The first homeschool reading program I purchased for my daughter claimed to work for kids with dyslexia. It didn’t work for us. Neither did the second program. After a few more tries, mistakes, and more money spent, I knew I needed something better and a proven program. Then I started my educational therapy journey where I first heard the term Orton-Gillingham. It works, and it’s proven. I spent so much time and money on non-proven methods. I see friends using non-proven methods wondering what is wrong with their child or them as the homeschool mom. It’s like losing ground when the answers rest in what is shown to work through research and years of experience!
A neurologist, Dr. Samuel Orton, teamed up with educator and psychologist Anna Gillingham in the 1930s. Together they created a language-based reading program combining cognitive remediation and the structure of the English language. The first manual for Orton-Gillingham published in the mid-1930s by Anna Gillinham, and those methods are still used today.
Key elements of the Orton-Gillingham method
A multisensory approach uses more than one sense; auditory, visual, and tactile/kinesthetic. Think about it as listen, see, speak, and do/move. This promotes multiple pathways in the brain to develop as different parts work at the same time. This also aids memory retention.
Language based/structure of language in a systematic, explicit, step by step approach
Symbols, sounds, letter patterns make up the elements of our language. Syllables, suffixes, and prefixes create the structure of our language. When these are presented specifically in an explicit approach, it teaches decoding and encoding. Decoding breaks words down as we sound out to read. Encoding builds them up as we put sounds together to spell.
If students know the why behind language, they can better remember the rules. Memorizing a list of rules doesn’t work for many children with dyslexia. Analyzing the structure of language in a logical order helps them not just memorize rules but understand the rules. Understanding and practicing the rules and knowing the sounds and patterns of letters leads to decoding words. Teachers / therapists need to understand linguistics to teach in this manner. Which is why specific training in Orton-Gillingham is so important! Parents also can follow an OG based curriculum with that knowledge already there.
Cognitive and flexible
A foundational approach in NILD (and the Thinking and Learning Center) teaches students how to learn while allowing students learn in multiple ways. What works for one child doesn’t work for all. If a concept is not grasped, there is flexibility, reteaching, and more hands-on practice. Again, this goes back to multisensory as well as the student knowing the why behind the rules. Teachers also take into consideration the needs of each child and make the learning individualized.
While there are many programs out there that claim to be OG based, these key features must be present. The individuality of NILD helps it to stand out from other programs. One of the founders of NILD, Deborah Zimmerman, began her studies of how to help children with learning disabilities using the Gillingham manual. She even met with Ms. Gillingham and the widow of Dr. Orton in her search to find how to help her students. The research that cumulated from meeting these pioneers and others researching brain stimulation lead to the creation of the NILD program. (A Work of His Grace, by Grace Mutzabaugh page 34) If you would like more information about NILD or the Thinking and Learning Center, find us on Facebook or click here.
How do you know if a program is based on the elements of the Orton-Gillingham method? Look for the clues. Is it a multisensory program that is language based, with a systematic and explicit phonetic approach? What about individualized and flexible? If you can answer yes, to those questions, then you are on the right track! If you are looking for a good program for your child, the Thinking and Learning Center can help!
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