Sunday, 3 January 2016

Spelling Disability

Even good readers may have difficulty spelling but for students with learning disabilities, mastery of spelling is an even greater challenge. Students with specific reading disability have significant difficulties with spelling and typically make much slower progress in spelling than in reading. Even though disabled spellers progress through the same early stages of spelling development as normal spellers, they progress at a much slower rate and may never achieve the highest levels of spelling skill. Spelling is a linguistic skill which depends upon sensitivity to the sounds of words (phonology) as well as to letter patterns (orthography) within words. It is important to note that orthographic memory is different from visual memory and poor spellers may perform quite well on traditional tests of visual memory and visual-spatial skills. Studies of poor spellers indicate that impaired readers make errors related to orthography, phonology, and morphology. The students who responded best to instruction were those who made fewer errors related to phonology and morphology. Research indicates no relationship between IQ and spelling skills.

Spelling instruction should be thoroughly integrated with word identification instruction rather than a separate process. For students with persistent reading and spelling difficulties, the sequence of spelling skills should be the same as for reading. Therefore, the best approach is to use materials for reading instruction which include spelling skills carefully coordinated with word identification. If using materials which do not include spelling, the teacher must carefully coordinate spelling instruction so that it matches the reading curriculum. Words to be spelled by encoding should be the same words that the student is taught for decoding. Irregular words for spelling should be those words which are needed to read the decodable texts that are used for practice of reading. Assessment of spelling skills can also be used to guide instruction for individual students. For example, students who are significantly more advanced in reading than spelling might be working on roots and prefixes for reading but require additional work in more basic spelling patterns. Careful and detailed assessments of spelling skills can provide guidance for the teacher in selecting areas for remedial instruction. Even with such students (more advanced in reading than spelling), the teacher should connect the spelling skills to reading. For example, consider a student who has not yet mastered the doubling rules for spelling but can read these words correctly. This student could be led to discover the rules that govern spelling through analysis of the words and then given systematic practice spelling these words. It is important for teachers (many of whom are intuitive spellers) to thoroughly understand the rules and patterns which govern spelling in English.