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A Message from Rory's Mum.

When our eldest son was in Grade 3 he was diagnosed with dyslexia. Unfortunately by then the damage was done, his reading age was assessed as being below the age of six (he was 8.5 at the time). The most heart-breaking part of his journey was the devastating effect it had on his self-esteem.

The psychologist at the time introduced me to the Speech Sound Pics SSP approach, which turned out to be life-changing! Under Miss Emma's guidance, we cleared the slate and started his journey again at home after school. He warmed very quickly to the approach and in just five weeks he had increased six reading levels. I am extremely proud to announce that he is now in Grade 6 and reading at grade level!! In fact, he is doing so well that in his LP meeting recently I was questioned whether he even had a learning disability.

This brings us to Rory, our youngest. From a young age, he showed signs of possessing the same strengths and weaknesses as his older brother. Not willing to sit back and watch him suffer the same fate we jumped at the chance to be part of the ICRWY 'Monster Mapping' pilot, he was two months shy of his fifth birthday at the time.

Now at six, he is doing so well, this video is proof of that. This is Rory reading his home reader to me. So proud and so very grateful for Miss Emma and her innovative ideas and approach.


Wiring Dyslexic Brains for Orthographic Knowledge

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects learning abilities, specifically in the areas of reading, spelling, and writing. This learning disability stems from difficulties in phonological processing, the ability to discern and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in words. These challenges are not confined to any specific educational context and are recognised globally.

Key research by Simos et al. has provided valuable insights into intervention and our understanding of dyslexia. Their studies reveal that with targeted and specific intervention focusing on phonemic awareness and the mapping of phonemes and graphemes, there can be a significant improvement in the brain function of dyslexic students. Remarkably, post-intervention brain scans of these students have shown patterns of brain activity that are similar to those of individuals without dyslexia. This finding suggests that the right educational strategies and interventions can not only aid in overcoming learning difficulties associated with dyslexia but offer students the opportunity to decode and encode words without the same struggles they experienced previously. As less working memory is needed, this frees up 'space' to focus on what the words mean! 


There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river.

We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

― Desmond Tutu

A note about picture embedded mnemonics for dyslexic learners

In our ongoing quest to embrace the most effective teaching strategies for children at risk of dyslexia, we've identified a crucial area for attention: the use of picture embedded mnemonics. Creative and engaging they may be, but this method poses significant challenges for learners struggling with phoneme recognition.

For children at risk of dyslexia, the primary focus should be on phonemic awareness, without the added complexity of linking sounds to specific images and words. The dual requirement of remembering the word and its associated sound can lead to confusion. This is particularly true when a child might forget the word, the sound, or encounter difficulties in articulation. Moreover, the task of memorising and later dissociating these images from their sounds, especially when they don't correspond, can be daunting. The practice of associating the sound /a/ with 'apple' or 'ant', for example, becomes problematic with words like "any", "was", "father", or "village", where the expected sound and the mnemonic don't align.

Given these considerations, we advise against the use of picture embedded mnemonics for children at risk of dyslexia. Our aim is to lessen the cognitive load on these learners, concentrating on fostering clear and direct phonemic awareness. This strategy simplifies the learning process, facilitating a more efficient and effective development of reading skills.

As an alternative, we champion the use of embedded phoneme characters. This method simplifies learning by consistently associating each phoneme with a character that accurately represents its sound value. Such a strategy diminishes cognitive load, enabling immediate recognition of phonemes, independent of the graphemes they're associated with.

Embedded phoneme characters provide a straightforward way for children to grasp phonemic sounds, rendering the reading process more intuitive. Adopting this method can lay a robust foundation in phonemic awareness and reading skills, leading to a more positive and fruitful learning experience.


For those exploring effective support strategies for children at risk of dyslexia, this approach is worth considering. It promises to transform learners into confident, proficient readers, reducing frustration and confusion along the way.

Instead of this

...try this

Presenting new material in a way that helps students see relationships between concepts generates greater brain cell activity and achieves more successful long-term memory storage and retrieval (Sprenger, 2021) Two year old Avery understand this introduction of homophones, and would be totally lost if presented with the information on the left.  

You will need these 2 resources to work with older children (especially if dyslexic) along with the Monster Sounds (SSP Spelling Piano app for tablets) and the Map and Drag Tool.
Keep it simple, and start by mapping words: start with their name.  

Parent? Join and ask about the next 4 week online support group where Miss Emma finds out your 7 - 12 year old child's starting point, and tells YOU what to do at home to overcome the code mapping blocks, and accelerate their learning. The 4 week support is so that YOU know how to help them. Suitable for anyone who is a skilled reader (no teaching qualifications required)

Ask about The Toddler Project. Come to the 1,2,3 and Away workshops: support is suitable for parents and carers of children aged 18 months +. We wire their brains for mapping BEFORE they start school: We Don't Wait.

SpLD tutor?

Even within the Level 1 Ortho-Graphic Award, you will learn strategies to help dyslexic learners overcome difficulties with phonemic awareness, thereby enabling them to develop orthographic awareness more easily. Understanding graphemes can be challenging if learners are unable to discern the phonemes they correspond to; however, it can be easier to figure out words when they are written on a page, as spelling poses a significant challenge. Teach learners to use 'Duck Hands', 'Speech Sound Lines', and 'Speech Sound Numbers', and to utilise the Orthographic Mapping Tool for checking grapheme segmentation.

Although the Ortho-Graphix® phoneme characters are primarily used for speech therapy with toddlers, we are training parents of toddlers to use Ortho-Graphix® for super early dyslexia screening (and intervention) at home.

**Exciting news! Innovate UK is funding Emma Hartnell-Baker to develop an application for non-speaking autistic children, within an innovative new ICSWY (Communicating My Way) AAC device.**

If you are interested in early identification and intervention for speech, language, and literacy, with the aim of meeting the needs of all neurotypes early on—because we don't wait—please connect with me. Let's engage in discussions about offering something different to better support those who think and learn differently. As a neurodivergent parent and teacher, I am eager to share my work in the UK.

Thank you to 2-year-old Avery and his Mummy for demonstrating how he maps out a spoken word in phonemes, using the Spelling Piano app for ipads. We are avoiding any 'delay' in his learning! (IPA: dɪˈleɪ) His reaction shows how much he loves Speech Sound Mapping: engagement is such an important element of early learning!

'Miss Emma'

aka The Duck Hands® Lady
#dyslexiaawareness #speechsoundmapping #orthographix #dyslexiascreening

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