Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham & Struggling Readers In Your Homeschool

Today we are discussing struggling readers, 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.

Take it away, Karee!!!

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

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I “get it.”  There is so much contradictory information regarding how to teach struggling readers.  It can be so overwhelming. 

So let me start with my three guiding principles for struggling readers.

1.    This is my child.   

I believe this child was sent to me.  My husband and I have 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.

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, focus on building self-confidence.  

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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.  

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological Awareness & Dyslexia

Phonological awareness refers to the ability to manipulate sounds.  A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 

Related Post: How To Help A Struggling Reader 

The book Equipped for Reading Success by Dr. Kilpatrick is Karee’s favorite resource for phonological awareness.

It gives you tests and interventions for phonological awareness.

Karee says,

I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Dyslexia Resource Library

Knowledge of the Alphabet & Sounds 

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.

Orton-Gillingham: Spelling rules and phonics 

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
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Syllablle Division

Syllable division and morphology are Karee’s 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.  

Speaking to her own dyslexia diagnosis,

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 bit frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier.  

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Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & Morphology

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  It’s 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.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Foundational Reading Skills: Syntax & Semantics

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the Orton-Gillingham 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? If so, then why is Orton-Gillingham 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.  To learn how to tease out root issues of reading struggles, check out this post.  

Logic of English Tree

What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for dyslexia 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.

1.  Success is achievable with Orton-Gillingham

If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Orton-Gillingham 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. 

2.  Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s masteryWe do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is successful.

3.   Diagnostic

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, we use that learning strength in all future lessons.

Ultimately, the Orton-Gillingham approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory and diagnostic.  And most important of all, it is focused on the success of the inidividual student.

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Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

Dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  We have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of my children.

I’ve navigated dyslexia in many ways personally in my own schooling and as a parent supporting my children.

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. 

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.  

RELATED POST:  2020 Best Homeschool Curriculum Choices Chosen By Veteran Homeschool Moms- Language Arts Edition

Dyslexia Resource Library

Struggling Students Need Adults To Believe In Them

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves.  

RELATED POST: 7 Homeschool Tips For Beginners

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.  

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia: Every Child Can Learn To Read

A big thank you to Karee for lending her expertise in the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction.  More than anything else in her post, what speaks to me most as a mom, educator and lover of kids, is this.  Her heartbeat for the success of every child.  

You may or may not know the mission of AHFAS.   

Here it is:  To equip moms to empower outside-the-box thinking kids to thrive as exactly who God has created them to be.  

When a child is equipped based on who they are and how they are wired, they will thrive with confidence and purpose.  

Join us in AHFAS Private community for more support.   Together, one mom at a time, we can change the narrative for kids with ADHD, ASD, SPD, Dyslexia or no acronym at all.    We’re in this together!

Logic of English Tree

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.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  

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

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