Hello Ms Mackaness,

Thank you for your update!  I have to share with you how elated I am with Julian's progress and share with you an at home success story. On two occasions Julian and I were talking-- I can't remember the subject matter.  But I used two words that I knew that he wasn't familiar with. I asked if he knew what I meant. In one instance he did, the other not so much. I then asked him to spell the words that I used and  to my amazement in both instances he was able to spell the word CORRECTLY out loud. He said that he was able to put the sounds together and make out the word.  I could hardly contain my excitement.

Thank you thank you thank you. I told him how proud I am of his accomplishments and encouraged him to continue to work hard. Most of all, Julian and I, reflected on the work that you do and how blessed we are to have met you.  I know that you can appreciate how wonderful it was to have a teenage boy recognize and say how much he appreciates his teacher!

​You are wonderful and I can't thank you enough.

D. Gadsden (parent) James Island, S.C.

Where does the name of the ‘Orton-Gillingham’ approach come from?
​In the early 1920’s, Dr. Samuel T. Orton was a physician who studied dyslexia, or reading difficulties, in children.  He hypothesized that these children, who had average to above average IQ, had challenges with neural connections in the brain that associated sounds of the spoken word to the written word.  He named the condition ‘strephosymbolia’ or ‘twisted symbol.’

In the early 1930’s, Ms. Anna Gillingham, a psychologist who possessed a thorough knowledge of the English language, began working with Dr. Orton.  Guided by his   principles and precepts, she created a systematic and orderly approach of teaching the set of 70 phonograms that represented the 44 discrete sounds of the English language. She and Bessie Stillman wrote a manual for teachers: Remedial Training for Children With Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling, and Penmanship

Dr. Orton and Ms. Gillingham centered their approach on the concept of ‘multi-sensory’ teaching – or using movement, tactile, visual and auditory learning strategies simultaneously. Current research using fMRI brain scans have now validated the successful results of this type of therapy.  When pre and post-therapy influenced brain scans of individuals with dyslexia were compared, the areas in the brains where efficient neural connections associating sounds of the spoken word to the written word had become more active, more like non-dyslexic individuals.

Why does the Orton-Gillingham approach work?

A highly trained and experienced Certified or Fellow therapist can create a lesson plan that is prescribed specifically for the individual student’s needs, determined and diagnosed by previous assessment results, and structured for the student to be successful.  Using his or her knowledge and years of experience, the therapist can quickly make necessary alterations within the lesson plan to ensure the student’s success.  The Orton-Gillingham approach provides individualized instruction, based on the needs of the student at the time of the lesson.

Therefore, a student is never slotted into pre-scripted programs that offer a one-size fit all lesson plans.  Neither is the student taught ELA Standard A.1 in one lesson and then immediately taught ELA Standard A.2 in the next because of the necessity that the 20 ELA standards must be taught within a certain time frame.

There are more reasons why the Orton-Gillingham approach works.  Following is list of some the basic principles of an OG lesson:


  • Direct and explicit instruction: The therapist makes no assumptions about what a student knows or doesn’t know; the student is directly and explicitly taught each skill.  

  • Alphabetic and Phonetic Instruction: Lesson plans include sound to symbol, symbol to sound associations.

  • Multi-sensory Instructional strategies: Lesson plans incorporate visual, auditory and kinesthetic components simultaneously.

  • Structured lesson plans follow sequential skills from simple to complex, taught systematically in a way that facilitates learning. The brain learns best by associating new to previously known information; lesson plans are structured to accomplish this.

  • Synthetic and analytical: The student is taught the procedures to analyze a word by identifying syllable types, syllabication patterns, and morphological features of a word, and then to synthesize by blending letters/sounds, syllables and word parts to decode or encode (read or spell).

  • Cumulative with lots of repetition for practice: The student is taught skills that build on previous ones; lesson plans are structured to provide many opportunities for practice by incorporating activities that spiral backwards to review previous skills.

  • Teaches to automaticity: Through a plethora of multi-sensory strategies within sequentially structured lesson plans, the student is provided ample opportunities to review until generalization of a skill is attained and correct responses are automatic.

  •  Corrective cues are effective and encouraging; the therapist provides cues that enable the student to use his or her cognitive skills to produce the correct response. The student is not asked to perform skills that he/she hasn’t been explicitly taught, and therefore his/her confidence grows consistently with each successive lesson.

  • Emotionally supportive: Individualized instruction that is appropriate for the student’s needs on that particular day, and the lesson is constantly adjusted by the skilled and experienced therapist to ensure a successful outcome.