The Orton-Gillingham Approach: What is it?

Referred to as the gold standard of reading instruction and remediation, The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a highly structured way to teach reading, spelling, and writing to all students, specifically those with dyslexia.

Developed by Dr. Samuel Orton, Anna Gillingham, and Bessy Stillman, the core focus of this proven approach is to teach reading and spelling in a logical, systemic, multisensory, and sequential way that meets the unique needs of the individual learner.

  • The multisensory teaching concepts help to connect different areas of the brain that may need additional stimulation in order to process language.
  • By using visual, kinesthetic, and auditory teaching techniques, a student with dyslexia can see, write, and listen to the way a letter or word sounds, helping them to better learn and recall when reading, writing, and spelling.
  • This approach, which focuses on all the senses, can show students how to decode patterns in words on their own, all things which contribute to literacy success.
By using the simultaneous integration of senses — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic — Orton-Gillingham aims to “rewire” the neurological connections in the language centers of the dyslexic brain.

Why is the Orton-Gillingham Approach so effective?

This cognitive and emotionally sound approach with decades of successful history helps students better connect with language and words for an improved learning experience. Better yet, it’s truly an approach, not a method, system, or technique, which allows accredited educators to be creative when teaching their students, adapting to the individual needs of each and every learner.

The science of reading is complex, which is why Orton-Gillingham focuses on structured and multisensory teachings that help students make better connections to the structure of language. Based on a child’s individual situation, learning difficulty, and progress, OG lessons will include things like alphabet drills, visual drills, auditory drills, coding words, reading fluency, vocabulary work, and spelling (among other things) that will help each student achieve their literacy goals.

The approach helps connect and rewire the specific areas of the brain that connect print, sound, and meaning, helping any and every student learn to read.

How does The Orton-Gillingham Approach work for individuals with dyslexia?

Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a reading problem. It’s a difficulty with language that manifests itself most clearly in reading. Individuals with dyslexia may struggle to express themselves, understand written or spoken language, and/or store, organize, and retrieve information. This may manifest in a student with dyslexia having problems spelling, reading, or writing with ease.

With as many as one in five students dealing with a language disability or difficulty (dyslexia being the most common), it’s important that language and reading instruction is taught via an approach that can actually help these students instead of alienating them.

Dyslexia is not a sign of laziness or low IQ in a student. Individuals with language difficulties simply need to be taught in a specific way that can best help them master the science of reading.

And that’s where the Orton-Gillingham Approach comes in, helping students with dyslexia to better recognize and organize all the elements of language. The individual focus also gives learners the extra attention they may need, leading to increased linguistic competence and confidence.

All individuals benefit from learning literacy skills through The Orton-Gillingham Approach. However, individuals with dyslexia need it.

— Ann Edwards, ATF/AOGPE

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