Understanding Dyslexia Intervention


There is a lot of discussion in the education world about the science of reading, structured literacy, and Orton Gillingham. But what does this mean for you, the parent or parent educator? In this post, I’ll be outlining what the science of reading is, what structured literacy is, what is Orton Gillingham (and a VAKT instructional model), and how it all relates to dyslexia intervention.

What is The Science of Reading?

According to Louisa Moats, “the ‘science of reading’ is not an ideology, a philosophy, a political agenda, a one-size-fits-all approach, a program of instruction, nor a specific component of instruction. It is the emerging consensus from many related disciplines, based on literally thousands of studies, supported by hundreds of millions of research dollars, conducted across the world in many languages. These studies have revealed a great deal about how we learn to read, what goes wrong when students don’t learn, and what kind of instruction is most likely to work the best for the most students.”

An understanding and application in the intervention using the basis of the science of reading leads to a more efficient orthographic mapping and ensures the highest degree of student success in written language acquisition. Students with varying reading difficulties require instructors trained in the science of reading to provide needed remediation and scaffold for different learning needs.

What is Structured Literacy?

Structured Literacy is how we teach the principles of the science of reading. The highly trained teacher is able to implement their knowledge of the science of reading to help all students, but the focus is on students who have difficulty accessing the written word. According to Ferrell and Cushen-White, Structured Literacy is defined as explicit, direct instruction that is sequential, systematic, and cumulative in approach, utilizing the understanding of the science of reading. It is a diagnostic approach to help inform teachers for future instructional planning of struggling students.

What is Orton Gillingham?

Orton Gillingham (or OG) is the organization of the structure of foundational skills necessary for reading and writing. It could be considered not only as the “what” we teach, but a systematic organization of how we teach. It is based upon the studies of Samuel Orton, and the collaboration and instructional therapy of Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman. An Orton Gillingham (or OG) approach is highly structured, sequential, and explicitly breaks down reading and spelling into individual skills, such as letter sounds, syllables, words, sentences, and writing. Additionally, an OG structure is an alphabetic system that systematically builds on these skills to mastery. Students are taught daily in small groups, with other students who have similar skill gaps in reading/language arts for a minimum of 45 minutes a day, five days a week. An OG approach instructs students in the systematic learning of reading and writing, starting with the most commonly used phonemes/letters and building upon previously learned skills. The goal is that with this presentation model, students will learn 85% of the language that is regular for reading and 75% of the language that is regular for spelling, without memorizing lists of words. Students will learn to identify letters and learn that letters make sounds. Then, students will begin to recognize letter and letter patterns in words. Skills are taught to mastery before moving to the next concept.

How Does it All Relate to Dyslexia Intervention?

Though many dyslexia interventions follow an OG structure, all dyslexia interventions employ a multisensory (or VAKT) approach that aligns with the dyslexia intervention. VAKT stands for visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile approaches. A curriculum is considered multisensory when student responses employ two or more of these modalities simultaneously for taking in the needed information. A VAKT approach helps students connect written language to letters and words. Multisensory strategies include instructional procedures to learn phonological, morphemic, semantic, and syntactical layers of language through a VAKT integration. Dyslexia curricula that employ all of these factors are considered evidence-based for reading instruction and remediation.

Tying it All Together: Let’s Recap

  • The Science of Reading is the study and understanding of the reading process, and what does and does not work for most students.
  • Structured Literacy is the broad content that is to be taught to support the science of reading, such as phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, morphology, and comprehension that teachers teach.
  •  Orton Gillingham is the organization of the principles of the science of reading, and the content of Structured Literacy that is taught explicitly, systematically, and to mastery.
  • Dyslexia Intervention is evidence-based. It is dependent on teacher knowledge and understanding of the Science of Reading. It employs a structured literacy approach and is typically organized in a systematic, cumulative sequence and is intentional in its approach. It is based on OG principles and is delivered in a (VAKT) multisensory modality.

Dyslexia Intervention Summary

When you think of a great dyslexia curriculum, keep in mind these key points: dyslexia curricula are based on the sequential structure of the language, taught to master and employ a multisensory/VAKT approach to help reinforce new connections made for reading and spelling. Many studies such as the NRP 2000 reports support this method and encourage teachers to use this structure to support instruction. To quote from Snow and Juels’ 2005 research, “Explicit teaching of alphabetic decoding skills is helpful for all children, harmful for none, and crucial for some”. The ability to provide reading/writing access to all is truly the goal of all written language systems.

By using the Amplio Special Education Learning Platform, educators can provide evidenced-based practices determined from the science of reading, but also provide the structured literacy, OG-based curricula that are VAKT by design. The curricula contain the components needed for explicit instruction and remediation for students identified with dyslexia. Interested in learning more about Amplio’s Dyslexia Curriculum? Start a conversation with one of our learning experts today.

Aimee Rodenroth

Aimee Rodenroth

Aimee Rodenroth is the Subject Matter Expert on Dyslexia for Amplio. She has 30 years of experience in public education in Texas, 27 of those years were spent in some form of dyslexia education. She received her CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist) certification in 2006 from LEAD, and later obtained her QI (Qualified Instructor) certification in 2018 from Southern Methodist University. Aimee is trained in multiple dyslexia curricula.

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