Phonological awareness for literacy

What is phonological awareness?

Words consist of smaller parts i.e. syllables and sounds. Phonological awareness is the understanding of these elements. A very strong relationship exists between phonological awareness and the development of reading and spelling skills.

Children with phonological awareness difficulties may:

  • be confused about the difference between letters and sounds
  • have difficulty in recognising the same letters/sounds in different words
  • tend to have difficulty with sound-letter correspondence, especially for vowels
  • be slow at sounding out words when they read, and forget what they've sounded out before getting to the end of the word
  • guess words from the initial letter
  • have difficulty blending sounds together
  • alter the sound sequence, e.g. clamp > camalp
  • omit syllables when spelling, e.g. paradise > pardise
  • have difficulty identifying the sounds in consonant clusters, and omit or add letters when spelling, e.g., stamp > stap, cold > clold
  • omit or substitute vowels from multisyllabic words, e.g. beneath > bnith, orchestra > ochsta.

What is the Phonological Awareness for Literacy (PAL) Clinic?

The research based PAL program was developed by the University of Queensland and is run by speech pathology students under the supervision of a qualified Speech Pathologist. We have been running the PAL program since 2004, and it is run once a year.

The aims of the program at La Trobe are to:

  • Improve your child’s phonological awareness skills including identifying sounds in words, breaking up words into individual sounds, and combining sounds into words
  • Improve your child's ability to know which letters make which sounds
  • Help children to understand the relationship between phonological awareness skills, letter-sound knowledge, word reading and word spelling.


All children are invited to attend a pre-PAL program assessment which is held in February/March each year.

The assessment involves a number of tasks that assess your child’s knowledge of letter/sound links, phonological awareness and reading fluency. On completion of the assessment you are informed of the recommended PAL stage.

Your child will then be invited to attend the program based on their availability and the number of spaces available. Sessions are held on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday in May and run for 5 weeks.


The program involves 5 x 3-hour sessions across consecutive weeks (a total of 15 hours). Children normally commence with Stage 1, and depending on need may attend further blocks of intervention to continue through more advanced stages.

Stage 1: Simple words with regular spelling (2-3 sound words)

Stage 2: More complex words (i.e. those requiring advanced segmentation, blending and manipulation skills) with regular spelling

Stage 3: Reading and spelling of multisyllabic words where the spelling is not always regular. Rules for syllable breaking, and the addition of grammatical morphemes.

Therapy sessions are run by our student clinicians under the supervision of a qualified Speech Pathologist. Your child will work in a small group at their own pace through a mixture of group activities and one-to-one work.

Parents should note that the PAL program is not a comprehensive literacy program. It does not go beyond the word level and it targets very specific skills. These fundamental skills are essential for effective reading and spelling. Some children with literacy difficulties will already have the skillset targeted by PAL.


This program is recommended for children in Grades 2 – 6 with a specific reading disability i.e. unexpected reading difficulties in view of their other abilities.

It is not recommended for children with a significant language delay or disorder, moderate to severe visual or auditory impairment, intellectual disability, or behavioural problems. Children with a diagnosis of dyslexia are welcome to apply.

If we make you an offer, the Speech Pathologist will discuss preferences for session times. Please note that we are not always able to offer your preferred day and time option.

Phonological Awareness for Literacy Program Brochure [PDF 171.5KB]

Application forms

Please complete and return the following applications forms.  These forms must be completed before your referral is processed.

If you need any assistance, please call clinic reception on (03) 9479 1921 or email


Our fees are not refundable through Medicare or private health insurance. Concession is available on the presentation of a Health Care Card. Fees may be altered according to family income and individual circumstances. For other programs or group therapy, different fees will apply.

Other important information