Authors: Robin van Rijthoven, Tijs Kleemans, Eliane Segers & Ludo Verhoeven.

Article: Semantics impacts response to phonics through spelling intervention in children with dyslexia.

Publication: Annals of Dyslexia (Springer). Published: 22 June 2021 2021 | DOI: 10.1007/s11881-021-00233-1

[Full Text]


We examined the response to a phonics through spelling intervention in 52 children with dyslexia by analyzing their phonological, morphological, and orthographical spelling errors both before and after the intervention whereas their spelling errors before the intervention were compared with those of 105 typically developing spellers. A possible compensatory role of semantics on the intervention effects was also investigated. Results showed that before the intervention, children with dyslexia and the typically developing children both made most morphological errors, followed by orthographic and phonological errors. Within each category, children with dyslexia made more errors than the typically developing children, with differences being largest for phonological errors. Children with dyslexia with better developed semantic representations turned out to make less phonological, morphological, and orthographic errors compared with children with dyslexia with less developed semantic representations. The intervention for children with dyslexia led to a reduction of all error types, mostly of the orthographic errors. In addition, semantics was related to the decline in phonological, morphological, and orthographic spelling errors. This study implicates that semantic stimulation could benefit the spelling development of children at risk for or with dyslexia.

Tagged as: semantic processing, spelling, and word meaning


van Rijthoven, R., Kleemans, T., Segers, E. et al. Semantics impacts response to phonics through spelling intervention in children with dyslexia. Ann. of Dyslexia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-021-00233-1

Excerpts from Full Text / Notes:

“…we found that for children with dyslexia, phonological, morphological, and orthographic errors were negatively associated with their level of semantics…. We showed that semantics is not only important for reading …,  but for phonological and orthographic spelling as well. This is in line with the connectionist model of Plaut et al. (1996) in which literacy development was described in terms of a division of labor between interacting phonological and semantic pathways. Variation in both phonological and semantic processing could be related to individual differences in literacy development, whereas children with dyslexia rely on contributions from the semantic pathway because of their poorly developed phonological pathway.”

“Semantics influence the spelling development over time and together with the above-mentioned findings, this leads to the conclusion that children with better semantics do not only perform better in spelling in general but gain more during a phonics through spelling intervention as well.”


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