Navigating Dyslexia: A Comprehensive Overview of the Orton Gillingham Approach

orton gillingham review

The Orton Gillingham method is a used approach for treating Dyslexia. It’s been estimated that the prevalence of Dyslexia is up to 20% of the population, and several methods exist for treating the associated reading and spelling deficits. However, the Orton Gillingham approach stands out as potentially offering significant gains in reading outcomes for individuals with Dyslexia due to its methodology.  

Follow along for a comprehensive overview of Dyslexia and Orton Gillingham from an experienced Speech-Language Pathologist’s point of view. I’ll discuss all of the need to know information about the Orton Gillingham reading program. That includes the components, methodology, outcomes, reviews, and my professional experience with the program. 

What is the Orton Gillingham Method of Teaching?

The Orton Gillingham approach is a structured, cumulative, sequential approach designed to help individuals with Dyslexia read at the word level. 

How Does the Orton Gillingham Approach Work?

Orton Gillingham is a multisensory, phonics-based approach. The systematic lessons focus on phonics (explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds) while engaging the child’s visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses.   

The child is taught individual sounds, then how to put them together to make simple words, and then to put syllables together for creating longer words. 

What are Some of the Concepts Taught?

Orton Gillingham techniques include teaching syllable types and rules to explain how to read certain words. Knowing these consistent rules and patterns helps children to be able to better decode words without help.

For example, rules that explain when to read a “short a” (as in “cat”) versus a “long a” (as in “gate”). Additionally, Orton Gillingham lessons always contain a review of content that was previously learned. 

Where Does a Child Start?

Using the Orton Gillingham curriculum starts with the Beginning Reading Skills Assessment (BRSA) provided by the IMSE which determines the child’s areas of strengths and difficulties with reading. The assessment allows the instructor to document the child’s baseline phonemic awareness skills. The results help the instructor determine where to begin within the program. 

What Does an Orton Gillingham Lesson Look Like?

An Orton Gillingham lesson typically includes 6 steps: 

  1. Review with phonogram cards (sound cards). The student is drilled on previously learned skills. Reviewing and naming sound cards at the beginning of each lesson reinforces learning over time. 
  2. Introduction of a new skill. The instructor introduces a new concept, which could be a specific sound, syllable type, or spelling pattern. Multisensory teaching methods are used during activities that allow the child to see, hear, and move to reinforce learning. Example: A child may practice writing a new sound as they write the corresponding letter on a cookie sheet covered in sand or shaving cream.     
  3. The Blending Drill. This is an activity that encourages the child to use decoding skills to blend sounds from 3 piles of sound cards. The child practices reading nonsense words which force him or her not to rely on memorization skills. 
  4. Red Words. Red Words are irregular words that do not follow a certain pattern and therefore cannot be sounded out. Red words can be memorized by multisensory activities like tapping on the arm and sliding the finger down the arm while saying the sounds within the word. 
  5. Reading Words, Sentences, and Text. The child is asked to read words, sentences, or decodable text while applying the new concept learned in the session that day. 
  6. Writing. The instructor dictates sounds, words, or sentences as the child repeats and then writes them. 

Other phonological awareness activities, fluency drills, and games may also be incorporated into the Orton-Gillingham lesson. 

How is a Child’s Progress Measured?

A child’s progress is measured through the instructor completing a baseline assessment and benchmark assessments throughout the year. This helps instructors determine the effectiveness of the Orton Gillingham techniques on improving the child’s reading skills and is an important component of the program.

Who Can Teach It?

The program is used by reading specialists, Speech-Language Pathologists, tutors, and teachers. Orton Gillingham offers a certification through the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE). But, certification is not required to implement Orton-Gillingham techniques when working with children who have Dyslexia. 

Orton Gillingham Method: An SLP’s Review

As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) with experience in Dyslexia intervention, I’ve had the opportunity to use and assess the Orton Gillingham approach. Here I’ll provide a detailed analysis of the methodology, teaching strategies, results, strengths, challenges, and expert tips to keep in mind when considering using the Orton Gillingham method for dyslexia intervention. 

Methodology & Process 

The Orton Gillingham curriculum is not evidence-based. No studies provide evidence that Orton-Gillingham approaches are more effective than another type of Dyslexia intervention. 

The Orton Gillingham methodology is research-based. This means it was developed by drawing on existing research that supports multisensory approaches as an effective way of supporting individuals with Dyslexia.  

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I believe it is important to keep these points in mind when selecting an approach to working with individuals with Dyslexia. Although the Orton Gillingham curriculum is not evidence-based, research supports that Orton Gillingham techniques (the multisensory approach) can effectively improve reading skills in children with Dyslexia. 

Also, instructors are required to plan portions of the lessons. This can be time-consuming and challenging for some instructors, like busy teachers or those who are not as knowledgeable about the Orton Gillingham approach. 

Additional activities that can be included in an Orton Gillingham lesson are time-dependent and should be based on the needs of the individual student. Examples include phonemic awareness activities, activities that target fluency (such as repeated reading with decodable reading passages), and handwriting practice and instruction. 

Teaching Strategies

Lessons offer flexibility. Although there are certain standard components of an Orton Gillingham lesson, as the instructor, I do have the flexibility to customize lessons. If I am working with a child who could benefit from working on phonemic awareness skills such as blending sounds, I can search for printed materials or digital activities to target this skill with the child. 

It is easy to find online resources for Orton Gillingham lessons and activities through user blogs, and sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and Boom Learning

The Orton Gillingham Method can be used in small group instruction. A benefit to the Orton Gillingham program is that it can be used successfully in small groups to help improve reading skills for individuals with Dyslexia. 

User reviews report that this model can be successful, though it does require time for planning and customization of lessons. For example, individual word lists may need to be created for each student depending on their needs.   

Children retain reading strategies through direct, explicit instruction. I’ve found that children (and parents) enjoy learning the Orton Gillingham strategies because it gives them concrete techniques to utilize during reading tasks. 

One example of a strategy I use when following the Orton Gillingham approach is the Simultaneous Oral Spelling (SOS) method. This is a multisensory technique where I call out a word, the student repeats the word, then finger spells or taps out the sounds in the word. The student then says each letter or sound as they write the word, and repeats the word to make sure it is accurate.  


In my experience, long-term impacts in children who use the Orton Gillingham method include improved confidence and self-esteem during academic tasks such as reading and writing. Dyslexic individuals often require ongoing support for reading and writing skills.  


The cost of using the Orton Gillingham curriculum varies depending on several factors. These include costs associated with areas such as: 

  • Training/certification of the Orton Gillingham dyslexia instructor
  • Model of instruction. Sessions may be completed individually or in small groups. The amount of time the instructor requires to block and how many students will be in the group can result in varied costs. 
  • Materials. Different instructors working with a variety of children will require textbooks, workbooks, digital materials, and physical materials to support the multisensory approach when completing Orton Gillingham for Dyslexia.
  • Program duration. The duration of the program can depend on the individual progress of the child. This can impact the amount of materials and time for lessons the instructor is required to block.

Overall, training and materials can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. The Institute for Multisensory Education (IMSE) offers Comprehensive Orton Gillingham Plus Training for $1500 that includes materials such as a training and assessment manual, a phoneme/grapheme card pack, and more. 

Considering the research that supports the multisensory techniques used in the Orton Gillingham approach, I feel that the program can be cost-effective.   


Instructors should provide ongoing support to students and communicate regularly with parents and caregivers about strategies and goals being targeted in the Orton Gillingham program. IMSE provides support and resources for individuals who have completed their training programs. Additionally, peer interaction and support can be available through small group instruction. 

User Reviews

As I researched and analyzed user reviews on the Orton Gillingham, there appears to be a range of opinions expressed. Positive reviews highlight its effectiveness in supporting individuals with dyslexia through the structured, multisensory nature of the approach. They also cite that Orton Gillingham offers personalized attention for individuals. 

Some users criticize the program due to its potentially high cost. Overall, users appear satisfied with the results and the program overall. They appear to appreciate that it provides targeted support for struggling readers. 

Strengths of the Orton Gillingham Approach

Individualized instruction, direct, explicit instruction of strategies, and the use of research-based multisensory activities are areas that I see as strengths of the Orton Gillingham approach. 

Areas for Improvement

The potential cost of the program and the need for instructors to spend time seeking out and preparing additional activities are what I consider as areas of improvement within the Orton Gillingham approach. There is also a lack of current research to show that Orton Gillingham is more effective than other approaches to dyslexia. Ongoing research to support the effectiveness of the method would support Orton Gillingham as an evidence-based practice. 

Bottom Line

Overall, I believe that the strategies presented in the Orton Gillingham approach to reading can be an effective method of improving an individual’s reading skills. 

✅ Orton Gillingham employs a structured, cumulative, and sequential approach to teaching reading.❌ The Orton Gillingham curriculum itself is not evidence-based, which may raise concerns about its efficacy compared to evidence-based interventions.
✅ The method utilizes a multisensory, phonics-based approach, engaging visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses to reinforce learning.❌ The program may involve significant costs associated with training, materials, and ongoing sessions, which may not be feasible for all families or institutions.
✅ Offers individualized instruction tailored to the specific needs of each learner, allowing for customized feedback and support.❌ Orton Gillingham may not be accessible to individuals in remote or underserved areas who do not have access to qualified instructors or resources.
✅ Lessons incorporate systematic reviews of previously learned content, reinforcing learning over time.❌ Following the program with a tutor can be expensive, averaging $100 per hour.
✅ Provides flexibility in teaching strategies, allowing instructors to customize lessons based on the student’s needs.

Our Methodology: How We Reviewed the Orton Gillingham Approach

In our comprehensive review of the Orton Gillingham method, I utilized a multi-faceted approach to ensure a thorough evaluation.  By incorporating various perspectives and a detailed breakdown of key components, our review aims to provide a comprehensive, unbiased evaluation of the Orton Gillingham method. 

This review was not sponsored, and I do not have any financial affiliations with the Orton Gillingham approach. The information I presented reflects my honest opinion on the program based on my professional experience with it. 

Below outlines the methodology I followed to assess the effectiveness and value of the Barton Program:

  • Evaluation Criteria: Our review was guided by clearly defined criteria, focusing on the educational effectiveness of the program, its usability for learners and educators, accessibility for users with diverse needs, and the quality of support resources provided. I selected information that reflects the impact of Dyslexia on individuals and how the Orton Gillingham method can improve those skills. The information reflects my professional experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist. I considered case studies and research from professional organizations and reputable journals. 
  • User Feedback: A pivotal part of our review involved gathering feedback directly from those who have used the Orton Gillingham method. Through research on websites for therapy centers, tutoring organizations, and teachers, I collected insights on user experiences, the usability of the program, and the support provided, enabling us to gauge real-world impacts.
  • Expert Analysis: To ensure a balanced and informed review, I researched the opinions of educational experts and specialists in dyslexia. Their analysis of the program’s curriculum and teaching methodologies against current academic and pedagogical standards was invaluable in assessing its theoretical underpinnings.

Forbrain and Orton Gillingham as Complementary Dyslexia Tools 

One tool that can complement Orton Gillingham and Dyslexia treatment is Forbrain. Forbrain is a speech and language enhancement device designed to improve auditory processing, attention, and communication skills through bone conduction technology. Forbrain uses specialized headphones to transmit sound vibrations, amplifying sounds. 

Complementing the Orton Gillingham curriculum with the use of Forbrain, an auditory stimulation device, may enhance the overall effectiveness of intervention for individuals with Dyslexia. 

The Orton Gillingham approach addresses the core deficits associated with Dyslexia. Forbrain is a digital learning tool that allows the user to hear themselves slightly louder. This amplified effect can make it easier for the brain to process and remember what the user says out loud. It follows the multisensory approach of Orton Gillingham by engaging the auditory sense while the student learns reading and writing skills. 

The two can be used simultaneously in the intervention of Dyslexia, as Forbrain can be used while a student completes Orton Gillingham lessons.   

The Use of Orton Gillingham with and without Forbrain

Feature/AspectForbrainOrton GillinghamOrton Gillingham with Forbrain
FunctionalityHeadset that helps with the 3 main challenges of dyslexia: verbal memory, phonological awareness, and verbal processing speed. The combination of the dynamic filter and bone conduction amplifies the speaker’s voice and stimulates the auditory nerve, for better brain processing.Orton Gillingham is a structured, cumulative, sequential approach designed to help individuals with Dyslexia. It focuses on phonics, syllable types, and decoding strategies.Pairing Forbrain with OG combines structured literacy and cognitive training, addressing phonological and cognitive aspects of Dyslexia simultaneously.
UsabilityMeant to be implemented into daily routines, for 10-20 minutes a day. Individuals simply need to wear the headset when reading or speaking.The OG approach requires structured lesson plans and hands-on activities. Each session lasts 40 to 60 minutes.Forbrain can seamlessly be integrated into OG sessions, providing simultaneous auditory and cognitive training without disrupting the lesson flow.
Target AudienceSuitable for 3+ and older individuals with learning challenges such as dyslexiaOrton Gillingham is specifically designed for individuals with Dyslexia who struggle with reading and spelling.OG with Forbrain enhances the effectiveness of intervention for individuals with Dyslexia, by targeting both phonological and cognitive deficits.
BenefitsForbrain helps to improve:
– speech
– communication
– attention
– focus
– memory
– learning
OG offers potentially significant gains in reading outcomes for individuals with Dyslexia, as it is highly structured and targets specific literacy deficits using multisensory techniques.Pairing OG with Forbrain can enhance literacy and cognitive skills, boosting reading, writing, and spelling abilities by addressing key foundations for proficient language processing.
LimitationsNot appropriate for individuals with :
– cochlear implant
– severe hearing loss
– epilepsy
Orton Gillingham may not address all literacy skills affected by Dyslexia, such as reading comprehension or writing fluency.
Cost$299 for the Forbrain headset and accessories, with a 2-year warranty.The cost of Orton Gillingham varies based on training, materials, and instructor fees, making it potentially expensive for some families.Although the combined cost of OG with Forbrain is higher, the potential reading and cognitive gains may justify the initial expense.
Support & ResourcesForbrain comes with:
– A secondary microphone that allows support from parents, therapists, or instructors.
– A headphone jack for listening to recordings or participating in online therapy programs.
Orton Gillingham offers support through training programs, instructional materials, and professional organizations dedicated to Dyslexia intervention.
Clinical Evidence/ResearchForbrain uses neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire and change. Several scientific studies have shown the effects of using Forbrain or auditory feedback to improve the skills of those with reading or other deficits.OG is a research-based method with empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness in improving reading skills and literacy outcomes for individuals with Dyslexia.Combining both tools harnesses their strengths, possibly offering compounded benefits for Dyslexia, but further research is necessary to confirm their synergistic effects.

Final Words

The Orton Gillingham method is a widely used approach for improving reading skills in children with Dyslexia. It incorporates research-based multisensory techniques into direct, explicit instruction of reading strategies which many user reviews report to be effective. What I consider to be potential downfalls of the program include the costs associated with training, the lack of evidence supporting the program’s effectiveness, and the time required for lesson planning.  

To potentially complement the effectiveness of the Orton Gillingham approach, individuals can include the use of Forbrain,  an auditory stimulation headset. Improving a child’s reading and spelling skills can have lasting effects for that individual throughout their lifetime. 


Johnston, P., & Scanlon, D. (2021). An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction With Policy Implications. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 70(1), 107-128.

Stevens, E. A., Austin, C., Moore, C., Scammacca, N., Boucher, A. N., & Vaughn, S. (2021). Current State of the Evidence: Examining the Effects of Orton-Gillingham Reading Interventions for Students With or at Risk for Word-Level Reading Disabilities. Exceptional children, 87(4), 397–417.

Subramaniam, V., Shuhada Abdan Nasir, N. (2020). Multisensory Therapy in Letter Reversal of Dyslexic Pupils. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 8(12), 7118 – 7130. DOI:

Amy Yacoub

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist. She has over 12 years of experience working with children who have a variety of diagnoses and disorders, including speech and language delays, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and Autism. She is also an experienced consultant within the field.

More Reviews on Dyslexia Programs:

Wilson Reading
Barton Reading
Lindamood Bell
Fast ForWord
Interactive Metronome
Learning Breakthrough