A cognitive analysis of reading, spelling and memory impairments in children with literacy disorders

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The 11 experiments reported in this thesis are concerned with 3 main areas of investigation addressing cognitive processes in children with reading and spelling difficulties. These are 4 main experiments which utilise a variety of reading tasks designed to address the nature of the poor reader groups' approach to single word identification. Evidence of intact phonological reading strategies were found on certain reading tasks, but not on others. Thus support was found both for the hypothesis that poor readers can employ a non-lexical strategy effectively, and for the hypothesis that they are impaired at relying upon this strategy. Two experiments explore the poor readers spelling strategies in terms of their phonological demands. Phonemic segmentation difficulties were found and it was argued that such difficulties may be causally related to the spelling retardation. Four experiments also examined the memory codes used by these groups; evidence of normal phonological coding in working memory, but not longer-term recognition memory was found. Finally, 2 case studies were conducted dealing with reading, spelling and orthographic segmentation ability. Both cases were found to exhibit very clear signs of phonological impairments across a wide range of tasks, and were to different extents less capable than controls at orthographic segmentation. It is concluded that most poor readers suffer from a mild phonological deficit, and that a much smaller proportion have more severe phonological dysfunctions. However, whether such difficulties are detected will partly depend upon the nature of the task used to interrogate the efficiency of the underlying mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
Publication statusPublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


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