Dyslexia and related reading and language difficulties are the result of neurobiological variations, but they can be treated with effective instruction.  The earlier your child receives effective instruction the better, but people with dyslexia can be helped at any age. While many children learn to read successfully with approaches such as ‘Guided Reading’ or ‘Balanced Literacy’, research has shown that students with reading disability need instruction that is:

  • explicit, systematic, cumulative and multisensory. This is known as ‘structured literacy‘ instruction.
  • intensive, with additional daily practice.
  • provided by professionals with expert knowledge, skills, and abilities. Read more about how to select the right professional to get effective instruction for your child.

‘Structured literacy’ instruction has its roots in the Orton-Gillingham approach developed in the 1930-40’s by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. It is an approach that explicitly and systematically teaches the foundations of reading, writing and spelling, including, for example, phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondences, explicit decoding strategies, handwriting, syntax and semantics.  Although initially developed for struggling readers, there is evidence that all readers benefit from this approach to teaching reading.  The International Dyslexia Association recently suggested the term ‘structured literacy’ to describe this approach that explicitly and systematically teaches reading, spelling and writing.

‘Structured literacy’ (i.e. the Orton-Gillingham approach) is:

  • Explicit – concepts are taught using direction instruction.
  • Systematic – the elements of the language are taught sequentially with intensive practice and continual feedback.
  • Cumulative – lessons build on previous knowledge, moving from simple concepts to more difficult concepts.
  • Multisensory – lessons engage the learner in visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile responses.
  • Individualized – lessons are tailored to the student’s strengths and weaknesses (e.g. pace, amount of review, understanding of other challenges such as anxiety, ADHD, dysgraphia).
  • Metacognitive – students are taught to understand and monitor their own learning.
  • Supportive – self-confidence and motivation increases as the student experiences mastery of the content.
What is taught in ‘structured literacy’ (Orton-Gillingham)?