Brief History of the Teaching Reading Method
Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948) was an American physician in the early
1900's who pioneered the study of
learning disabilities. He is best known for his work examining the causes
and methods of treatment for dyslexia.
Orton worked as a pathologist in Massachusetts, where he worked with adult patients
who had brain damage. Their difficulty with language functioning and reading tasks
led him to study why some children with apparently intact neurological functioning
had similar issues with language processing and reading. He also discovered that
those with reading challenges he tested at a clinic in Greene County, Iowa had average
or above average IQ scores.
"Orton's study of reading difficulties
in children led him to hypothesize that these individuals have failed to establish
appropriate cerebral organization to support the association of visual words with
their spoken forms."
(Orton, ST (2519). "Word-blindness' in school children." Archives of Neurology and
Psychiatry 14: 285-516.)
He concluded from his work that since those with reading difficulty manifested similar
issues as those who he had worked with who had injuries to the left hemisphere that
those with reading difficulty must be unable to access the left hemisphere when
dealing with reading. The right hemisphere was dominant. He then introduced the
concept of "multi-sensory" instruction so that
the reading instruction would integrate both right and left brain functions. "He
was influenced by the work of fellow psychiatrist Grace Fernald, who had developed
a kinesthetic approach involving writing in the air and tracing words in large written
or scripted format, while simultaneously saying the names and sounds of the letters"
He later worked with psychologist Anna Gillingham (1878-1963).
Anna designed and published instructional materials for teaching the 44 sounds or
phonemes of the English alphabet and taught morphemes, such as prefixes and suffixes
and created common spelling rules to apply to certain patterns and syllable types.
Thanks to her system students no longer had to memorize all the words but could
apply skills to decoding and only have to memorize words which were nonphonetic.
Her system, combined with Orton's notion of multi-sensory instruction, is where
we get the well known Orton-Gillingham
of reading instruction. The book that became known as the Orton-Gillingham manual
was titled Remedial Training for Children with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling
and Penmanship, and was first published in 1935. The Orton-Gillingham method
is still the most prevalent form of remediation for those with the language processing
disorder known as dyslexia. The systematic
instruction of simple to more complex phonetic concepts and word and syllable patterns
presented in a multi-sensory fashion is the
most effective way to help these learners access the left hemisphere, progress,
experience success and reach their full potential.
How Our Reading Program Works
- Learn how the Reading Horizons
and Discover Intensive Phonics
help struggling readers and provide sequential and multi-sensory instruction,
all of which follow the Orton-Gillingham method.