Developmental surface dyslexia and dysgraphia: an orthographic processing impairment

J R Hanley, K Hastie, J Kay
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. A, Human Experimental Psychology 1992, 44 (2): 285-319
This study presents a detailed investigation of a young man in his early twenties who has suffered from a severe spelling impairment since childhood, and currently has a spelling age of only 9 years and 2 months. In contrast with the developmental phonological dyslexics reported by Campbell and Butterworth (1985) and Funnell and Davison (1989), his performance on tests of phonological awareness is good. In addition, he can read and spell non-words competently and, unlike normal 9-year-old children, virtually all of his spelling errors are phonologically appropriate. Further analysis of these errors reveals that he has knowledge of many of the different ways in which a given phoneme can be written, and that he uses phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences at the end of a word that are different from those he uses earlier in a word. However, he finds it difficult to spell words that contain uncommon phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences, which is compatible with the view that he has not developed an orthographic spelling lexicon. Although his oral reading of words is prompt and generally accurate, analysis of his lexical decision performance and the way that he defines homophones indicate that he does not have fully specified lexical entries available for reading either. We suggest that he suffers from a general orthographic processing deficit, and relies instead upon the combination of sub-lexical phonology and a lexicon that contains only partial information about the way in which words are spelt. This leads to reasonably competent reading, even of many irregular words, but produces very poor spelling. It is argued that qualitatively different types of developmental dyslexia do genuinely exist, but that reading impairments are likely to be much more pronounced in children who have a phonological rather than an orthographic processing deficit.

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