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J Commun Disord. 2012 May-Jun;45(3):212-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2012.01.003. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

Characteristics of early spelling of children with Specific Language Impairment.

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Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The present study investigated active grapheme knowledge and early spelling of 59 first grade children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Speed, nature, and knowledge transfer of spelling acquisition were taken into account. Four orthographic characteristics that influence early spelling, namely, 'Type of Grapheme', 'Grapheme Position', 'Number of Graphemes', and 'Word Structure' were examined at the middle and at the end of first grade. At the beginning of first grade when children were between 71 and 97 months, they performed well below national norms on assessment of active grapheme knowledge. The delay in word spelling persisted, but decreased between the middle and the end of first grade. Despite this delay, the findings suggest that characteristics of early spelling for children with SLI are rather similar to those of children with typical language development. For example, children with SLI represented more graphemes at the end of first grade than at the middle of first grade, found it easier to represent the initial grapheme in words than the final or medial grapheme (Grapheme Position), were more successful spelling shorter than longer words (Number of Graphemes), and spelled words with simple structures (CVC) more accurately than those with complex structures (CVCC and CCVC; Word Structure). Finally, participants demonstrated that they can use known graphemes to spell words, but the transfer between active grapheme knowledge and word spelling was not always stable.


As a result of this activity, readers will be able to explain the speed and the nature of spelling acquisition of children with SLI. As a result of this activity, readers will be able to explain what skills are most important for teachers to practice with children with SLI to improve the spelling skills of these children.

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