Perceptual problems and letter learning in mentally retarded children
Kagan, Elliott Hal
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The study examined failures in letter differentiation by mentally retarded children as compared to normal children. Analyses were primarily qualitative with a focus on the kinds of specific mismatches and rotations children demonstrated on a letter matching task. The investigation was designed as a pilot study, exploratory in nature. The goal was to better understand letter differentiation failure by mentally retarded children with the hope that this understanding might result in approaches and strategies that could assist mentally retarded children with letter discrimination.;The evidence suggested that the mentally retarded children under study employed a systematic process of letter discrimination and selected similar letter features which formed the basis for indicating two letters as equivalent. This ability is an important "bottom line" requisite for discrimination. Nevertheless, many mentally retarded children had difficulty identifying those salient or distinctive features which make up a specific letter and distinguish one from the other. Additionally, the spatial orientation of the letters was sometimes salient and, at other times, it was ignored.;It was concluded that mentally retarded children who present letter discrimination difficulties must be taught to recognize the distinctive features of individual letters and the salience of spatial orientation. Teachers must directly point out such features and give feedback as to what shapes are and are not functionally equivalent.