Adult learners

Many adults find reading and spelling hard.

This is usually not their fault. It’s often because they haven’t been taught the right way.

At school, they might have been taught to look at pictures and guess words, not sound them out.

This still happens today, but should not.

Kids need to link speech sounds with letters and spelling patterns to get good at reading and spelling.

Many people can’t learn to read and write well unless they are taught in tiny steps.

They need to start with short words with simple spellings and then gradually learn more patterns.

There are about 160-170 main spelling patterns to learn.

If you think you’re someone who has missed out on this sort of teaching, it’s not too late.

Spelling and reading can be learnt or improved at any age.

The best thing to do is work with an expert teacher or therapist.

However, finding a really good one in your area can be hard, and it can cost quite a bit.

You might be able to find one via LDA or Speech Pathology Australia (under “Area of Practice” choose “Literacy”).

If your GP gives you a referral, Medicare might cover part of the cost of the first five sessions with a Medicare-registered Speech Pathologist.

This won’t usually make sessions free, but it will pay a bit less than half the cost.

Sadly, adult literacy courses often only offer the same sort of teaching that didn’t work before.

Their focus is often shopping lists, filling in forms, and other “real life” or “meaningful” activities.

They don’t often teach how to sound out words and build the “reading/spelling brain” circuit that lets you read or write whatever you like.

If you have a trusted friend or family member who can test your skills with my free low-frequency word spelling test, (don’t cheat and look at it yourself!), this might help you work out what you already know about how words are spelt, and what you need to learn.

The test tells you which pages in the Spelfabet workbooks target each spelling pattern, so you might like to try one of these. They’re fairly cheap, you just download and print them yourself.

Please don’t try to use the workbooks by yourself. A friend, relative or professional needs to help you follow the instructions, provide error correction and help you work fast.

If your reading is very poor, you need to also practice reading aloud to someone else and getting their feedback. Start with books that don’t have hard or long words.

The free SPELD SA phonic books might be useful, the Rip Rap books, or books for older learners from Barrington Stoke (ask libraries or bookshops, Readings has some) or Silvereye.

The games and moveable alphabet from this website might also be useful, but please check them out with the person helping you before buying anything, and also check out the list of other resources suitable for adults.

Good luck! Remember that most people with an average IQ, and even mild intellectual disability, can learn to read and spell words pretty well, if they get enough of the right sort of teaching.

Starting late makes it harder but still possible, and that makes life a lot easier.