Learning to spell can be a daunting task for all students, but even more so for those with intellectual disabilities. Therefore, exploring effective techniques that increase confidence, engagement and motivation is key to helping students gain authentic writing skills. A method that has been proven successful in achieving these goals is familiarizing learners with sounds.
Familiarizing learners with sounds is the process of introducing phonemes, the smallest unit of speech sound, to help them understand the components of spoken language (Mertzentein, 2018).
This helps create an understanding of how individual words are formed and enables learners to piece together sounds in order to spell correctly. Additionally, using visuals such as sentence strips or flashcards during instruction can help reinforce sound-based instruction.
According to Sarah Smith, a teacher specializing in special education: “When working on spelling we have found that breaking down a word into its syllables and connecting it to a familiar object or object part provides great visual support. This not only helps the student understand pronunciation but also aids in memorization."
Making learning activities engaging is essential when teaching any student but especially those with intellectual disabilities; when paired with traditional instruction techniques like familiarizing learners with sounds it can produce wonderful results. As Smith put it: “When all components come together - structured visuals combined with sound-based instructions paired with hands-on experiences - the sky's the limit!”
Mertzentein, B. (2018). Instructional approaches necessary to teach children who are nonverbal. The International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 53(2), 266–276. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984