Dyslexia was clinically identified as early as 1881. In 1887, Dr. Rudolph Berlin coined the term “dyslexia,” and in 1896 Dr. W. Pringle Morgan published a paper of descriptions of this learning difference to the British Medical Journal. He titled his study “Congenital Word Blindness.”

These medical professionals and clinicians recognized that dyslexia and other language-based differences weren’t issues of intelligence or IQ, but rather in how the brains of these otherwise talented students interpreted letters, numbers, and characters. Few, however, tried to develop an approach to teaching these students.

Beginning in 1925, Dr. Samuel Orton worked to devise a strategy for unlocking the potential in dyslexic students. Joining him was noted educator and psychologist Anna Gillingham. While their work has been studied and refined throughout the years, the Orton-Gillingham Approach is at the core of our teaching method at Riverside School, and has unlocked the potential in all of our students, accelerating their migration into mainstream education.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach starts with two basic tenets: It’s personalized, and both diagnostic and prescriptive. While the symptoms of dyslexia are common, each child has differences in their language needs. The Approach also allows a trained instructor to constantly analyze, identify problems and progress, and adapt their instruction to ensure continue success.

Students are also trained to use multiple senses to find the right pathway towards a learning solution. Seeing, feeling, and motion are all brought together in the thinking brain. Likewise, combining the relationship between the sound of a letter or word with the appropriate symbol or spelling provides the student with a vivid representation or those written lessons. This use of the aural or verbal also introduces sentence structure, word order, and common literary forms.

Continuous feedback, positive reinforcement, and emotional success are also key to Orton-Gillingham. Each small step is celebrated, and becomes a building block towards the next lesson.

Children with dyslexia and other language-based differences (as well as their families!) are frequently frustrated by their lack of understanding and are searching for a solution. By introducing them to the Orton-Gillingham Approach we teach them a different way to learn, and transform their educational experience.