Is Orton-Gillingham approach only for dyslexia?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

The Orton-Gillingham approach is often associated with helping individuals with dyslexia, but it is not exclusively for dyslexia. This structured literacy approach can also be effective for individuals with other learning differences such as auditory processing issues, speech deficits, and other reading difficulties.

One of the key features of the Orton-Gillingham approach is its focus on multisensory instruction. This means that it engages multiple senses such as sight, hearing, and touch to help students learn and reinforce reading skills. For example, students might trace letters or words in sand or use manipulative materials to build words or sentences. By incorporating different senses, the approach aims to strengthen neural connections and improve reading abilities.

The Orton-Gillingham approach also emphasizes a systematic and explicit teaching method. It breaks down the English language into smaller, more manageable units and teaches them in a structured and sequential manner. Students learn the relationship between sounds and letters, and how to blend and manipulate those sounds to form words. This systematic approach helps individuals with learning differences to understand and apply reading skills more effectively.

While Orton-Gillingham is often used in one-on-one settings or small group instruction, it can also be adapted for larger classrooms. Teachers or tutors who are trained in the approach can provide individualized instruction and tailor the lessons to meet the specific needs of each student.

Personalized instruction is a key component of the Orton-Gillingham approach. Teachers or tutors carefully assess students’ strengths and weaknesses and develop individualized lesson plans accordingly. This allows for targeted intervention and support, regardless of the specific learning difference or reading difficulty.

In my personal experience as an educator, I have seen the Orton-Gillingham approach benefit students with a range of learning differences. For example, I worked with a student who had auditory processing issues and struggled with phonological awareness skills. By using the multisensory techniques and systematic instruction of Orton-Gillingham, the student made significant progress in recognizing and manipulating sounds, which ultimately improved their reading abilities.

While the Orton-Gillingham approach is often associated with dyslexia, it is not exclusive to this particular learning difference. It can be effective for individuals with various reading difficulties, auditory processing issues, speech deficits, and other learning differences. The multisensory and systematic nature of the approach, combined with personalized instruction, can help students improve their reading skills and overcome specific challenges they may face.