1. Orton-Gillingham is an approach, not a method. This means that it is flexible and focuses on the needs of the individual student. While the tutor carefully constructs each lesson in advance, he/she is able to make appropriate changes in the moment when needed. This is called diagnostic teaching. This requires a highly trained experienced practitioner who has mastered both the theory and the practice of Orton-Gillingham. A method, on the other hand, 1) uses the same pre-packaged lessons for all students, 2) all students begin at the same point and 3) they must all proceed at the same pace.
2. Orton-Gillingham is truly multi-sensory, in that both the visual, the auditory and the kinesthetic-tactile pathways of learning are used simultaneously.
3. Another distinctive feature of the Orton-Gillingham Approach is that reading, spelling and written language are taught simultaneously. It is not only a reading approach.
4. Orton-Gillingham is structured, meaning that the structure of the language is taught and that each lesson is carefully crafted using the same lesson segments each time and the same processes in teaching the student to the point of automaticity.
5. Orton-Gillingham is sequential, meaning that the language is taught from the simple to the more challenging; from the concrete to the abstract; from short, regular forms to longer and irregular forms.
6. Orton-Gillingham directly teaches phonics - the alphabetic symbol-to-sound and sound-to-symbol relationships.
7. Orton-Gillingham teaches the logic of the language; it is 85% regular for reading and spelling when one knows the rules and patterns. Only 15% of the language is irregular or non-phonetic. These words must be memorized for both reading and spelling in a logical sequence, using an appropriate multi-sensory process.
8. Orton-Gillingham teaches for mastery. A careful sequence is followed. New learning is connected with prior learning. Much practice is incorporated and the student is taken at his/her own pace to the point of mastery, or life-long learning.
9. The Orton-Gillingham Approach was developed by the neurologist, Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton and, later, his colleague, educator Anna Gillingham, specifically for the dyslexic student. It has withstood the test of time, having been successfully used with thousands of dyslexic students for more than 70 years. In recent years this multi-sensory structured language approach has been independently validated by modern research using Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), as well as studies by the National Institutes of Health at Haskins Laboratory at Yale University and at 17 other universities.