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Research report

Spelling abilities and dysorthography

A large number of French-speaking Québec children have significant difficulty writing in French, especially when it comes to spelling, a situation that clearly hinders their success in school. Learning to spell is particularly difficult for dyslexic/dysorthographic students, yet we have limited knowledge of the specific obstacles these children face, as very few studies have attempted to draw a detailed portrait of the spelling abilities of dyslexic individuals in Québec. This project endeavoured to address this gap.

The main findings indicated that the dyslexic students scored lower than the group.

A total of 32 dyslexic students with an average age of 11.4 took part in the project. They were compared to a group of 25 normally-achieving children matched on age (CA) and 24 younger normally-achieving children matched on reading age (RA). The participants were given a series of spelling tests.

The main findings indicated that the dyslexic students scored lower than the group matched on age (as expected), but also lower than the group matched on reading age; that grammatical spelling errors were dominant in all three groups; that phonological knowledge did not account for most of the errors; that lexical spelling mistakes could be explained by imprecise visuo-orthographic knowledge; that orthographic and metaorthographic abilities were linked and that only visuo-orthographic strategies were linked to spelling ability.

The conclusions of this study point to the benefits of modifying the educational program, updating teacher training, and revising classroom teaching practices to include the integration of word properties and the different procedures that aid in word processing. These changes must begin by raising the awareness of all stakeholders involved as to the importance of the properties - and in particular the visual properties - of words.


Main researcher: Daniel Daigle, Université de Montréal

Original title: Compétence orthographique et dysorthographie : rôles des procédures explicites

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