Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

So many sweet moms fear when their child is struggling to read well.   Today we are discussing our struggling readers, students with dyslexia, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.  We are blessed to have a guest post written by Karee Atkinson, a mom with a heart to equip children to learn well.  She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and is just one of several dyslexics in her family.  As an educator who grew up with dyslexia and is also raising several children with dyslexia, she is the perfect person to share more about equipping struggling students with alternative reading instruction.

Take it away, Karee!!!

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & A Mom Who “Gets It”

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I understand the confusions and often contradictory information parents are given to help their child.  So let me start with my three guiding principles as a mom and that I use now as a tutor.

  1.  This is my child, I believe this child was sent to me and I am one of the two people (along with my husband) who has the most concern, love and hope invested in this little one.  I welcome and need the input of other partners in this process like tutors, teachers and friends. But at the end of the day, this is my child.
  2. There is no “one” solution for every child because every child is different.  If you find a solution that works for you, great!  And celebrate when someone else finds a solution, even if it is different from yours.
  3. To help any child improve in reading and spelling you need to also spend time building self-esteem and confidence.  


The Orton-Gillingham Approach For Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham method helps those with dyslexia beautifully.  While Orton-Gillingham was created to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, this approach can help all struggling readers.  This approach to reading instruction is also known as to as OG and Structured Literacy.

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological awareness:

    • Ability to manipulate sounds. A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 
    • The book “Equipped for Reading Success” by Dr. Kilpatrick is my favorite resource for phonological awareness. It gives you tests for PA as well as interventions for phonological awareness.  These tools can (and should) look like play to the child you are working with. 
      • I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds letters represent

The next thing OG is going to explicitly address is knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds the different letters make.  If you have a struggling reader, chances are they are not firm on the letter sounds.  Letter sounds need to be explicitly taught. 

    • For example the word “Wasp” is not pronounced /w/ /a/ /s/ /p/ because the “wa” makes a /w/ /o/ sound.

Spelling rules and phonics 

So far,I bet most of you are with me.  It’s easy to see the need for this type of instruction for any beginning or struggling reader.

Understanding these additional reading variables greatly assists with reading instruction.  

  • Knowledge of syllable division/syllable types 
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics

dyslexia, orton-gillingham, reading, learning disability

Syllable division and morphology are personally my favorite things to teach.  If you have a reader who has leveled out at a 3rd to 5th grade level, struggles with these 2 principles are probably part of the problem. 

I didn’t understand how to spell many words until I received this training as an adult.   I have always been a strong reader, but my spelling and grammar is still weak.  Weak spelling and grammar skills are hallmark characteristics of an adult with dyslexia.  Honestly, once I was trained in OG, I became a little frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier. Understanding how syllables impact sounds and spelling was an awakening for me.  When memorization was my only tool, spelling was incredibly difficult.  

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  Morphology is just a fancy term to describe how suffixes and prefixes change a word.  Think metamorphosis… the changing caterpillar and butterfly.

Another fantastic way to add meaning to how words are spelled is structured word inquiry.   Check out this great video about this new and growing field.   Structured Word Inquiry.

Letter Tiles App

Syntax & Semantics Round Out a Solid Reading Program

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the OG approach.  These help us understand how to get meaning from written language. 

You may be asking yourself the following question:

“Don’t most reading programs have some of these elements? Then why is OG so much more effective?”   

Yes!  Many programs do contain similar components. However, if reading supports don’t contain ALL of these components, please don’t use them!! 

A strong reading program should have all these elements. 


What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for our dyslexic students because of the way it presents the information.  It uses a multisensory and learner-driven approach.  Additionally, OG teachers and tutors are trained to be laser-focused on the specific needs of the student.


If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Lessons are hand-crafted to meet the needs of that student. They are also very, very explicit in teaching how letters, sounds, syllables and morphemes all work together.  Each lesson should circle back to previously learned material.  A student should never encounter a letter combination or spelling rule they have not been taught in any of the review segments of the lesson. 

Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s mastery, so we do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is finding success.



OG lessons are diagnostic.   This means that if a child is struggling with a concept or a word, we loop back to that again.  If I see a strength in the way the way a student grasps new information, that strength will be incorporated into all future lessons.

Ultimately, an OG approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory, diagnostic and most important of all… focused on success.

Orton-Gillingham Certified Tutors

If time, money and distance are not a roadblock, choosing a Certified Orton-Gillingham instructor is ideal.  Certified tutors have hours and hours of training, ongoing professional development and are continually mastering their craft.  

If finances are a roadblock, do not give up!!

When I started my journey in Utah there was not a single OG Certified tutor in my state with openings for a child.  Not one. 

What did I do? 

With my first child, I paid for a tutor for three years.  Later, his school agreed to train teachers and aids in the SPIRE program.  We made the decision to enroll our him to the school. Was the ischool nstruction as good as the private tutor?  No. But was my child progressing and happier, yes!   

Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

We often hear that dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  It’s not surprising then, of my four kids, we have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of them.

The reality is that I have navigated dyslexia in many ways.  Through my own schooling, in finding tutors for my kids,and  by advocating for other children to receive appropriate reading instruction.  

Eventually, when I realized that all of my kids would need reading tutoring, I decided to tutor them myself.   The cost for three dyslexic children to receive effective reading support, I had no other choice.  There are always options. 

If you are do end up supporting your own kids without formal OG training, I strongly suggest the programs Sonday System, Barton, or Reading Horizons.  

Believe in Your Child

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves. There are so many tools and supports available (a blog for another day). 

Remember, you are the parent and this is your child. There are days we all feel fear and are just overwhelmed.  At the end of every day though, your love for your child will help you find the path they need to be successful.  Always make sure that your children spend time building upon their strengths and not just facing down their weaknesses.  

Karee received a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.  Karee worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers and as a trainer for the Utah State Department of Health, before deciding to be a stay at home mom.   Karee was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Utah, grassroots movement driven by Utah families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within public schools.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  I work as a Orton-Gillingham tutor for kids with dyslexia and is in the process of becoming a Certified OG Tutor.

To contact Karee about her services: dyslexiasolutionsfortmill@gmail.com or  call her at 801-455-2402 

Auditory Processing Disorder: 10 Ways to Help Your Child

Note from Lindsay

Yes and Amen!!  If Karee had written nothing more than the last paragraph, I would be happy.  Moms, you have amazing children and God has a plan for each of them.  He has blessed them all with gifts and talents and a purpose for this life.  Allow them to explore their gifts… and always encourage them with your confidence in their abilities.  If your child is struggling with reading or has dyslexia, the Orton-Gillingham approach should be the game-changer you are looking for.  🙂

One last thing for you homeschoolers out there.  My absolute favorite reading and spelling curriculum out there is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and is also a very affordable and user-friendly option.  All About Learning Press is a phenomenal resource for reading instruction.  I would HIGHLY recommend their materials for any mom wanting to equip her child with a solid foundation of reading and spelling instruction.  I have used All About Spelling for both of my girls as well as several students that I have privately tutored in the past.  Cannot more highly recommend this company.

For more help with your struggling reader and alternative reading instruction information, check out my series on Reading Instruction for Struggling Readers.

Update: January 8, 2020

I am so excited to announce to my readers that All About Learning Press now has what looks to be an amazing app for our children!  I am so excited to try it with my little man.  From All About Learning Press:

Our Letter Tiles app lets you build words, divide words into syllables, and hear the sounds of the phonograms. Just choose your program from the menu (All About Reading or All About Spelling) and select which lesson number you are currently teaching. The appropriate letter tiles for that lesson will appear, making it easy for you to teach and easy for your student to learn.

I cannot wait to download this to my boy’s Ipad.   Any way I can sneak in learning without him knowing is a win in my book!  Yay!

 Click the image below to learn more about this incredible resource to add to your child’s reading and spelling tool belt!  

Letter Tiles App

Grab Your Free Behind the Behavior Bundle!

End the chaos and confusion! Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.  Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

All About Learning Press
My Top 3 Phonics Resources for Parents & Kids to Enjoy

My Top 3 Phonics Resources for Parents & Kids to Enjoy

Top 3 Resources for Phonics Fun at Home

As a homeschool mom, I have had the blessing of being home with my kids to educate them. Of our homeschool experiences, I would say that my top accomplishment with my girls (I have yet to teach my son) is teaching them to read. Over the years, I have used a ton of different phonics resources and curriculum in my homeschool.

As I am circling back to basic skills with my son who is now 5, I am pulling out materials that I used with my girls. Over the past few years, my son has developed a fascination with all-things letters and numbers. Because of this, I have been propelled to explore many more early learning resources.

 All Parents are Teachers

You don’t have to homeschool your children to reap the joy that comes with teaching your children. The following phonics resources for parents and children to use at home are very user-friendly. Each option will allow any parent the opportunity to enhance the education of his or her kids in a fun and engaging way. Formal instruction is greatly enriched when mom and dad are a part of the process. The following three phonics resources for parents have proven to be some of our favorites. Hope these are helpful! 🙂

Need For “All-Things” Letters

As mentioned earlier, my son is absolutely in love with letters (and numbers).  He has been obsessed with the alphabet since he was 2 years old!  Now, to be fair, my son has severe special needs which have impacted his brain cognition in specific areas.  Namely, he has been diagnosed with a pretty significant speech delay which has impacted his ability to communicate well. His brain differences have also given him the ability to hyperfocus which we hope to harness as a gifting (as opposed to a detriment) for his success.

My son’s inability to verbalize his thoughts contributed to severe meltdowns which started when he was around 15 months old. You can read more about my son’s severe developmental and behavioral issues here. What is so fascinating, however, is how God has created our brains in such an intricate and brilliant way. As such, there are parts of my son’s brain that are and have been extraordinarily advanced and strong.  His long-term memory is one of these areas.

Keeping It Real

I point out his strong long-term memory because when he was about 2 years old he became enthralled with letters. I was often running to and from various doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and classes for my older girls. My to my son’s disapproval, he was often strapped into his car seat. Long gone were the days when my life revolved around nap time. Unfortunately, my sweet boy was miserable almost “24/7” due to developmental delays. Add to that his aversion to the car and one can easily understand that he was not a happy passenger. Ultimately, I had to come up with a plan to ease the pain of our daily drives throughout town.

Fortunately, I pulled out my secret weapon. Yep, I used that 2007 Honda Odyssey’s greatest feature… the built-in DVD player. Then I popped in my tried and true Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD.  Yes, I am keeping it real here.  My son was 2 years old and was secured in a car seat for extended periods of time.  Being the youngest, he had to roll with our schedule.

Yes, he had screen time in the car.  (It is my own feeling of insecurity coming out here so I feel the need to justify the screen time… oh well.) I was determined, however, to expose him to content that would actually benefit him in some way. Enter in the Leap Frog Letter Factory series.

Leap Frog Letter Factory Series

These DVDs are educational screen time at its best.  I had been introduced to this little series about 9 years ago when I was teaching my oldest to read.  She had hit a wall in her motivation to read (probably because she was too young to have mommy pressuring her to read).  In first-time homeschool mom desperation, I headed over to my local homeschool store to seek advice. Thank God for the precious veteran homeschool moms who worked there to help us rookie mommas. One of these ladies lovingly educated me on the need to know when to “back off” of a young child.

“She is so young.  Give her a break and make learning fun.”

She gave me some great suggestions having to do with magnetic letters and magnetized white boards.  She then suggested the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD as a fun way to reinforce all that my daughter had learned through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I took that sweet lady’s advice, and took a step back from the formal instruction.  My daughter and I played with magnetized letters, read fun books (think Dr. Suess) and while in the car, I popped in the Leap Frog DVDs.  Both of my daughters ended up loving these, so when my son came around 4 years later, it was a no-brainer to use them again. However, he surprised us with his retention of the content.  This DVD series originally began with the Letter Factory DVD.  (There are more in the series now that are also fantastic. ) The Original Letter Factory DVD is an adorable story about a little “boy” (frog) who wants to nominate his father for “Dad of the Year.”  He needs to write a letter about his dad and so enters the Letter Factory to learn the letters of the alphabet as well as their sounds.  Every letter of the alphabet is introduced through song, chants, and fun alphabet characters.  Imagine a large, red, uppercase A who is regularly frightened by others.  In response to his fear, the Letter A screams, “Aaaah!”  My son enjoyed repeatedly acting out the scenes from the movie. He thought it hilarious to incessantly scream “Aaaah!”  In advance, I apologize for any excited screaming that may occur while showing this DVD. Ha!  My son learned all of his short and long letter sounds by the age of two because of this series.  Short sounds are introduced in the Letter Factory DVD and the long vowel sounds are introduced in the Talking Words Factory DVD.  It was in this order that I introduced them to my kiddos.   

Leap Frog Has Expanded

The Leap Frog Series has since expanded their DVD series to include many more options and story lines to engage and support your child’s early learning. They also have mathematics and number-based DVDs that are fun and effective as well. Because I recommend The Letter Factory and The Talking Word Factory in that order, I linked to those separate DVDs individually. Leap Frog currently does not have an option to purchase these two titles together in a set. Fortunately, purchasing them individually will cost approximately $13. Such a deal. This Leap Frog Mega-Pack set of DVDs contains more DVD options that you may find useful when you have completed the first two DVDs.  


I cannot more highly recommend the Leap Frog DVD Series for preschool age children. These DVDs will be helpful for any children who may be struggling with identifying letters and letter sounds.  The use of imagery allows the child to receive information visually, while the use of song and rhythm activates the musical part and auditory areas, and of course, the child singing along is another benefit as the child is using the speech area to do so.  Using multiple areas of the brain to receive and process information is key to retention of new information and Leap Frog Company does a great job to provide this type of learning.  Click below to purchase the DVD Series.  (I receive a small commission when you purchase through my Amazon link.  This helps me in providing more free content on my page.  I appreciate your support.) However, I will only ever recommend high-quality products that I have used and found effective.  

Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number Sticker Set

In my son’s season of letter obsession (numbers as well… but that will be another post), I searched high and low to find the most fun and engaging resources to continue his love of letters.  Eventually I came upon this fabulous and thorough sticker set of ABCs and Numbers from Melissa and Doug.  My son was over the moon when he opened this Amazon package one fall afternoon.  There are many sheet of letters designed in a variety of themes.  Primary colored letters, pastels, animal prints and even varying fonts and sizes.  I love that Melissa and Doug included the use of different fonts because some children become so fixated on what is a “correct” letter symbol.  This helps mom or dad or grandma or big sister (you get the idea), help a child identify letters that may look a bit different depending upon font used.  The Melissa and Doug Large Alphabet and Number Sticker sets are great for letter recognition, sound recognition if used to spell words (highly recommend actually using the letters to spell), and also the use of stickers is a wonderful fine-motor activity. I used to spell my son’s name on a large piece of paper and then had him identify the letters, peel them and stick them on top of the hand-written letters.  You can have your sweet kiddo choose his own words to stick and spell.  

Melissa and Doug Letter & Number Stamps

The Melissa and Doug Company is an educator’s dream company.  They do a fabulous job or creating quality educational products that can withstand the beatings that often come from being primarily used by young children. This set of alphabet letter and number stamp set is another tool (but my son thinks they are a toy).  He loves using the stamps to “spell” his name and the names of our family members.  Another reason that I particularly like these stamps is that the set includes some basic punctuation marks (periods, question mark, etc.) and numbers.    Having these punctuation marks available allows the educator to introduce the basic structure of a sentence and therefore, can be used for years. The numbers are an added bonus for obvious reasons. The child also works on his or her fine motor skills when using these stamps simply by the specific grip that he or she must employ in order to hold, ink and imprint the stamps on paper.  The options are endless with this Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number stamp set:

    • Practice Letter Name Identification 
  • Practice Letter Sound to Letter Symbol Correspondence 
  • Word Building by Copying 
  • Spelling By Sound (once simple sounds are mastered) 
  • Number Recognition 

All in all, these 3 tools are just a few of my favorite resources to use when teaching beginning phonics, reading and spelling. 

All About Learning Press


ABC Crafts for Uppercase Letters-468x60All About Reading Pre-reading I have to give a shout-out to All About Learning Press who does a phenomenal job breaking down the spelling and reading process step-by-step to accommodate children who learn differently. I have used their All About Spelling materials and absolutely LOVED it for both of my girls. I have also used it in my tutoring with children who are struggling with traditional reading strategies. I am so excited about using their Pre-reading program with my son and had to share. This company has so many phenomenal articles and resources to equip learners of every age and stage. Can’t wait to get started with them! 🙂 These resources have been instrumental in my children’s literacy journey and I hope they prove to be helpful for your family! 🙂


What about You, Friend?

How about you?  What are your favorite preschool and early elementary phonics, reading and spelling tools? 

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Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.