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New research to help children with spelling difficulties

Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) will be able to benefit from new support with their literacy skills after Nottingham Trent University was awarded £118,000 from the Leverhulme Trust.

Children reading
Children learning to read
Children reading

Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) will be able to benefit from new support with their literacy skills after Nottingham Trent University was awarded £118,000 from the Leverhulme Trust.

The grant will fund a new research project to provide insight into the spelling skills of children with spoken language impairments, known as DLD. The disorder is characterised by difficulties with speech production, comprehension and spoken grammar.

Not only do children with the disorder have difficulties understanding and expressing spoken language but even after support and intervention to help them overcome these difficulties, they can still face challenges in skills such as reading, writing and spelling.

Through feedback from specialist teachers, speech and language therapists and teaching assistants, the research team has established that current spelling intervention resources used for children with spoken language difficulties tend to be drawn from the mainstream curriculum. This means that practitioners need to tailor resources, the majority of which are phonics-based, specifically to the needs of children with spoken language impairments.

Using a range of language and literacy measures to examine the knowledge and strategies children with DLD draw upon to spell unfamiliar words, the research will explore how orthographic training (how letters are written) can complement phonics-based skills.

The team will also bring together speech and language support communities with face-to-face and online events throughout the duration of the project.

Dr Rebecca Larkin, the project lead at NTU’s Department of Psychology, said: “There is overwhelming evidence of the value in using the current phonics-based approach to early literacy instruction, yet there is still significant concern over the number of children in the UK with poor reading, writing and spelling skills. Being able to communicate in a written form is crucial to our ability to express ourselves and accurate spelling is an important foundation skill.

“This study will prompt debate over ‘what works’ beyond phonics for children learning to spell and seeks to pilot a new programme which helps educators to improve the spelling skills of children with DLD.”

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards, and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    NTU has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities. With 30,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings. 96% of its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    Our student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 88% satisfaction score in the 2018 National Student Satisfaction Survey. 
    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of over 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook

Published on 18 February 2019
  • Subject area: Psychology, sociology, health and social care
  • Category: Press office; School of Social Sciences