8 Performance in Reading and Spelling of 30 Students with Disabilities: Preliminary Analyses

Danielo Saint-Cyr


When students are positively and effectively influenced in a learning environment, good results are achieved. These students develop, thrive, and succeed, even if they have problems related to physical or mental disabilities. Their accommodations determine their success and allow them to progress. This article analyzes teacher practices in relation to reading and spelling performance of a group of 30 students in AF2 and AF3, enrolled in four schools in Beaumont and Roseaux. The aim of this article is to show the impacts of teacher practices and the school setting. The cases were extracted from a database collected as part of the project that GIECLAT is carrying out on disability in schools.

Keywords: disorder, reading, orthography, pedagogical practice, student, teacher

Lè  yon elèv ap aprann nan yon anviwonnman ak yon bon kontèks, elèv sa a toujou pwogrese, epanwi ak reyisi menmsi li ta gen pwoblèm defisyans fizik oswa mantal. Pwogrè ak reyisit yon elèv gen pou l wè ak kondisyon li ap evolye ak sa yo ba li. Atik sa a  analize degre responsabilite pratik  anseyan yo genyen sou  randman  lekti ak òtograf  yon group elèv ki nan klas AF2 ak AF3, nan 4 lekòl nan komin Beaumont ak Roseaux. Enfomasyon sa yo soti nan baz done pwojè GIECLAT ap reyalize sou kesyon andikap nan lekòl yo.

Mo-kle : twoub, lekti, òtograf, pratik pedagojik, elèv, anseyan.


Many children who are visibly unaffected by apparent deficits such as motor, sensory, relationship or developmental disorders, or intellectual disabilities, have difficulty grasping, constructing and then exercising certain major human and cognitive functions (Crunelle, 2008). Among other things, these difficulties manifest through major obstacles in mastering the oral and written language (Le Capitaine, 2016). Given the causal relationship between these obstacles, failure and dropping out of school, the difficulties resulting from these deficiencies concern everyone, whatever their impact on the child: parent, caregiver, educator, teacher, psychologist and researcher[1].

The study of specific learning difficulties remains very important from a social, therapeutic and scientific point of view. According to Vereecken (2010), investigating these difficulties goes beyond practical problems and provides valuable insights into the major problems of mental life. Reading and spelling touch on all aspects of learning and life, thus are fundamental for learners, and require the commitment of teachers through their different pedagogical approaches aimed at mobilizing, raising awareness and stimulating the involvement and level of understanding of the various subjects. In this sense, this article aims to examine the reading and spelling performance of students in relation to teachers’ pedagogical practices through data collected from four schools in the communes of Beaumont and Roseaux, in the department of Grand’Anse d’Haïti.


Observation was used as a tool to identify students with signs of impairment. We then used two tests to confirm our initial observations. The first was the evaluation grid of the L’Alouette-R, a reading test developed by Pierre Lefavrais[2]. This test is calibrated on children from six to 16 years old and from  grades 1 to 12. Its purpose is to give an indication of reading speed. An indicator takes into account both the reading time and the number of errors. A qualitative analysis of the types of errors provides additional information that helps to determine the dominant reading strategy and thus to better guide rehabilitation.

The second tool is the BALE (Batterie Analytique du Langage Écrit) which was developed by M. Jacquier-Roux, C. Lequette, G. Pouget, S. Valdois and M. Zorman and published in 2010. The BALE word dictation test, consisting of five lists of ten words, is an exercise done by the student with the aim of identifying possible spelling errors.

The population selected for this work was sorted by direct observation in four public schools in the Grand’Anse department after obtaining the consent of the principals and teachers concerned. We selected students aged six to 15 years old suspected of having a disability related to reading and spelling problems. These were students at the basic level, mainly those in grades two and three. As an investigator, our work was done in relation to a consent and ethics protocol which we co-signed with GIECLAT.

Theoretical framework

This study of pedagogical practices and performance in reading and spelling follows the socio-constructivist learning theory developed by Vygotski (1934/1962), whose strengths and theoretical impacts are highlighted in this paragraph. This theory sets out the positive impact of student-student and student-teacher interactions on the learning process. Interactions between students produce in them (especially those with disabilities) the ability to understand and construct knowledge, by solving socio-cognitive problems. Through dialogue, a collaborative spirit, mutual aid, cooperation between students with a willing and well-applied teacher, the elements of impaired cognitive ability can be disaggregated. Lavoie and Levesque (2007) talk about the principle of teacher mediation, interacting with the student to accompany him/her in learning. This is a strong point of the socio-constructivist approach, treating existing tendencies as an important element of student academic achievement. Small classes yield better results than a large class size.

Reading disorders

Of the 30 students observed and tested, 23, or 77%, had a serious reading disorder, while seven, or 23%, had a moderate reading disorder. The Alouette-R (o-u-e-i-a and le-la-les-un-dans-des-do-ti-pu-mi) test is administered for a period of three minutes to each student. Well before giving the text to be read to students, they were allowed to identify the vowels alone, and the vowels and consonants making up the syllables, and then they read the 15 vowels and syllables below the text itself. The hypothesis is that a student who is not able to read at least 14 out of the 15 vowels and consonants proposed properly is also unable to read the text and is therefore considered to have great difficulty reading. For example, of the 17 students in the 2nd grade of AF taking the test, only three read seven out of the 15 vowels and consonants that form the basic syllables. The syllables (a kind of fundamental phonetic unit between the phoneme and the word) that they could not read are: mi, dans, un, des, ti, pu, do, while the 14 students in 2nd grade could only read four out of the 15 units, and those that they could not read were: u -le – la – les – un – dans – des – do – ti – pu – mi.

Of the 13 students in grade 3 AF who took the test, seven were able to read eight of the 15 vowels and syllables. These are: les – un – dans – des – do – ti – pu – mi. The other six students did not do any better than those nine. Therefore, we find that none of the students managed to read correctly the vowels and syllables considered as prerequisites for reading the test text. In addition to this, in administering the Alouette-R test, we found that the students had difficulty with the rhythm and speed of reading. Problems of inattention (distraction), shyness (hand in mouth, eyes up, down, everywhere), memory problems (after reading a word, if it appears again, the word is read differently), problems understanding instructions (behavioral problems), etc. were noted.

Most of the teachers participating in the research were not concerned about the warning signs of dyslexia, and incapable of offering a thorough diagnosis and management plan. There are two reasons for this:

  • the pedagogical practices applied do not take into account the needs of students in such as way as to identify those with a disability. Research shows that pedagogical practices have a major influence on the development of skills and knowledge among students in order to lead them to success in their learning. However, if these practices are flawed and do not take into account all students, they may contribute to further aggravating the shortcomings and disorders of students. We demonstrated above the risk incurred by students because of teaching practices that are not adapted to the realities of the classroom and those of individual students. This situation makes it necessary to renovate in this area. Thus, opting for the socio-constructivist approach (Vygotski, 1934/1962) as a pedagogical practice with suitable teachers would make a major contribution to student development and language learning, since this approach favours collaboration, cooperation and co-construction of knowledge for the resolution of socio-cognitive conflicts. Through this approach, the isolated student will be noticed and integrated in one way or another;
  • the large number of students, especially in an atmosphere unfavourable to unqualified teachers. Students in small classes (up to eight pupils) make more progress than those in larger classes. The observations we made were in overcrowded classes, student performance can only stay at that level while overcrowded classrooms persist.

Spelling disorders

All the 30 students (2nd AF and 3rd AF) experienced spelling problems when administered the Alouette-R test. Twenty-four, or 80%, had very serious difficulties in written language, while six, or 20%, had serious difficulties in this area.

In addition to the Alouette-R test, which allowed us to collect the above-mentioned data, we also administered the BALE (Batterie Analytique du Langage Écrit) in order to better understand the students’ grasp of spelling . After the test, we saw that all  students in 2nd grade and 13 in 3rd grade had spelling difficulties. Of the 17 in 2nd grade, 15 had serious difficulties and two had moderate difficulties, and of the 13 in 3rd grade, nine had serious difficulties and four had moderate difficulties.

The data presented and analyzed show that all the students concerned have some cognitive deficit leading to spelling and reading difficulties. The writing of these students is illegible and incomprehensible. This observation gave us an idea of the teachers’ teaching practices.  The students did not get the help and assistance they needed in class. In addition, there are problems with reading materials and language shortcomings.

Example of dictated words using BALE for students AF2 et de AF3

Un ballon

Gros (“un gros ballon”)

Le jeudi

Trois (“J’ai trois stylos”)

Six (“Il y en a six.”)

Un feu


Douze (“Elle a douze ans.”)

Le lundi

Une nuit

Examples from students taking the BALE test

Figure 1: text written by a student in AF2.
Figure 2: text written by a student in AF3.
The two images above give a sense of the spelling and writing deficiency of these students. Their handwriting is illegible and incomprehensible, the words are misspelled and letters are formed with broken lines.

The students have difficulty reading and spelling. Solving these problems in the school environment can only be effective when social interaction and support measures are implemented (Laroui, 2014).

Pedagogical practices

Concerning impairments in general and the issue of learning difficulties in reading and spelling in particular, school leaders, including teachers, should adopt more flexible teaching styles capable of being adapted to different student needs in order to help students confronted with this type of problem. It is evident that the style of instruction used by teachers is the major element needed to fulfill the needs of students, but it can also aggravate the disorder if the teaching/learning process contains weaknesses. Unspecialized and unqualified teachers are faced with two categories of students – children with and without disabilities – in a setting of bilingualism that is not easy for the students. Teachers must adopt a pedagogical style that favours the development of all students in the emotional, intellectual and moral dimensions.


Disability as a physical, sensorimotor, psychological or mental disadvantage is emphasized by the lack of necessary means and the attitudes of others. In fact, as we have seen, misrepresentations, discrimination and prejudice are obstacles to the integration of students with disabilities in the current educational context. Difficulties arise from poor pedagogical interventions, and unfavorable accommodation structures which further weaken learning disabilities. For example, unqualified and non-specialized teachers are unable to teach well because no effective planning system has been put in place.


Crunelle, Dominique, (2008), “Les DYS… dyslexies et autres troubles”, Troubles du langage et apprentissages, no, 49, pp. 49-58.

Laroui, Rakia et al., (2014), “Des pratiques pédagogiques de l’enseignement du lire/écrire, déclarées par des enseignantes du primaire”, Éducation et socialisation, no. 35.

Lavoie, Nathalie et al., (2007), “Interactions entre élèves de première année du primaire dans des situations d’écriture”, pp. 185-193, J.-P. Gaté et C. Gaux (dir.), Lire-écrire, de l’enfance à l’âge adulte, Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes.

Le Capitaine, Jean-Yves, (2016), “Les “dys” relèvent-ils d’une éducation spécialisée?”, Revue Empan, no. 101, pp. 29-34.

Vereecken, Pierre, (2010), “L’étude psychanalytique de la dyslexie et de la dysorthographie”, Psychiatrie de l’enfant, volume 53, pp. 211-254.

Vygotski, S. Lev, (1934/1962), Thought and Language, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1962 (en russe, 1934).


  1. I thank Professor Samuel Regulus profoundly for his help and for providing significant feedback. His suggestions and remarks were crucially useful.
  2. The first edition of the test was published in 1965. A revised version was published in 2005.


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Disabilities in Haitian Schools by Danielo Saint-Cyr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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