Orton-Gillingham Approach: What It Is & Why It's Important

To those of you who have tried (and some have succeeded) it seems like you need a secret handshake to get Orton-Gillingham training.

After a quick search on the internet, it might appear that you need to fly to a destination that is most likely east of the Mississippi and requires at least two weeks of your time away from home. Then once you complete this two week training, you must dedicate the rest of your life to become ‘certified.’

But this is all an illusion, an illusion that really hampers the ability of very good people to get their knowledge and training to those who need it the most, the struggling kids.

Shattering the Illusion of Exclusivity

What is the illusion? Like special education is not a place, Orton-Gillingham is not a program, it is an approach. It is not ‘owned’ by any organization or publishing company. It is a theory, a teaching philosophy. There are many ways to implement the approach and many authors have done a great job adapting it to meet the needs of even the most struggling readers. So, yes, there is more than one place and one way to get trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach and some of it can be done in the comfort of your pajamas while sitting at a computer.

There is no better time than right now to set the record straight. When groups like Decoding Dyslexia are making changes in their states and mandating training for teachers in the Orton-Gillingham approach, we need to be very clear about where they can get trained and what that training should look like.

But before we move on, you should know that this is not an article about what Orton-Gillingham is, but instead, where it can be had. For information about the history of Orton-Gillingham, I invite you to visit this webpage:


Who can offer training in the Orton-Gillingham approach?

Don’t get me wrong, I think those who offer the training should be highly trained and highly successful in implementing the approach themselves before they train others. However, they do not have to be disciples of any particular organization.

What should an Orton-Gillingham course include?

To be certified in Orton-Gillingham, the course should include the following components:

I offer the following guidelines for what training in Orton-Gillingham should include:

  • A comprehensive, up-to-date course on dyslexia (including recent scientific advances)
  • A simulation of dyslexia
  • A thorough explanation and demonstration of what multisensory teaching is and how to successfully implement it
  • A thorough explanation of the seven syllable types, spelling rules, blending, syllabication rules, spelling strategies, morphology, latin and greek roots
  • A unit about reading comprehension and fluency
  • A unit about teaching writing
  • A unit explaining accommodations
  • A unit discussing special education law and dyslexia

And most importantly:

  • A supervised practicum

This training is a process. A journey. A philosophical shift in how teachers think about teaching reading. It takes time to adjust, re-adjust, learn and practice. Simply giving a teacher a week-long training in the approach and then a script will not do. We need to make sure the teachers and districts who become mandated (or strongly encouraged) to learn this approach know their options so they can complete the training. But it does not require extensive travel and time or a secret handshake.

Your options

Below is a list of organizations that offer training in the Orton-Gillingham approach (forgive me if failed to include an obvious resource). Some of them vary in how they label the approach they are using and some are online – they are all good, accessible and most importantly they are effective.

  • Dyslexia Training Institute (online) – www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org
  • Wilson Reading System (online and in-person) – www.wilsonlanguage.com
  • Barton Reading and Spelling System (in-person or by video) - www.BartonReading.com
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University (in – person) - http://view.fdu.edu/?id=1658
  • Institute for Multi-sensory Education (in-person) - http://www.orton-gillingham.com/
  • Academy of Orton-Gillingham (in-person) - http://www.ortonacademy.org/
  • Neuhaus Education Center (online and in-person) – http://www.neuhaus.org

See, I told you there are more ways than one to get this wonderful training. Now, let’s stop pretending anyone owns this wonderful intervention and get to the work of training as many people as possible and get this dyslexia thing under control!

Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute (www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org and www.dyslexiadr.com.).

She is currently writing Putting the D in to the IEP and you can read excerpts at www.dyslexiadr.blogspot.com. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego.

Dr. Sandman-Hurley a Certified Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process.

She is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs.

Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, as well as a board member of the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN).

She is a professional developer for California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) as well as a Literacy Consultant for the San Diego Council on Literacy. She was awarded the Jane Johnson Fellowship and the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) scholarship. Kelli has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. She is currently working on her book, Putting the D in IEP: A guide to dyslexia in the school system.

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