Dyslexia and the Orton Gillingham Approach


National Institute of Health Definition
Developmental reading disorder (DRD), also called dyslexia, is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols.

International Dyslexia Association Definition
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.

The National Institute of Health describes treatment for dyslexia as: "Every person with DRD requires a different strategy. An individual education plan should be created for each child with the condition."

When a parent brings his or her child to us with a diagnosis of dyslexia, the diagnostician's report may or may not describe specific symptoms. If they do, our treatment is informed by those. And in all cases, we administer a standardized diagnostic reading assessment to inform our treatment.

Each child, with or without a diagnosis of dyslexia, has his or her own specific set of issues. We directly treat and remediate those issues (as well as any potentially underlying issues), providing support applicable to the particular individual. We use strengths to build up weaker areas. For example, many of our students have strong visual skills, and therefore, if we ask them to draw their impression of a story we've read, it may be highly detailed. This, then, serves as an effective bridge to writing about the story.

Many people reading this have doubtlessly heard of the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach to treating reading problems (a number of other approaches have been based on OG, such as Wilson, Barton, Singerland, and more). Quoting from The Gillingham Manual (8th edition), by Anna Gillingham and Bessie W. Stillman, children with difficulty reading may have some of these characteristics:

  • Difficulty with Organization: managing time, completing assignments, relating am isolated idea to a unifying concept.
  • Difficulty with Spoken or Written Language: pronouncing words, learning new vocabulary, following directions, discriminating among sounds, reversing or omitting letters, words, or phrases, reading comprehension, writing stories and essays.
  • Difficulty with Attention and Concentration: daydreaming, showing distractibility, trouble completing tasks, being restless.
  • Difficulty with Memory: learning the alphabet, identifying letters, spelling, remembering names.
  • Difficulty with Physical Coordination: drawing, manipulating small objects.
  • Difficulty with Appropriate Social Behavior: tolerating frustration (outbursts), interpreting nonverbal skills (body language), accepting changes in routine.

Dr. Samual T. Orton used the term "specific learning disorder," and recommended, and devised, with Anna Gillingham, a multisensory systematic approach to helping children with this disorder.

For children diagnosed with "dyslexia", we use the Orton Gillingham approach, as adapted to our assistive multisensory technology, the Phonic Engine Reading Method, a method that kids love using, and are able to use at home as well as in our center, so help doesn't end when your child leaves his or her session. We have achieved extremely good results, and with comparatively minimal cost, because 1.) The Phonic Engine Reading Method is extremely motivating (with techniques that teach every aspect of OG) so children want to use it, and 2.) Again, children continue receiving help at home.

As a bit of a wrinkle to all this, we have seen posts on literacy websites where teachers mention that OG based methods have not worked, and advocate for other methods, for example "whole word." We have not come across any individual who has not responded to our multisensory OG technique. However, we do treat every individual as an individual; so, for example, if a child were to have difficulty associating the letter s with the sound /s/, via multisensory repetition, we might use other aspects of the Phonic Engine Reading Method to illustrate the connection via words in context. The method makes moving back and forth between phonics type work and contextual type work totally seamless.