The Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach originated from a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, Samuel Orton, and an educator
and psychologist, Anna Gillingham. The two worked together in the early 1900's to create an effective way to teach dyslexic children
how to read. The OG approach is intensive, sequential and phonics based, also using multisensory applications,
to help reinforce the sounds and rules. By the 1930's their approach was used in many small special education classes and one-on-one tutoring.
Their method is widely used today in various forms, and is still just as effective. Today, the approach is often called Structured Literacy.
Structured Literacy, or the Orton-Gillingham approach, is supported by scientific research to be the most effective method to teach dyslexic individuals to read.
Most children today are taught a combination of phonics along with whole language, which is sufficient for most. These children learn to read by initially learning the sounds of the letters, learning word families and memorizing high frequency words. When reading, they use these tools to decode words. If faced with a word they don’t know, the child is able to identify the word's components and translate it into something recognizable. To the parent, it seems like they just “pick it up” as they read. This is not the case for a dyslexic child.
Dyslexia is a language based disorder, therefore, people with dyslexia must be taught phoneme and morphological awareness. This means they must learn all the sounds and how the sounds are put together to form words. They must also learn all of the spelling rules as well as the exceptions, which requires an intensive phonics program, unlike what is usually offered in the mainstream schools. Since those with dyslexia often have a poor memory where language is concerned, this should be done with constant repetition for reinforcement as well as utilizing as many multisensory implementations as possible. The program should also be flexible so that it can be personalized to the student when needed.
Explicit Instruction - Concepts must be clearly explained with
guidance and feedback from the instructor, and in no way should the student be expected
to discover concepts on his or her own.
Systematic and Cumulative - Concepts must be taught systematically and must build on prior concepts already taught. The skills should be taught from the most simplest to the more difficult. This should be well planned and include review.
Multisensory - When more than one sense is used, the likelihood of learning increases. This is especially true for those with learning differences, such as dyslexia. Students should use their ears to listen to write, their eyes to see to read, and their hands to manipulate phonics tools, such as letter tiles, sound cards, phonics games, etc. This multisensory approach will help the brain make connections and strengthen memory. Since a Structured Literacy program contains many sounds and rules, there's a lot to commit to memory, and the more avenues used, the better.
Responsive - The instructor should monitor the student as he or she progresses through the program to make the necessary adjustments. For example, the lessons may need to be done at a slower pace or in a different manner. Diagnostics should also be done to track the students progress.