The nature of spelling difficulties in the primary years: Why one size may not fit all

The nature of spelling difficulties in the primary years: Why one size may not fit all

First Author: Danielle Colenbrander -- Macquarie University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Colin Davis; Jeffrey Bowers
Keywords: Spelling, Morphology, Individual Differences, Intervention
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Spelling is a complex skill, requiring knowledge of phonology, orthography and morphology. There is some evidence that aspects of spelling skill could be differentially impaired, resulting in different profiles of spelling difficulty – for example, poor nonword spelling in the context of intact irregular word spelling, or vice versa (Kohnen, Colenbrander, Krajenbrink & Nickels, 2015; Kohnen, Nickels, Coltheart & Brunsdon, 2008). However, the relationship between poor morphological spelling abilities and weak nonword and irregular word spelling has not yet been explored. Furthermore, children with different profiles of spelling difficulty might benefit from different types of intervention, but there is very little research exploring this possibility.
Method, results and conclusions: In April 2016, a large sample of over 1000 children aged 7 to 9 will be assessed on measures of nonword, irregular word and morphological spelling abilities. We will also assess spelling-related skills such as vocabulary, phonological and morphological awareness, orthographic knowledge, and reading ability. We will calculate the prevalence of different types of spelling skill and weakness within the sample. We will then determine which spelling-related skills are most closely associated with the different spelling profiles. In line with Kohnen et al (2015), we predict that a small proportion of the sample will have specific difficulties in either nonword or irregular word spelling. However, we predict that the majority of children with poor nonword or irregular word spelling skills will have co-occuring difficulties with morphological spelling. We will describe how we will use information about spelling profiles to track response to intervention in a large randomised controlled trial, and hence determine whether children with different profiles of spelling skill might benefit from different types of intervention.