In the world of dyslexia, orthographic mapping is an important piece of understanding how reading works. Orthographic mapping is a term that educators use to describe the way that written words are etched into long-term memory and involves how the formation of letter-sound connections bond to the spellings, pronunciations, and meanings of specific words in memory. The term “orthographic mapping” helps to explain how children learn to read words by sight, to spell words from memory, and to acquire vocabulary words from print.
There are 3 main components of orthographic mapping: advanced phonemic awareness, letter-sound knowledge, and phonological long term memory. These all work together to help us produce a long-term memory of the words we learn.
Orthographic Mapping in People With Dyslexia
Orthographic mapping is often very difficult for people with dyslexia. This is because challenges in acquiring this mental word bank is at the heart of dysfluent and labored reading. When people with dyslexia cannot recognize words instantaneously, they must use other strategies to decode or figure out words, such as phonetic decoding or predictive strategies. While these strategies are effective, they are slower and more mistake-prone. In addition, when more time and effort are spent figuring out what each word is, the ability to comprehend a text is reduced. The person often loses track of what they are reading and go back to re-read sentences or passages. Reading becomes an exhausting and pain-staking process.
With appropriate intervention, people with dyslexia develop strong sight vocabularies and improved reading skills Explicit teaching of a differentiated set of tools is the key. Traditional approaches to instruction and/or tutoring often leave these needs unmet. Many teachers and tutors mistakenly believe that a dyslexic reader can follow the same sequence of transitioning from phonetic decoding to automatic word recognition that non-dyslexic learners, given enough time and repetition. However, a struggling dyslexic reader typically has challenges that are outside the scope of challenges with phonetic decoding or memory.