Looking at the Orton-Gillingham Approach to Reading

Dear Dr. Linda,

In one of your recent columns a parent asked if his son should attend the school’s summer reading program. The father didn’t want him to go because the father had had a bad experience with a summer reading program when he was a kid. Here’s my question. My daughter’s school is providing a summer reading program and her teacher recommends that she attend because it follows a multisensory Orton-Gillingham approach. I don’t know if I should send her because I don’t know what that means. What is the Orton-Gillingham approach?


Sign Up for E-News

Dear Connie,

If your daughter is just learning to read or is struggling learning to read, she would most likely benefit from a multisensory Orton-Gillingham-based program.

The Orton-Gillingham approach is a tried-and-true sequential approach to learning to read, geared for beginning readers and those who have difficulty with reading, writing and spelling, such as those children with dyslexia.

Dr. Samuel T. Orton and Dr. Anna Gillingham developed it over 90 years ago. It is still the basis for a variety of phonics programs used by reading specialists who work with children with dyslexia and other reading disorders. Drs. Orton and Gillingham understood then—and recent research still holds this to be true—that whether children are just beginning to read or having difficulty learning how to read, they need to understand the basic building blocks of our language, from alphabet letters to the sounds they make, and how to put them all together to make words.

The Orton-Gillingham approach teaches children how to break words into phonemes, the basic units of spoken language. The English language has approximately 44 phonemes. You’re more familiar with phonemes than you think. Those are the symbols you see on one of the first few pages of every dictionary. Reading is simply associating a distinct sound with each one of those phonemic symbols. For example, when we read the word “cat,” we consciously connect three phonemes, c – a – t, and then blend those sounds to say the word cat. It’s that simple. However, children who have dyslexia—which is not reading backwards as many believe—have difficulty connecting and remembering which sounds go with which symbols and must practice connecting these sounds until the connections become automatic.

The multisensory part comes from the fact that the Orton-Gillingham approach recommends teaching reading through having children use multiple senses when learning. Seeing a letter or word, hearing the sounds they make, drawing pictures of objects those words represent, and developing the fine motor skills to print and write the letters and words all converge to strengthen learning in the brain. (Smell and taste play a role as well, especially with the names of food or flowers.) The point is that the more sensory inputs are involved in learning a word, the more likely it will be learned and remembered.

There are many reading programs that follow this approach—Wilson, Preventing Academic Failure (PAF) and many more. Is one better than the other? Probably not. As long as a program follows the general sequence of learning described above, the success of one over another depends on each child’s needs and their relationship with the teacher. Research has shown that if a child feels the teacher cares about them and they are engaged in the process of learning, they will benefit no matter what program is in use.

With this said, I would recommend that you contact the teacher and ask her why she believes your daughter would benefit from an Orton-Gillingham-based summer reading program. Then explore all your options so that you find the right support for your daughter. It may be the correct approach for her learning to read, but may not be the right setting or the right teacher for her. These factors are just as important.

Dr. Linda

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Cuomo’s Frivolous Lawsuits Cost Us Money

Since Donald Trump became president, New York State has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the federal government. This includes those filed by both Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It does not include lawsuits filed by the City of New York. Most of them are political in nature, filed to please the plaintiffs’ voting base. In the real world, if we had filed ...

The State of the Democratic Party

Last week, President Trump gave his first State of the Union address. Here are a few things he pointed out:

• Since the election, 2.4 million new jobs have been created.

• Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low.

• African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.

• Hispanic-American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in ...

Beautiful, 'Clean' Coal

After completing his first full year in office—an alarming year, at that— Donald Trump has concluded that climate change is not a significant national threat and that the sacred lands and waters of this country should be sold to the highest bidder. 

The Trump administration has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement; deregulated national landmarks; freed public lands for ...

Multigrain, Please

I have no craving for white bread; it’s too plain, predictable and tasteless for me. I hunger for a chunk of multigrain or rye, maybe even a good-sized piece of pumpernickel raisin, with a schmear of cream cheese on the side.

I have no appetite for bland, clean-cut, middle-of-the-road, isolationist politics. And I find unsettling the cultural sameness, gross consumerism and incurious ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

Peekskill AIMs to Become a 'Mediapolis'

What could the city of Peekskill possibly have in common with Silicon Valley, Hollywood and New York City? Like those familiar centers of multimedia creativity and commerce, the historic river town is downright giddy with excitement about transforming itself into a mediapolis, to coin a phrase.

Thanks to local movers and shakers, led by prominent Peekskill businessman Ben Green, the ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

Getting Off on the Wrong Foot

“What happened to your ankle?” asked my neighbor when he saw the orthopedic boot on my right foot.

“I tripped while I was in Pamplona running with the bulls,” I told him.

He raised his eyebrows. “Really?”

“No. Not really,” I admitted. “I was actually climbing Machu Picchu and I fell over a llama.”

“Seriously?” he ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, February 21, 6:00 PM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

Freedom from Smoking

Health & Wellness

Wed, February 28, 6:00 PM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

Freedom from Smoking

Health & Wellness

Thu, March 1, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Bazzo Needs to Get His Facts Straight

February 15, 2018

To the editor,

Once again Mr. Bazzo, in his Feb. 8, column cherry picks facts, ignores other facts, passes along lies and spins so fast to the right that it’s amazing he doesn’t drill himself into the earth.

Bazzo is correct—the economy is doing well, and we should give credit where credit is due. Thank you, President Obama for taking the economy from the brink of another ...