“Building pathways in the brain that connect speech with print.” (International Dyslexia Association)
Over the past several decades, it has become clear to both practitioners and researchers that the Orton–Gillingham approach is the best way to build those pathways
Brief History: The Orton–Gillingham educational model for the treatment of dyslexia was developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s by Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. Orton was a neuropyschiatrist and pathologist at Columbia University who was the first to begin mapping how a brain is wired (in this case, specifically regarding language processing) and how that might impact literacy development.Gillingham was also at Columbia in the Education Department and, in collaboration with Dr. Orton, trained teachers and, during that process, created and refined the training materials that ultimately became the seminal manual for treating dyslexia. The manual, Remedial Training for Children with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling and Penmanship, was first published in 1935/36. An updated version of the manual is still in use.
The success of this type of treatment for dyslexia lies in the following features:
Amazingly, Dr. Orton was able to make the connection between language processing and problems with reading, spelling and writing as early as the 1920’s.
Multisensory: Using auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements, all language skills taught are reinforced by having the student listen, speak, read and write. For example, a dyslexic learner is taught to see the letter A, say its name and sound and write it – all at the same time. The approach requires intense instruction with ample practice. The use of multiple input channels is thought to enhance memory storage and retrieval by providing multiple “triggers” for memory.This last part is critical. We believe that the best way to “build pathways to connect speech with print” is to simultaneously use multiple channels of sensory input. The underlying concept is that using multiple channels of sensory input will strengthen a student’s ability to embed the learning in long-term memory and therefore strengthen the ability to retrieve information more rapidly and fluently.
Structured, Sequential and Cumulative: The key to success lies in making sure that the elements of the program are introduced systematically and in proper sequential order. Sequential order is critical because the essential language processing skills that we must master are organised like basic building blocks.
Cognitive: This is a very interesting component to the program.“Cognitive” in this sense means that students not only learn about the generalisations and rules of a language but also about the history. In other words, part of creating the pathways (or map) for decoding the language is learning the context in which it was developed. This is pretty higher order stuff actually but considered key.
Flexible: There is an ongoing, iterative process to assessing how a student is doing in this system. You’ll hear and read about how the teacher must be “diagnostic and prescriptive.” In other words, they need to have the skill set to “know what they see not see what they know.” If you really know what the tasks are, what the structure and sequence needs to be then you’re going to know when the student has achieved mastery or conversely needs to go backwards and re-learn a skill. And you assess that on an ongoing basis while working with the student.
Reference: Dr. Michael Hart