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A Great Reader, A Horrible Speller

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Noreen H. Joslyn, LISW, ACSW

Q: My third-grade daughter scored well above-average on 8 of her 9 Stanford scores, with 95 percent in Total Reading and 98 percent in Vocabulary. However, her spelling score was 57 percent, and she spells practically every other word she writes incorrectly. Her teachers don't seem to have an answer. My daughter was also tested for the gifted program , but didn't come close. Her score on the OSLAT was 111. When she's asked about her incorrectly spelled words, my daughter can tell you the correct spelling. Is she just lazy and careless?

A: You have come upon one of my hobbies -- spelling! I have found that working with kids on word origins, word structure, and sound -- and helping them get ready for spelling bees -- is a lot of fun.

One thing I have learned for sure: A person who is a good speller can "see" the word in their head as the brain transmits it from visual sight or listening. Good reading and vocabulary skills are an asset, too -- but your daughter already has those. I definitely do not associate spelling skill with giftedness.

What concerns me is that your daughter has high achievement scores, but seems to be having difficulty in the interpretation of word mechanics. With those percentiles, her overall achievement score should be at least 10 points higher. An undiagnosed learning disability could be the cause. Very bright kids can have a disability, but their other skills can "hide" the problem. I would seek out an educational evaluation for her. The testing you refer to is group-based; individual testing may give you some specific answers to her problem.

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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.


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