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Orton Gillingham Tutors: Teaching Your Child to Read

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


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Have you ever heard of Orton-Gillingham?

If you haven't, or are curious about this method of teaching reading, we can certainly help.


As a trained Reading Interventionist who uses the Orton-Gillingham approach, we often get asked questions about this widely-used literacy program.


While Orton-Gillingham isn’t the only approach or method we use, we find some children benefit greatly from repetition and very explicit instruction that Orton-Gillingham offers. However, we offer other literacy approaches for children who do need this level of instruction, which can take less time and ultimately be less expensive.


If you’re unsure if the Orton-Gillingham approach is right for your child, contact our Reading Interventionist today to learn more.


Who is Orton-Gillingham for?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is designed for children struggling with reading or not making progress with their literacy skills. This is especially true if your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or a specific learning disorder. Also, schools can recommend Orton-Gillingham instruction as part of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Response to Intervention (RTI). However, anyone can benefit.


What is Orton-Gillingham?

In the 1930s, Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, developed the Orton-Gillingham approach.They designed the method to be a structured literacy program with a multi-sensory approach that is now widely-used by many reading programs.


The main goal is to teach children the connection between sounds and letters by breaking lessons down into smaller, more manageable pieces for the child. It's most commonly used for individuals with dyslexia or other learning disabilities, but is beneficial for anyone learning to read because all beginning readers benefit from a structured literacy approach that is multi-sensory.


What does an Orton-Gillingham lesson look like?

The beautiful part, Orton-Gillingham tutoring lessons are flexible and tailored to each child's learning abilities. Lessons incorporate a multi-sensory approach using a variety of common items such as sandpaper, shaving cream, and pipe cleaners.


Orton-Gillingham online for students may look a little different but are just as effective. During virtual sessions, students use many of the same techniques that they would use in in person lessons such as arm tapping, sky writing, building words with letter tiles, playing games to practice specific skills, etc.


How long will it take before my child is reading at grade level?

We are often asked this question by parents and our answer is always, it depends on your child and their learning rate. What does this mean you ask?


Every child’s needs and goals are different so the amount of time it will take to close the reading gap for them depends greatly on how far behind they currently are, if there are any learning challenges that are making reading especially difficult for them such as dyslexia, and how quickly they respond to the interventions being used in sessions.


Another factor that can either speed up or slow down the time in which it takes to close the reading gap is if the child practices their reading skills outside of sessions. We appreciate the fact that parents would like some sort of ballpark of how long we think it will take their child to close their reading gap so that they can plan accordingly.


For this reason, we provide a general estimate, but always explain that this is just that - an estimate not a guarantee. Using the Orton-Gillingham approach, with consistent twice-per week sessions, we are generally able to close the reading gap one grade level with 8-12 hours of instruction.


How do I know when my child should begin the program?

You should start the program as soon as you see your child starting to struggle with reading. The worst thing to do is wait. Indications your child might be struggling with reading:

  • A student's low scores on reading tests

  • Negative thoughts about reading

  • Teachers expressing worries about their reading abilities


Is Orton-Gillingham only for students with dyslexia?

While the approach is designed for students with reading challenges, anyone can benefit. For the past 30 years, the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) has promoted the use of the Orton-Gillingham methods in all classrooms, regardless of the needs of the students. This is because research has proven that all students that are learning to read benefit from a structured, multi-sensory approach.


How does online Orton Gillingham tutoring work?

Step 1:

We begin our process by assessing your child. The assessment is given by our reading interventionist to determine your child's reading skills and their strength and challenges.


Step 2:

After your child's assessment, a report is compiled that explains the results as well as the customized plan that will be used to close the specific reading gaps that your child has.


Step 3:

A meeting takes place with the parent/guardian about the results and what is observed and recommended for a tutoring schedule that will best fit your child’s needs and goals.


Step 4:

Afterwards, the online reading tutor meets with your child weekly. A tutor is matched based on a student’s learning style, personality and scheduling needs. Children receive structured reading instruction using the interventions that best meet the needs of the particular student.


Once the skill is mastered, the student moves to the next skill. If a student shows that they do not need to learn a particular skill then we adjust the interventions accordingly so as to not waste time on skills the student has already mastered.


Step 5:

Every 3 months your child will be reassessed to find out what gains have been made and what changes need to be made, if any, to continue to close the gap for your child in the most effective way possible.


Does Smart Start Tutors have Orton-Gillingham Trained Tutors?

All of the academic tutors at Smart Start Tutors are Orton-Gillingham trained. We also each hold additional certifications that set us apart from other tutors including Masters degrees, Elementary Education teaching degrees, and specialized certificates in a wide-range of programs geared towards helping struggling readers.


How to get started?

Our staff at Smart Start Tutors is here to help you navigate next steps to work with our reading specialists. We have over 20 years of combined experience supporting students with a wide-range of abilities including Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, emerging readers, and developing readers. We use research-based, multi-sensory techniques to reach your child at their EXACT level of need which allows us to help them make the most progress in the quickest amount of time.


Each child receives individualized reading intervention plans incorporating resources from the best online reading programs for struggling readers. Each of our tutors are dedicated to closing the reading gap while instilling confidence and a love for reading in every child.

If you would like to learn more about your child's learning abilities and how our online reading tutors can support your child, get started for free with a discovery call from our Certified Reading Interventionist.





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