Dyslexia and Orton-Gillingham Training

In another post I will be addressing exactly what "Dyslexia" is and isn't, but here I want to provide a brief description of the major principals underlying the or ton-Gillingham approach to working with children with dyslexia.

First of all, many parents come to me after enrolling their child in a Orton-Gillingham program and they are highly satisfied. Usually there are other issues going on which also need to be addressed, as seldom do we find a singular learning disability without other co-morbid problems. Often these problems involve behaviour, depression, anxiety, neurological disorders, slow processing speed, difficulty with working memory attentional issues. So there is enough for us to deal with, and a good, structured program like Orton-Gillingham is often recommended.

Dyslexia, right now, isn't even diagnosis in the DSM-4 TR (the Diagnostic Manual of the APA which lists all mental disorders). Right now we diagnose a "Disorder of Reading," however, that will be changing in the new addition of the DSM, making the medical diagnosis match the terminology commonly used in schools. At any rate, you should always have your child assessed prior to starting one of these reading support programs. A psychoeducational assessment will help determine the exact nature of the disorder, and needs to be completed to rule out other possible reasons for the reading difficulty. These could include problems visual visual integration, attention, working memory and so on. Don't just start a program until you understand, as best you can, the exact nature of the deficit you will be treating!

The Orton-Gillingham Approach to dyslexia is a flexible program that is adapted to meet individual needs. It provides carefully structured and sequenced instruction in both reading and spelling. It focuses on establishing connections between sounds and letters, and then how to blend the sounds together into a whole word. It also provides structured instruction and practice in how to organize individual letters and sounds into larger units. Finally, it is a "multi sensory: approach as it uses visual, auditory and tactile methods of instruction.

What exactly might be happening when my child see's an Orton-Gillingham instructor?
For younger children:
1. The child is shown a letter and then repeats it's name after the teacher demonstrates it
2. The instructor demonstrates how to form the letter, the child copies over the sample and then writes the letter or word from memory
3. Each phonetic unit is presented on flash cards - consonant soundsand vowel sounds are separated and they are introduced through key words.
4. The letters sounds are taught in groups, and this is done as quickly as possible.
5. After the sounds of letters are taught blending is taught, practiced and practiced again
6. The instructors then introduces words and separates the sounds. The words and sounds are written down and read back and practiced
7. Then as these words are mastered new words and letter sound combinations are taught through exposure, practice and repetition
8. Consonant blends are then added to the list of words and sounds to practice and learn.
9. Reading is practiced with a controlled vocabulary and text.

As you can see this is a highly structured program, step by step, in a specific order using preset materials. This is very different than trying to learn letters, letter sounds and words as they appear in your daily experience of writing. One way is structured and builds upon previous experience, and the other is ... frankly ...all over the place. Often causing repeated failures and distress. Not every child with Dyslexia or reading disabilities fits this program, some object to the structure and repeated practice sessions. Most, however, do fine and show significant improvement.

Are there other programs to help with reading problems, dyslexia and other forms of learning disabilities?
Yes, there are several other programs available, and one issue is that the Orton-Gillingham approach isn't usually found in the school system itself. You might want to look at these alternative programs for students with learning disabilities:

The Barton Reading and Spelling System. This is a one-to-one tutoring system designed to enable parents to teach their child with dyslexia how to read and write. It comes with tutoring DVDsand has ten separate levels of training. This is an evidence-based program for learning disorders, reading disorders and dyslexia.

You can find the website at www.BartonReading.com

The Great Leaps Reading Program
This is another one-to-one tutoring program. One advantage of the Great Leaps program is that it provides enough support that a parent can achieve the same results as a trained teacher using this technique. It uses basic phonics, high frequency word phrases and one minute story reading to achieve reading fluency. It is available for all reading levels, including adults! This program is used in many school districts. Information can be found at www.greatleaps.com

Finally, for small group training, something your school might be interested in, there is The New Herman Method (TNHM). This is a small group method that has been in use by many school districts for over 35 years. It involves 50 minutes each day at school: 25 minutes to teach Reading and Oral Spelling Skills and 25 minutes to teach Handwritting and Written Spelling skills. There is a special two day training session available. Information on this method can be obtained from Sopris West at www.sopriswest.com

You may also be interested in the Wilson Just Words program, a word level intervention programer the Wilson Language Training program, both available through www.wilsonlanguage.com

These are just a few of the programs available. There are at least a dozen other good, solid evidence based curriculum programs, but for parents looking for individualized intervention, or small grip interventions, these may be the best.

For parents seeking an alternative tutorial program other than Orton-Gillingham there is the Lindammod Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) Program for Reading, Spelling and Speech. Individual practitioners and school instructors make use of these materials, and parent satisfaction is high. Information bout Lindamood-Bell training can be obtained from Pro-Ed, Inc.

For parents who would like to have materials at home that they or a tutor use individually with their child I would contact the Barton Reading and Spelling Program or the Great Leaps Reading Program for information. There are steps you as a parent can take to help your child with dyslexia in the home that are not overly expensive.

I hope this brief overview of dyslexia, reading problems and training programs is a help in starting to understand the complex world of diagnosing and treating reading problems, dyslexia and learning disabilities. If you are interested in information on obtaining a psychological assessment, neuropsychological assessment or psychoeducational assessment please look at the information on my web page at http://www.relatedminds.com