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  • Writer's pictureLisa Joesten

Unlocking Potential: How The Orton-Gillingham Method Helps Students with Dyslexia

Unlocking Potential: How The Orton-Gillingham Method Helps Students with Dyslexia

In the realm of education, one size certainly does not fit all. Each student brings a unique set of strengths and challenges to the classroom, and for those with dyslexia, traditional teaching methods often fall short. Dyslexia, a specific learning disability that affects reading and language processing, can significantly hinder academic progress and erode confidence. However, with the right approach and support, these students can flourish. One such approach that has garnered widespread acclaim is the Orton-Gillingham method.


Understanding Dyslexia: A Challenge in Reading

Dyslexia is more than just a difficulty with reading; it impacts how individuals perceive and process language. Students with dyslexia may struggle with decoding words, spelling, and recognizing common sight words, which are essential building blocks for reading fluency and comprehension. This challenge can lead to frustration, academic underachievement, and feelings of inadequacy.


Enter Orton-Gillingham: A Personalized Approach

Developed in the early 20th century by Dr. Samuel Orton and educator Anna Gillingham, the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach is a structured, sequential, and multisensory method designed specifically for individuals with dyslexia. Unlike traditional teaching methods that assume reading skills develop naturally, OG acknowledges that these skills must be explicitly taught and reinforced through systematic instruction.


Key Components of Orton-Gillingham

  1. Multisensory Techniques: OG engages multiple senses—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—simultaneously to enhance learning and memory. For example, students might trace letters in sand while saying the corresponding sounds aloud, reinforcing the connection between letters, sounds, and motor movements.

  2. Structured and Sequential: The OG method breaks down language skills into smaller, manageable parts that build upon each other. Lessons progress from basic phonological awareness (sound-symbol relationships) to more complex skills like decoding and comprehension.

  3. Individualized Instruction: Recognizing that each student learns at their own pace and in their own way, OG allows for personalized instruction tailored to the student's specific needs. Teachers trained in OG assess students' strengths and weaknesses and adapt their teaching accordingly, ensuring a supportive and effective learning experience.


Benefits for Students with Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham approach has been widely praised for its effectiveness in supporting students with dyslexia:

  • Improved Reading Skills: OG equips students with the foundational skills necessary for reading success, such as phonemic awareness, decoding strategies, and sight word recognition.

  • Boosted Confidence: By breaking down the reading process into manageable steps and providing consistent positive reinforcement, OG helps students build confidence in their abilities.

  • Long-term Success: The skills learned through OG are not just for the classroom but are transferable to real-world reading tasks, promoting lifelong literacy skills.


Real-life Impact

For many students, the impact of Orton-Gillingham extends far beyond the classroom. It opens doors to academic achievement, instills a love of learning, and empowers individuals to reach their full potential. Parents often report that their children experience increased self-esteem and motivation as they see tangible progress in their reading abilities.


Challenges and Considerations

While Orton-Gillingham has proven effective for many students with dyslexia, implementing this method requires specialized training and ongoing support for educators. Additionally, access to trained OG instructors and resources can be limited, posing challenges for widespread adoption in all educational settings.


Looking Ahead

As awareness of dyslexia grows and educational practices evolve, the Orton-Gillingham method stands as a beacon of hope for students who face reading challenges. Its structured, multisensory approach not only addresses the specific learning needs of individuals with dyslexia but also fosters a supportive learning environment where every student has the opportunity to succeed.


In conclusion, Orton-Gillingham is more than just an educational approach; it is a testament to the transformative power of personalized, evidence-based instruction. By embracing the principles of OG, educators and parents can help unlock the potential of students with dyslexia, paving the way for brighter futures and a more inclusive educational landscape.

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