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How to Utilize the Orton-Gillingham Approach to Teach Reading to Students with Dyslexia

Is Orton-Gillingham an effective program for dyslexia? Find out more about how it works in this research-based article.

What is the Orton-Gillingham approach?

Orton-Gillingham is an instructional approach mainly intended for use with individuals who have difficulty with reading, spelling, and writing associated with dyslexia.

Dyslexia makes it difficult for a person to connect sounds to letters and/or blend combinations of letters quickly and fluently in reading.

Dyslexia can affect phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear and separate the smallest sounds in a word, making spelling and sounding out words difficult. 

Some people think that dyslexia is seeing letters reversed in words. In actuality, dyslexia is difficulty manipulating sounds in words.

Dyslexia is not related to the location of where one sees words, letters, or numbers on a page.

The video below helps us understand what it is like to have dyslexia.

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Consult with a child psychologist, school psychologist, or reading specialist if your child exhibits signs of dyslexia.

Some school psychologists do not identify dyslexia specifically, but can tell you if your child demonstrates signs of a reading disability and can describe in detail what difficulties your child is having.

Pride Reading Program Uses Orton Gillingham Approach

The main content and instructional practices that make up the Orton-Gillingham Approach are derived from research about
-how people learn to read and write
-why so many people have difficulty reading/writing
-how having dyslexia makes reaching literacy goals more difficult
-which instructional approaches are best for teaching people with symptoms of dyslexia to read and write

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10 Images of Multisensory Activities Based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach

The Orton-Gillingham approach is named after Samuel T. Orton and Anna Gillingham.

Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948),  a neuro-psychiatrist and pathologist, was one of the first to draw attention to reading difficulties and related difficulties with language processing.

He brought together neuro-scientific information and principles to help struggling readers. In the first half of the 20th century, he had identified dyslexia as an educational problem.

Anna Gillingham (1878-1963) was a gifted educator and psychologist. Encouraged by Dr. Orton, she compiled and published instructional materials, as early as the 1930s.

These materials provided the foundation for what became known as the Orton-Gillingham Approach.

Language elements that non-dyslexic learners acquire easily, must be taught directly and systematically.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach can be utilized in a one-to-one teacher/student setting or a small group setting. Orton-Gillingham has also been successfully adapted for use in classroom instruction.  

Reading, spelling and writing difficulties have been the primary focus of the Orton-Gillingham Approach, although it has been successfully adapted for use with students who exhibit math difficulties as well.

Students with dyslexia need to master the same basic knowledge about language and its relationship to the writing system as anyone else who seeks to become a competent reader/writer.

However, they need more help sorting, recognizing, and organizing the raw materials of language, such as letter-sound correspondence and combinations.

One of the main components of the Orton-Gillingham Approach is that it is multi-sensory, meaning that three learning modalities, or pathways, through which people learn are utilized—visual (sight), auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (movement/touch).

For example, a child would see the letter A, say its name, and write it in the air.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach allows for flexibility since it is an approach rather than a program.

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The Orton-Gilingham Approach has been supported by multiple studies, though some research has shown contradictory results. Read more about the research on the Orton-Gilingham Approach.

Find an Orton-Gillingham Instructor

Related Articles:

Five Fun Activities to Teach Your Child Sight Words
Five Research-Based Reading Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness: An Early Reading Skill
10 Fun Research-Based Activities to Teach Your Child Letter Sounds
12 Research-Based Spelling Strategies Parents Can Try at Home


Sherman, Gordon. Can Neuroscience Help to Demystify Dyslexia? Schwab Learning.
The Orton Gillingham Language Approach – A Research Review
“Orton-Gillingham Approach” (PDF). Florida Center for Reading Research. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
Ritchey, K.D.; Goeke, J.L. (2006). “Orton-Gillingham and Orton-Gillingham Based Reading Instruction: A Review of the Literature”. The Journal of Special Education 40 (3): 171–183 (PDF). US Dept of Education. July 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-14
Use of an Orton-Gillingham Approach to Teach a Foreign Language to Dyslexic/Learning-Disabled Students: Explicit Teaching of Phonology in a Second Language. RL Sparks, L Ganschow, S Kenneweg… – Annals of Dyslexia, 1991 – psycnet.apa.org
The Structured Flexibility of Orton-Gillingham.BB Sheffield – Annals of Dyslexia, 1991 – Springer
Multisensory Teaching Approach for Reading, Spelling, and Handwriting, Orton-Gillingham Based Curriculum, in a Public School Setting. KS Vickery, VA Reynolds… – Annals of Dyslexia, 1987 – Springer
Phoneme Awareness in Language-Delayed Children: Comparative Studies and Intervention.N Warrick, H Rubin… – Annals of Dyslexia, 1993 – Springer
Turner, l.H.M. This Systematic Review Empirically Documents That the Effectiveness of Orton-Gillingham and Orton-Gillingham Based Reading Instruction Remains to be Determined. Evidence -Based Communication Assessment & Intervention, 2008. 2(2), 67-69.

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