Beyond spelling: the writing skills of students with dyslexia in higher education
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To have a clearer idea of the problems students with dyslexia may face during their studies, we compared writings of 100 students with dyslexia and 100 age matched control students in higher education. The aim of this study was to compare the writing of young adults with dyslexia and young adults without dyslexia. The study was carried out in Belgium with writers of Dutch. First, we studied the number and type of spelling errors, the quality of the texts produced, the use of words, and the handwriting, both in a précis writing task (writing a summary of an informative text) and in a dictation task (sentence writing). Our results showed medium to large effect sizes for spelling errors: d = 0.93 for morphosyntactic spelling errors, d = 0.55 for memory-related spelling errors, and a medium effect size for punctuation and capitalization errors, d = 0.40. Second, experts who were blind to the aims of the study were asked to judge the quality of the writing of both groups based on transcriptions that were free from spelling errors. The quality of the texts produced was judged lower for students with dyslexia than for the controls, d = 0.61 for text structure and d = 0.56 for agreeability, even though the number and types of words used by both groups were very much the same. There was no significant difference in the quality of the handwriting, d = 0.15. Given that remedial teaching has been shown to be effective for essay-writing skills, educational support along these lines may be helpful for students with dyslexia.
KeywordsAdult dyslexia Dictation Précis writing Spelling Writing
This study was made possible by an Odysseus Grant awarded by the Government of Flanders to MB. The authors thank Valérie Van Hees and Charlotte De Lange from Cursief for their help in the study and the recruitment of participants. They also thank Joke Lauwers for her assistance in testing the participants, and Annemie Desoete and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
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