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Case Study – “Dyslexic” speller turn around

December 30th, 2011 by Tony Barlow

Spelling and NLPWhen I first became involved working with students around 12 years ago. A mother brought her 8yrs old daughter Mandy to see me. She told my that her daughter had been diagnosed with mild dyslexia and that she could not learn the spellings of words and was failing her spelling tests and starting to lose confidence in herself.

Using the skill set of NLP (A way of uncovering a persons unconscious thought processes) I gave her the task of learning a list of ten spelling words to see how she used her thought process to remember the words. I then compared her thought process to way that excellent spellers learn words.


This was her thinking process to remember the words:

-She wrote out each word 10 times. (kinesthetic & visual external)

-She internally repeated the spellings to herself several times, so if the word was ‘scissors’ she said to herself s..c..i..s…s..o..r..s over and over. (auditory internal)

Around 20 mins later I asked her to write down the list of words to see how many she had remembered. Mandy made plenty of mistakes the word scissors came out as sizors.

This is how she tried to recall the spellings of the words:

-“How do you spell SCISSORS ?”

-She said the word to herself, scissors, scissors. (auditory internal)

-She then looked up and based on the sound of the word she imagined what the word might look like, well it sounds like sizors and thats what she wrote down. She did not have a visual memory of the word. (visual constructed)


In brief, this is the thinking process of a spelling B champion when learning new words:

-Look at the word in the spelling list. (visual external)

-Look up visualize and say the word until you feel sure the picture in your mind is the same as what’s on the paper. (visual & auditory internal with a kinesthetic check.)

This is the thinking process of a spelling B champion when recalling the words:

-“How to you spell SCISSORS ?”

-Look up and recall the picture of the word that they have recorded in their mind.

-If they feel sure it looks correct they will simply copy the picture from their mind.


I then proceeded to teach Mandy the same thought process of a great speller by looking at the word in the list and making a visual image of the word in her mind, while saying the word until she got the feeling she had it.

At first she had difficulties so I asked her “When you try to visualize the word, what happens?”. “The letters are moving around”. “How exactly are they moving?”. “Some are still and some are changing places”.

I proceeded to use NLP to get Mandy to stabilize the images in her mind (using the NLP swish pattern). After she had achieved this she could then easily picture the words and started recalling all 10 of the words correctly, this was backed up by excellent results from then on in her spelling tests.

This at first seemed to good to be true and I assumed that she had been misdiagnosed with dyslexia in the first place. However week after week the same thing kept happening. Students would come in diagnosed with ‘learning difficulties’ and after less than 5 sessions the problem would be completely gone or significantly improved.

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