top of page

Literacy difficulties

Literacy has many component parts.  It builds on spoken language, encompassing vocabulary and semantics (word meanings), syntax and grammar (sentence construction and grammatical markers).  In addition, when we learn to read we have to relate the sounds of speech (phonemes) to written letters (graphemes).


  English is particularly tricky, because only a proportion of words are phonetically decodable.  Many words, like 'the', 'have', 'said' and 'were' are not easily 'sounded out'.  It is quite difficult to generalise spelling rules in English when we have words such as 'thought' and 'drought', 'though' and 'enough'!


 If a child has difficulty with spoken language, they are almost inevitably going to struggle with literacy, 

literacy.  The good news is that with accurate speech and language assessment, we can predict whihc areas will be challenging, and then we can identify the particular strategies that will be most effective 

in improving literacy.  For example a child with comprehension difficulties may benefit from learning to enhance their visualisation skills to 'make movies in their head' as they read.  A child with speech sound difficulties will benefit from analytic rather than synthetic phonics, and strategies to learn whole sight words.


Analytic vs Synthetic Phonics

The approach to literacy in the UK for the last 15 years has been to use synthetic phonics.  This is where children learn letter-sound correspondences and 'sound out' a word.  This can be very challenging for a child with speech sound disorder.  


Analytic phonics is a slightly different approach which makes use of onset-and-rime and 'word families' to learn common spelling patterns.  This is useful for spelling patterns that can't be sounded out.  For example the 'igh' sound in 'night', 'flight', 'right'.  This approach is a little more visual, and often suits children with speech and language needs.

word families flower showing rime and onset words
lots of kinder eggs with word families written on them showing rime and onset analytical phonics


If requested, I can assess a child's phonological awareness, synthetic phonics, analytic phonics and sight words.  I can provide a comprehensive programme of work to support spelling using a blend of these approaches. 

Reading Comprehension

Some children with language difficulties struggle to visualise when they hear spoken language, and this affects their reading comprehension.  The meaning of sentences is lost: they catch dissociated words, but there is no coherent picture to bring it all together.  I can support this with a programme of therapy called 'Visualising-Verbalising'.  This approach is highly effective at building the student's skills in creating rich imagery to help them to understand and retain written information.  This is important for reading for pleasure, reading in lessons, answering questions succinctly and taking exams.


a group of students gathered around a table in a library looking at books together
bottom of page