Simply put, dyslexia actually means, “difficulty with language.” People with dyslexia experience greater-than-average difficulty with learning to read, write and spell.
The official definition of dyslexia, adopted by the International Dyslexia Association, is as follows:
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
Some important points in the above definition: Dyslexia originates because of differences in the brain. It is NOT related to intelligence and it often may be indicated when a person has normal or even gifted intelligence and the provision of good classroom instruction (including phonics). If additional reading help and “trying everything,” does not yield significant improvement, consider the possibility of dyslexia and the need for research-based intervention (see below) that has been proven to work.
What is Orton-Gillingham?
Dr. Samuel Orton (1879-1948) was a neuro-psychiatrist who first determined that the condition we term dyslexia is genetic and could be treated via the right educational interventions. His findings and approach have been validated through much subsequent research.
Anna Gillingham (1878-1963) was an educator and master of the English language. She assisted Dr. Orton by developing instructional materials based on his findings.
Orton-Gillingham instruction is not a program, but a teaching approach. It is multi-sensory, using a student’s visual, auditory and kinesthetic pathways simultaneously, to help overcome visual and auditory processing difficulties and strengthen memory of taught material. It is structured, sequential and cumulative. Steps are taught logically, moving from simple to complex, with much practice and review. It is cognitive, as students learn why and how they learn best. All rules and sounds are directly and explicitly taught and learned to mastery. It is also individualized and throughout each lesson, we diagnose (make note of areas of need) and use that to prescribe further practice, or determine success.