Kaitlyn Johnston

Mentor: Dr. Lori Altmann
College of Public Health and Health Professions
"I got into research because I consider it a privilege to communicate, and I am fascinated by the intersection of science and language. I desire to discover more about human language so that others might be able to enjoy better communication abilities."


Communication Sciences and Disorders



Research Interests

  • Psycholinguistics
  • Spelling Deficits & Dyslexia
  • Working Memory

Academic Awards

  • Lombardi Scholar
  • Raudy Bearden National Community Speaking Award
  • National Spelling Bee Finalist
  • NCFCA nationally-ranked speaker and debater


  • Honors Ambassadors
  • National Student Speech Language Hearing Association
  • Florida Blue Key Speaker's Bureau


  • After School Gators Director
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher
  • IGNITE Speech & Debate Coach

Hobbies and Interests

  • Talking and giggling with friends
  • Eating black raspberry ice cream
  • Playing Ultimate Frisbee
  • Speaking in the community

Research Description

Spelling, Phonological Awareness, and Cognition

English has deep orthography which means there is not a one-to-one relationship between the sounds in spoken words and the letters used in written words. This makes writing English very difficult for people who are poor spellers. However, studies analyzing variation in spelling ability in the normal population are rare. Spelling deficits are more commonly studied in populations with reading disabilities. It has been well-documented that people with dyslexia have spelling and word reading deficits. Typically, both of these deficits are attributed to poor phonological awareness, which includes difficulties with the detection, comprehension, and manipulation of the sound structure of a language. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between spelling ability and various potential predictors of spelling ability, including phonological awareness, vocabulary, working memory, executive function and processing speed. The hypothesis suggests that variation in the spelling ability in the normal population may also be related to phonological awareness and/or word reading speed, which is also affected in dyslexia. An alternate hypothesis suggests that individual differences in spelling ability in the normal population may be related to working memory and cognitive performance, rather than phonological awareness. Establishing a clear connection between phonological awareness, working memory, and spelling deficits in normal readers would provide perspective on the nature of dyslexia and other related disorders, and may suggest new approaches to spelling interventions for both normal and disordered populations.