Dyslexia and Guessing at Words – Dyslexia Connect

Guessing at words is a common and widespread problem for dyslexics. To fully understand this problem, and why dyslexia tutors include addressing this as part of dyslexia treatment, we need to consider the nature of the issue.

To give you an example of how a dyslexic student may guess at words, I would like to share an experience from this week. One of the students in our dyslexia tutoring program was reading a comprehension section about the Mississippi River, and he came to a sentence that read “The Mississippi River flows from north to south.” When he reached the word “flows”, he read it as “follows”. He saw that the word contained the F and the L, and he just guessed. This, of course, made the sentence quite nonsensical. Guessing at words is a problem because it cause major difficulties with reading accuracy and spelling. If a student gets in the habit of guessing at words, their reading comprehension will be poor, because of their poor reading accuracy. Soon, this bad habit is affecting many areas of their education.

Dyslexic children guess at words as a coping mechanism. If a dyslexic child has not received dyslexia tutoring or dyslexia treatment, then they simply see no other way to approach a word that is confusing to them. They rely on recognizing words by sight, and if they don’t recognize it, they guess, because they have not been taught to use phonics and sound words out. Additionally, they may have been encouraged to guess at words at school. Certain reading methods that are not phonics-based, recommend guessing as  a reading strategy when a student is confused about a word. They may be expected to guess, read to the end of the sentence and guess again, or look at pictures and guess. This is the wrong approach with any student, and especially a dyslexic. Dyslexics will get in the habit of doing this, and it will create more and more problems as they get older, unless it is addressed.

So, how do we correct this? First of all, a dyslexic child needs to be instructed in a phonics-based reading and spelling method by a dyslexia tutor. This dyslexia treatment will give them an alternative way to read and operate when they are stumped; a much better way! Instead of relying on guessing, they can start to rely on the phonics and syllable rules that they are learning in their dyslexia tutoring. Once they are receiving dyslexia treatment from a dyslexia tutor, you can have them practice reading out loud with you. When they mix up a word, have them stop and go back to it. Encourage them to use the knowledge they are gaining in dyslexia tutoring to read the word. There is no quick fix to this problem, but with the proper form of dyslexia treatment, a dyslexic student can escape this bad habit.


2 thoughts on “Dyslexia and Guessing at Words – Dyslexia Connect”


    I have worked with a dyslexic student using the Wilson Reading Program in 2nd-5th grade-3x’s weekly for 40-minute sessions in a group and 1x weekly for 30 minutes individually. The student knows all letter sounds, syllable types and can break words properly into syllables and read the majority of them in word lists. Nevertheless, he starts a word off properly in a reading a passage and then guesses a similar word. He often leaves out suffixes and moves or replaces letters in some word parts- pre for pro, com and con, and what for when. He doesn’t seem to recognize if he makes a mistake in a word. He is now in 7th grade and I am working with him again using the REWARDS program in a 1-1 setting. He says the sounds and word parts correctly in isolation. He resists scooping under the combined word parts to break them into syllables for reading. He wants to rush through the work. What can be done?

    1. Dyslexia Connect

      Hi, Cathy. Thanks for your question. Some students with dyslexia continue to fall back on guessing, even after they have become proficient at breaking down words and reading them. In this case, you probably will need to continue to remind him to stop guessing at words, and to apply his knowledge. This should eventually help him break the habit of guessing.

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