The Orton-Gillingham Approach


Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham were pioneers in the field of dyslexia. Their groundbreaking Orton-Gillingham approach, sometimes referred to as OG, has been regarded as the most crucial and significant reading intervention designed specifically for children and adults with dyslexia. Based on her work with Dr. Orton, Anna compiled and published the instructional materials that became The Gillingham Manual, published by EPS since 1956.

Who were Orton & Gillingham?

Samuel Torrey Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading failure and related language processing difficulties. He brought together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation. As early as the 1920s, he had extensively studied children with the kind of language processing difficulties now commonly associated with dyslexia and had formulated a set of teaching principles and practices for such children.

Anna Gillingham was a gifted educator and psychologist with a superb mastery of the English language. Working with Dr. Orton, she trained teachers and compiled and published instructional materials.

What is the Orton-Gillingham Approach?

Over the last half century the Orton-Gillingham approach has been the most influential intervention designed expressly for remediating the language processing problems of children and adults with dyslexia. The Orton-Gillingham approach is language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible. 

  • Language-based - The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on a technique of studying and teaching language, understanding the nature of human language, the mechanisms involved in learning, and the language-learning processes in individuals.

  • Multisensory-  teaching sessions are action oriented with auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements reinforcing each other for optimal learning. The student learns spelling simultaneously with reading.
  • Structured, Sequential, Cumulative - elements of the language are introduced systematically. Students begin by reading and writing sounds in isolation. Then they blend the sounds into syllables and words. Students learn the elements of language, e.g., consonants, vowels, digraphs, blends, and diphthongs, in an orderly fashion. They then proceed to advanced structural elements such as syllable types, roots, and affixes. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material to the level of automaticity. The teacher addresses vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative manner.
  • Cognitive-  Students learn about the history of the English language and study the many generalizations and rules that govern its structure. They also learn how best they can learn and apply the language knowledge necessary for achieving reading and writing competencies.
  • Flexible - teaching is diagnostic and prescriptive in nature. The teacher always seeks to understand how an individual learns and to devise appropriate teaching strategies.
  • Emotionally Sound - In every lesson, the student experiences a high degree of success and gains confidence as well as skill. Learning becomes a rewarding and happy experience.

From the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, "The Orton-Gillingham Approach", 2008, 2010,

Orton-Gillingham Based Products   

The following products provide instruction that can be implemented by educators at various levels of expertise – from materials essential to Orton-Gillingham trained educators to programs that offer instructional support and ease-of-use for any educator.

*Products suitable for Orton-Gillingham trained educators


Available in print and digital

Author Sheila Clark-Edmands is an Orton-Gillingham Fellow and has worked with children with language based learning differences for over 30 years. SPIRE is a multisensory reading intervention program, based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and is designed to be easy to implement. It spans Pre-Level 1 (Sounds Sensible) through Level 8, covering phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing in every lesson.

Recipe for Reading

Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham trained author Nina Traub in the Orton-Gillingham approach. Nina developed Recipe for Reading to make the Orton-Gillingham approach more accessible to the average teacher.

Preventing Academic Failure (PAF)

Both authors Phyllis Bertin and Eileen Perlman are Orton-Gillingham Fellows and have extensive experience working with dyslexics and struggling readers. PAF was designed as a classroom adaptation of the Orton-Gillingham approach.

Sounds Sensible

Author Sheila Clark-Edmands is an Orton-Gillingham Fellow and has worked with children with dyslexia and other language based learning differences for over 30 years. Sounds Sensible is a phonological awareness and beginning phonics program that also serves as Pre-Level 1 of S.P.I.R.E.

Explode The Code

Author Nancy Hall is a trained Orton-Gillingham teacher. She developed Explode The Code using her knowledge of the Orton-Gillingham approach to help struggling readers overcome the hurdle of learning to decode and encode. 


Spell Well

Author Nancy Hall is an Orton-Gillingham trained teacher and used her knowledge of the Orton-Gillingham approach to develop this phonics based spelling program.

How to Teach Spelling

This manual provides resources and methods for planning effective spelling lessons based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.

Writing Skills

Author Diana Hanbury King is an Orton-Gillingham Fellow. She founded the Kildonan School and Dunnebeck Camp for dyslexic students. Diana developed Writing Skills with multisensory techniques to meet the needs of struggling writers.

The Gillingham Manual*

The Gillingham Manual is the backbone of the Orton-Gillingham approach and is required reading for accredited Orton-Gillingham teacher training programs. It covers reading and spelling, aquiring familiarity with sound symbols, spelling patterns and generalizations, writing and handwriting, dictionary technique and instruction for older students. 

Dyslexia Training Program*

This is an intensive two-year reading program for dyslexic students in grades 2-5. It was designed by the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital and is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.

TSRH Literacy Program*

This reading program was designed by the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for adults who read below a 6th grade level. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.

Alphabetic Phonics*

Author Aylett Cox was the former Director of the Language Laboratory at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. Using the Orton-Gillingham approach, this program teaches handwriting, spelling, reading, reading comprehension, and oral and written expression.

Language Tool Kit & Advanced Language Tool Kit*

Author Paula Rome learned the Orton-Gillingham approach from her uncle, Dr. Paul Dozier, a colleague of Dr. Orton. She partnered with gifted teacher Jean Osman to develop the Language Tool Kit. Based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, this program teaches reading and spelling to students with dyslexia or other language based learning differences.

Guide to Teaching Phonics*

This teacher's guide presents multisensory procedures developed in association with Dr. Samuel T. Orton.
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