Nonsense Words and Dyslexia

Nonsense words are made-up words which allows for dyslexics to improve their decoding skills.   Non-impaired readers can read nonsense words because of their phonological decoding ability.   Some examples of some nonsense words are za, din, rejune, and byrcal.  Non-impaired readers can sound out these kinds of words because they can decode the sounds.

According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, “The best ability to read nonsense words is the best measure of phonological decoding skill in children.  The reader literally has to penetrate the sound structure of the word and sound it out, phoneme by phoneme; there is no other way.” (Overcoming Dyslexia, Dr. Shaywitz, 2003, p. 133-134)  These nonsense words have not been seen before or memorized.  Dyslexics cannot hide behind the words, guessing, and hoping they are right.  They either have the decoding skills necessary or they do not.

Not only are nonsense words used in diagnosing dyslexia, they are also used in teaching reading to dyslexics.  They are used to eliminate guessing; there is no way to guess a nonsense word.  If a student cannot guess the word, they have to use their decoding skills. These words help them to focus on sounding words out from left to right.  Using nonsense words help retrain the dyslexic’s brain and get them back on track with their phonological decoding.

Teaching students to decode pseudo words or nonsense words is one of the reasons our software is so effective at improving reading fluency. We teach fluent, automatic decoding skills using  seven different types of nonsense words:

  1. cv/vc  examples : ze, ba, da, ux

  2. cvc examples: zip , piz, pux, bax

  3. cvcv examples: zune, pupe, dode, bode

  4. cvcc examples: zemp, bilt, rult, vish,

  5. ccvc examples:  zlit, plon, druf, clep

  6. cvvc group 1 examples: zeen, beaz, heek, toam,

  7. cvvc group 2 examples: zaut, beup, foud, gooz

The student learns to automatically decode these letter patterns in both our visual match and auditory-visual match decoding lessons. We explain to our students that the key to rapidly and automatically decoding multisyllabic words is to know these pseudo words. Words like homogenous, surreptitious, and automaticity  are all made up of pseudo nonsense words.

When decoding becomes automatic, comprehension soars.

visual match