teacher helping young girl to read with Orton-Gillingham method
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Is Orton-Gillingham
the Best?

Question:What is Orton-Gillingham and is it the best type of reading therapy?

Long Answer:

If you join a dyslexia support group on Facebook, a helpful mom or reading therapist will quickly mention that your child needs OG therapy or an “Orton Gillingham based program” like Barton, Wilson, SPIRE or a number of others. A google search on dyslexia will likely pull up similar suggestions. So what is Orton-Gillingham? Orton-Gillingham was developed in in the 1930s as the first reading approach designed specifically for dyslexic readers. According to the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, “the Orton-Gillingham Approach is a direct, explicit, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals, such as those with dyslexia.”

Orton-Gillingham was developed a very long time ago – before decades of research told us why kids have a hard time reading. Despite considerable anecdotal evidence that supports OG, the US Department of Education Agency reported that it couldn’t find any studies meeting its evidence standards to support OG-based strategies. A meta-study of 12 intervention studies (find it here) concluded that “given the small number of studies…and the inconclusive findings of the effectiveness of OG programs, additional research is needed before the scientific basis can be established.”

 Orton-Gillingham programs have definite benefits – they explicitly teach letter sound associations. They are often offered 1-to-1. Like mentioned before, they are direct, explicit, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic and prescriptive.  These programs are also notoriously slow moving and often some argue that they don’t adequately address the root cause of reading struggles – phonemic awareness. In his book Equipped for Reading Success, David Kilpatrick explains that “Orton-Gillingham-based programs include some phoneme awareness, but they rely on segmentation training, which is insufficient to facilitate efficient sight-word storage in a large proportion of struggling readers.” 

As a side-note, Orton-Gillingham programs are not typically recommended/used for students with intellectual disabilities, memory problems or auditory processing disorders. 

 Like Orton-Gillingham approaches, READXYZ:

  • is explicit, structured, multi-sensory, sequential, diagnostic and prescriptive
  • systematically teaches the connections between letters and sounds
  • includes exercises in blending, segmenting, writing, spelling and fluency

Unlike Orton-Gillingham approaches, READXYZ:

  • combines extensive phoneme awareness instruction with phonological blending (aka linguistic phonics), phonic decoding, writing and repeated reading exercises to address the root cause of reading failure and improve fluency
  • is appropriate and effective for students with intellectual disabilities, receptive or expressive language disorders, or other auditory processing and memory difficulties
  • is focused on achieving quick results


Short Answer:

Orton-Gillingham programs can be effective, but they take a long time (2 or 3 years). Even after considerable investment of time and money, students often lack true fluency after completing these programs. Some Orton-Gillingham programs do not adequately improve fluency or address the root cause of reading problems (usually a deficit in phonological awareness). 

The READXYZ curriculum takes what works with OG, and builds on it based on the research that has taken place in the last several decades.


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