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Research report

A screening tool for spelling disorders

One of the basic concepts in linguistics and speech therapy is that oral language skills are the foundation of reading and writing. We have developed a screening tool for writing difficulties that has a unique advantage over other existing tools in that it is based on the cognitive-linguistic underpinnings of spelling and uses a multidisciplinary approach.

We have developed a screening tool for writing difficulties that has a unique advantage.

The tool is fun, easy to administer and can be used by teachers, special educators and speech-language pathologists in the school environment. The screening test can identify weaknesses in the oral language skills of grade one students by means of four tasks implemented on a digital tablet (naming pictures, speech recognition, rhyme recognition and verb production). Observed weaknesses are related to future difficulties with the acquisition of written language skills such as phoneme-grapheme correspondences, lexical development or grammar.

This tool will help teachers to identify those children most at risk of having writing difficulties before they begin to learn to write and spell (and before their written work can be evaluated). Phophlo is aimed at young francophone children attending school in Québec, has been normalized and validated in Québec French and tested in classrooms with native and non-native French speaking children. Early identification could improve oral language skills and prevent future writing difficulties through the use of appropriate interventions during first grade.


Main researcher: Susan Rvachew, McGill University

Original title: Développement d'un outil de dépistage de la dysorthographie basé sur des compétences multiples du langage oral : un nouvel outil normalisé et validé pour le français québécois

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