pronounce.
Record someone else saying the same word.
Listening back to helps to hear the difference.
Those with a phonological difficulty will usually need longer exposure to language.
All these strategies and lots of activities to develop phonological awareness are included in the Nessy program.



Phonological development is helped by linking pictures and actions, to sounds and letters.
These act as memory triggers because they can be more easily remembered.
Those with a phonological difficulty will usually need longer to learn the different sounds that make up language.



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