Phonological Processing

Phonological processing is an auditory processing skill.  It relates to words, but occurs in the absence of print.  It involves detecting and discriminating differences in phonemes or speech sounds under conditions of little or no distraction or distortion.

A student with phonological processing needs may have difficulty in one of many different detection or discrimination tasks involving speech sounds in words.  This might be manifested through errors in speech production or in misperception of spoken language.  In school, the student often has difficulty associating the speech sounds to letters when reading and spelling.


Key indicators of phonological processing needs relate to auditory detection, discrimination, and production tasks involving the sounds in words. The most direct indicators will be through the student’s speech production or auditory perception of words.  Indirect indicators will be through the student’s reading and written language:

Speech production errors, including:

  • Omitting a sound or sounds in spoken words
  • Speaking in an inconsistent speech pattern
  • Mispronouncing frequently-occurring words
  • Making articulation errors in speech
  • Have difficulty in producing rhyming words

Auditory perception errors:

  • Misperceiving a word to be a similar-sounding word to that which was spoken.

Reading and written language problems, including difficulties in:

  • Learning pre-literacy skills
  • Sounding out words as they read
  • Substituting words with the same initial letter when reading
  • Using inventive spelling beyond the early primary grades
  • Omitting vowels when spelling words


Direct instruction of phonics skills, based on the specific skill deficit, including:

  • Rhyming words
  • Breaking compound words into individual words and words into syllables
  • Identifying initial sounds on words
  • Identifying final sounds on words
  • Identifying medial sounds in words
  • Segmenting words into their component sound
  • Deleting sounds from words
  • Adding beginning sound to make phoneme blends
  • Substituting sounds within words
  • Sound blending


  • Preferential seating away from sources of noise
  • Reduce auditory distractions
  • Visual cuing of phonics skills through wall charts
  • Word walls based on phonics components


When assessing a student’s reading and written language skills, make sure that phonological processing deficits do not penalize the student when evaluating their knowledge.

  • Provide oral testing
  • Provide a personal dictionary to prompt sentence composition in written language
  • Use test formats of short answers, true/false, multiple choice, and other formats that require reduced written output
  • Read the questions aloud to the student to avoid misreading and misinterpretation