Children who can read and have good phonetic skills - the ability to recognise the individual sounds within words – may still be poor spellers, a study of primary school children has shown.
In a paper to be published in Cortex , Eglinton and Annett show that this subgroup of poor spellers is more likely to be right handed than other poor spellers. The findings support the right shift theory of handedness and cerebral dominance, which predicts that dyslexics with good phonology would be strongly right-handed.
Poor spellers in normal schools, who were not poor readers, were studied for handedness, visuospatial and other cognitive abilities in order to explore contrasts between poor spellers with and without good phonology. It was predicted by the right shift (RS) theory of handedness and cerebral dominance that those with good phonology would have strong bias to dextrality and relative weakness of the right hemisphere, while those without good phonology would have reduced bias to dextrality and relative weakness of the left hemisphere.
Poor spellers with good phonetic equivalent spelling errors (GFEs) included fewer left-handers (2.4%) than poor spellers without GFEs (24.4%). Differences for hand skill were as predicted. Tests of visuospatial processing found no differences between the groups in levels of ability, but there was a marked difference in pattern of correlations between visuospatial test scores and homophonic word discrimination. Whereas good spellers (GS) and poor spellers without GFEs showed positive correlations between word discrimination and visuospatial ability, there were no significant correlations for poor spellers with GFEs.
The differences for handedness and possibly for the utilisation of visuospatial skills suggest that surface dyslexics differ from phonological dyslexics in cerebral specialisation and perhaps in the quality of inter-hemispheric relations.
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