A Quick Introductory Guide to the Orton-Gillingham Teaching Approach

A large number of children and adults alike suffer from dyslexia or similar afflictions that makes reading, writing, and spelling a daily challenge. In fact, dyslexia is one of the most common disorders affecting young children in the U.S. While reading and writing disorders can be addressed later in life, the best outcome is ensured by tackling these issues as soon as possible, even kindergarten, if necessary. 

The first step of the process is recognizing that there is a problem. It’s important that parents and teachers pay attention to the way in which a child makes progress, and that they spot the signs and symptoms of dyslexia-related disorders early on. That’s the hardest part of the process. Once you know there is an issue that needs to be dealt with, it’s time to find the best tools and methods to help children overcome these challenges and thrive both at home and in the classroom. 

When was Orton-Gillingham developed?

One of the most well-known approaches to tackling dyslexia and other issues related to reading or writing is the Orton-Gillingham approach. It was developed in the early 20th century by Samuel Torrey Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist at Columbia University, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist. 

What does the Orton-Gillingham approach entail?

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, Orton-Gillingham is a multisensory approach to teaching reading and spelling that can be supported by visual, auditory, and other interactive elements. This approach usually targets children and individuals with language processing issues, like reading, writing, and spelling, usually associated with dyslexia. How it works is that teachers and tutors divide reading and spelling tasks into small skills that involve letters and sounds, and then gradually build those skills over time. It’s a highly structured approach that aims to help children suffering from language difficulties learn and make progress at their own pace. 

Who benefits from the Orton-Gillingham teaching approach?

The Orton-Gillingham method is one of the most commonly-used teaching tools to help children suffering from dyslexia. These are the students who usually have a hard time reading, spelling, writing, or associating words, so they benefit tremendously from a structured approach such as Orton-Gillingham. However, all students can benefit from this approach, as it can help them make noticeable progress with their language skills and move on to the next stage of their development quicker. 

What is the main focus of the Orton-Gillingham teaching method?

The ultimate goal of the Orton-Gillingham approach is to help children make the connection between letters and sounds, to help them in their reading and writing tasks. Children suffering from dyslexia can end up feeling frustrated, disappointed, isolated, and even depressed, and exposure therapy can do more harm than good in their case. It’s best not to force a child suffering from dyslexia to read something out loud in front of the classroom, as such an experience can lead them to avoid reading, both at home and at school. 

The Orton-Gilingham approach makes the best of a child’s senses to help them achieve reading fluency. This can include saying a certain letter, singing about it, writing down the letter and coloring it, anything that can cement knowledge in their mind. Such a multisensory approach also helps children get excited about their reading and writing tasks, instead of avoiding them. 

How are lessons structured with Orton-Gillingham?

The training is led by a specialist or a teacher who’s trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach. They first start by assessing students to see what their strengths are and what challenges they face with their reading skills. Then these students are divided into small groups, as it’s easier to track progress this way and every child gets undivided attention. It’s also the best way to go about it for children, because students dealing with dyslexia will feel reluctant to read or write in front of a big classroom full of other kids. 

The teacher will only move on to the next task or skill once every child has learned to master it, otherwise, they will go over the same lesson again. That is the advantage of Orton-Gillingham, that children are not rushed and they are allowed to learn at their own pace, without any pressure. 

If your child is suffering from dyslexia or is dealing with issues regarding language skills, feel free to reach out to the Da Vinci Collaborative team and ask for support or guidance. Our counselors have years of experience dealing with issues like ADHD, dyslexia, or autism, and we have teachers trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach. Contact us and let’s start overcoming challenges together. 

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