Dyslexia Treatment: Multi-sensory, Phonics-Based Approaches

Boy reading and laughing outside

Dyslexia treatment is an important topic.  Dyslexia is a learning disability in reading.  It is often inherited, and makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell—despite at least average to above average intelligence.

Dyslexia is a language disorder.  It is not caused by vision concerns, sensorimotor concerns, or dietary concerns.  Areas that are impacted by Dyslexia include, difficulties with phonics, sounding out new words, reading speed, reading accuracy, memory of words, spelling and writing.  It is not due to visual problems, and people with dyslexia do not see words or letters backwards.  It can commonly occur with ADHD, as well as sensory issues with light.

Of children who display reading problems in the first grade, 74% will be poor readers in the ninth grade and into adulthood unless they receive informed and explicit instruction on phonemic awareness. Children do not mature out of their reading difficulties.

What is an effective Dyslexia Treatment?

The Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method is a successfully proven Dyslexia treatment, used for almost 90 years.  It is a comprehensive, multi-sensory, phonics-based approach.

The International Dyslexia Association has published two Fact Sheets on Orton-Gillingham. Click here for Fact Sheet #1, and click here for Fact Sheet #2.

How does the Orton-Gillingham Approach deliver Dyslexia treatment?

According to Susan Barton, on her website, there are 5 main steps

  1. “Phonemic Awareness is the first step. You must teach someone how to listen to a single word or syllable and break it into individual phonemes. They also have to be able to take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change sounds, delete sounds, and compare sounds—all in their head. These skills are easiest to learn before someone brings in printed letters.
  2. Phoneme/Grapheme Correspondence is the next step. Here you teach which sounds are represented by which letter(s), and how to blend those letters into single-syllable words.
  3. The Six Types of Syllables that compose English words are taught next. If students know what type of syllable they’re looking at, they’ll know what sound the vowel will make. Conversely, when they hear a vowel sound, they’ll know how the syllable must be spelled to make that sound.
  4. Probabilities and Rules are then taught. The English language provides several ways to spell the same sounds. For example, the sound /SHUN/ can be spelled either TION, SION, or CIAN. The sound of /J/ at the end of a word can be spelled GE or DGE. Dyslexic students need to be taught these rules and probabilities.
  5. Roots and Affixes, as well as Morphology are then taught to expand a student’s vocabulary and ability to comprehend (and spell) unfamiliar words. For instance, once a student has been taught that the Latin root TRACT means pull, and a student knows the various Latin affixes, the student can figure out that retract means pull again, contract means pull together, subtract means pull away (or pull under), while tractor means a machine that pulls.”

How is Orton Gillingham instruction provided?

Surprised Boy

Using all senses

Research has shown that dyslexic people who use all of their senses when they learn (visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic) are better able to store and retrieve the information. So a beginning dyslexic student might see the letter A, say its name and sound, and write it in the air—all at the same time.

Intense Instruction with Lots of Practice

Instruction for dyslexic students must be much more intense, and offer a great deal of practice.  It will take time.

Specific Instruction

Dyslexic students do not cannot “just pick up” reading. So, you must teach them, explicitly, rules regarding reading, one at a time. You will need to practice until it is stable in both reading and spelling, before introducing a new rule.

Start from the Beginning

Girl reading outside

You must go back to the very beginning and create a solid foundation with no holes. You must teach the logic behind our language by presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the student can automatically and fluently apply that rule both when reading and spelling. You must continue to weave previously learned rules into current lessons to keep them fresh and solid.

Diagnostic Teaching

The teacher must continuously assess their student’s understanding of, and ability to apply, the rules. The teacher must ensure the student isn’t simply recognizing a pattern and blindly applying it. And when confusion of a previously-taught rule is discovered, it must be retaught.

It sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is, and it can also be complicated. Unfortunately, many schools do not provide this level of intervention to students with Dyslexia.  As a result, many parents are confused as where to turn for help.  The good news is that there are more options every day, month, and year.  Also on her website, Susan Barton provides a list of approaches for Dyslexia treatment.

Dyslexia Treatment Systems

Here are the most well-known Orton-Gillingham based systems that parents can learn about:

  • Barton Reading & Spelling System:  Designed for one-on-one tutoring of children, teenagers and adults by parents, volunteer tutors, reading or resource specialists or their aides, and professional tutors. The Barton System is provides tutor training comes on DVD, along with fully scripted lesson plans. Published by Bright Solutions for Dyslexia in California.  This can be a good resource for parents who want to provide their child’s tutoring at home.
    (408) 559-3652— www.BartonReading.com
  • Orton-Gillingham:  The pure, unchanged, original method. Taught by Eileen Faggiano, Orton Gillingham Associates, in Massachussetts.
    (781) 934-5548
  • Lindamood Bell  Lindamood Bell has an online school for children with Dyslexia, as well as schools around the US that help teach children with Dyslexia.  They also distribute materials to parents and teachers.  https://lindamoodbell.com/online-instruction.


About Post Author