The Orton-Gillingham Approach

The Orton Gillingham Approach grew out of the work of Dr. Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948).  Dr. Orton, a professor of neuro-psychiatry and neuro-pathology at Neurological Institute of Columbia University, was a pioneer in focusing attention on language differences by bringing together psychiatric information and principles of remediation.  As early as 1925, he had identified the syndrome of developmental disability, separated it from mental defect and brain damage, and offered a physiological explanation.

Working with Dr. Orton, Anna Gillingham (a psychologist and educator) and Bessie Stillman (an educator) further developed procedures begun by Dr. Orton into an organized presentation.  Their manual was first published in 1935 and has been reprinted many times.

In the Orton Gillingham approach, letters which represent the single sounds of familiar speech are presented to the student, then immediately synthesized into words that carry meaning.  By introducing the letters simultaneously through hearing, seeing, and feeling, the student’s weaknesses ar lessened by integrating all of his learning pathways.  This multisensory approach helps to ensure automatic memory, which is so difficult for those who lack natural facility in language learning.

Progress is made by going from simple to more complex tasks and building in much reinforcement, proceeding as fast as possible, but as slowly as necessary to master the basic elements.  The careful pacing, structured but not programmed procedures, and sequential presentation combine reading, writing and spelling to help the student succeed.

The structure of the Orton-Gillingham approach often helps to organize the student’s general ways of learning and working.  Its logic helps him when his memory fails and when he encounters unknown words.  Its step-by-step progression leads to a sense of mastery and competence.  This approach can be valuable to any child, but to the dyslexic and disabled children, it is essential!

(From Mayerson Academy, OG manual)


International Dyslexia Association
Toolkit for parents