Spelling of Pseudowords and Real Words in Dutch-Speaking Children With and Without Dyslexia

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The purpose of this study was to explore the spelling knowledge and skills of elementary school children with and without dyslexia who speak Dutch, a language with a relatively transparent orthography. Children in Grades 2–6 completed real and pseudoword spelling dictation tasks. Spelling performance was compared in 218 children with (n = 55) and without (n = 163) dyslexia. There was a medium effect size for morphological, phonological, combined, and etymological spelling skills for differences between students with and without dyslexia. In addition, spelling real words resulted in medium effect sizes, whereas spelling pseudowords resulted in small effect sizes. Children without dyslexia performed above the mean for the entire sample in Grade 4, whereas same-age peers with dyslexia did so 2 years later. Even so, Dutch-speaking children with dyslexia continued to have difficulty spelling words requiring phonological skills and spelling pseudowords even up to Grade 6. Clinicians are encouraged to be aware of the importance of the choice of spelling items in the assessment of dyslexia. The use of pseudowords appears to be helpful in older children to identify spelling problems.

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