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What Is Orton-Gillingham?

Orton-Gillingham (OG) is a powerful approach to teaching reading and spelling that uses instruction that is multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, phonics-based, and explicit. Though often promoted primarily as an instructional method for children with dyslexia and other learning challenges, the OG approach helps make reading and spelling easier for all children.

Orton–Gillingham was the first teaching approach specifically designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds. Today,  decades later,  many reading programs include Orton–Gillingham ideas.

The highly structured approach introduced the idea of breaking reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, and then building on these skills over time. It also pioneered the “multisensory” approach to teaching reading, which is considered highly effective for teaching students with dyslexia. This means that instructors use sight, hearing, touch and movement to help students connect language with letters and words.

There are a number of reading programs influenced by the Orton–Gillingham approach. The Barton Reading Program is one of the most popular. All of the programs differ somewhat, but they all use a highly structured, multisensory approach.

What is the Barton Reading and Spelling Program?

The Barton Reading & Spelling System is a Structured Literacy program that is Orton-Gillingham influenced. This multi-sensory, explicit, intervention program is sequential and it is research and evidence based.

Some public schools with Response to Intervention programs (RTI) use the Barton System as Tier 3 intervention, but only if they can meet with a group of 3 students for an hour a day, 5 days a week.

One on one tutoring is the best and what is recommended. No two students learn at exactly the same pace. When tutoring one-on-one, a tutor can present the material at exactly the right pace for their student.


Reading is very complex. It requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order, and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs that we can read and comprehend.

People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step, all the other steps are harder.

Phonemic Awareness develops naturally in most people but it does not develop naturally in people with dyslexia.  With the right tools, they can be taught explicitly and directly.

Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.  Despite reading ability, people who have dyslexia have average to above average intelligence. 

Dyslexia is also very common, affecting 20 percent of the population and representing 80– 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities. Scientific research shows differences in brain connectivity between dyslexic and typical reading children, providing a neurological basis for why reading fluently is a struggle for those with dyslexia.

Dyslexia can’t be “cured” , it is lifelong. But, with the right support and intervention, individuals with dyslexia can become highly successful students and adults.