Phonetic/Visual Substitution – Part 2

Take a look again at Part 1, titled “If You See K“, and you’ll notice several good comments at the end of the blog. Linda Sanet pointed out that the type of substitution of one letter for another that has the same sound can be seen with the Hart Chart, and Karla Svoboda pointed out that this can even occur with numbers that have the same beginning phonetic sound as the letter when using a mixed chart of #s and letters.

My premise in Part 1 was that single letter phonetic substitution occurs more commonly children who are struggling readers. I gave examples of “s” for “c”, where the “s” has the soft “c” sound. Or “c” for “k” because the “c” can take on the hard “k” sound. There appears to be errant cross-talk between the visual system in the graphic representation of the letter, and the language system in the phonetic representation of the letter.

As many of you know, I have a specialized practice in Lakewood, New Jersey, where I primarily see Orthodox Jewish children, most of whom are struggling with learning and specifically with reading. The majority of these children become proficient with the Hebrew alphabet before English, and when they struggle with reading in English we see the type of substitution described above on the Snellen Chart or Hart Chart. However, when they struggle more with Hebrew reading than English, the substitution occurs more with Hebrew letters.

In the example above, the Hebrew letter circled to your right is pronounced “vays” (rhymes with ways), and has the same initial sound as the letter to its left which is pronounced “vuv” (rhymes with love). The children who are struggling readers will randomly interchange those two letters, which clearly is not a blur factor because the two letters look nothing alike. (The same can occur in swapping a “aleph” for an “ayin”, a “samach” for a “sin”, or a “tet” for a “tuff” – all of which are phonetic/visual substitutions.)

As Curt Baxstrom speculated in his comments at the end of Part 1, this may occur due to an overdose of phonics methodologies to reading with a de-emphasis on the visual. As with English letter phonetic/visual substitutions, the Hebrew letter phonetic/visual substitutions tend to increase as print size gets smaller and the page gets busier. This has more to do with visual processing rather than conventional blur factors, yet may be responsive to appropriate lenses or prism that reduces visual stress. Specifically this would be plus lenses which decrease the crowding effect, and/or appropriate prism that stabilizes print.

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