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Arnold School of Public Health


Contributions of Linguistic Knowledge to Spelling in Elementary School Children with Specific Language Impairment

Historically, spelling has been considered an academic skill that relies primarily on visual memory. Recent research indicates that spelling skill is also dependent on linguistic knowledge. However, the contribution of linguistic knowledge to spelling skill is not well understood.

The purpose of Study 1 in this investigation was to explore systematically the relation of phonological processing, morphological knowledge, and orthographic knowledge to spelling performance independent of visual memory in elementary school children. After controlling for age, nonverbal intelligence, articulation, and visual memory, orthographic knowledge and morphological knowledge contributed unique variance to spelling performance for children with typical language.

To understand the nature of spelling difficulties in children with SLI, it is important to elucidate the areas of linguistic knowledge that influence children’s spelling. The purpose of Study 2 in this investigation was to (a) to evaluate the contribution of linguistic knowledge to spelling in children with SLI and (b) to compare the linguistic knowledge predictors of spelling by children with SLI to those of children with typical language.

After controlling for age, nonverbal intelligence, articulation, and visual memory, only morphological knowledge contributed unique variance to spelling performance of children with SLI; the contributions of phonological processing and orthographic knowledge were not statistically significant. Interaction effects of linguistic variables and language group status were not statistically significant, although examination of the individual models for children with SLI and children with typical language revealed differences in the types of knowledge that predicted spelling in each group.

The results indicate that spelling instruction should take into account children’s linguistic knowledge and explicitly relate their linguistic knowledge to spelling and that it likely is necessary to teach spelling to children with language impairment using approaches that may differ in some ways from those used to teach children with typical language.

PUBLICATIONS FROM THIS STUDY

Presentations
Werfel, K.L., & Schuele, C.M. (2012, November). Contribution of linguistic knowledge to spelling performance in elementary school children with and without language impairment. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Atlanta, GA.