Who Were Orton and Gillingham?

Over the last half century the Orton-Gillingham approach has been the most influential reading intervention designed expressly for remediating the language processing problems of children with dyslexia, auditory processing, speech deficits and other learning difficulties.


Samuel Torrey Orton (1879-1948), was a neuropsychiatrist and a pathologist. He was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading disabilities and related language processing difficulties. Samuel Orton studied children with language processing difficulties very extensively, and formulated a set of teaching principles and practices for these children.

Anna Gillingham (1878-1963) was an educator and psychologist with a superb understanding of the language. Working together with Dr. Orton, she trained teachers and also published instructional materials. Her materials included multisensory movements which integrated kinesthetic, tactile, visual, and auditory learning into the reading process.

A Huge Contribution to Literacy 

Together Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham came up with the Orton-Gillingham approach. Each lesson in the Orton-Gillingham approach is highly structured. The lessons are taught in a planned sequence which keeps the children focused on the targeted skill. Each phoneme (sound) in the English language is taught in isolation with repetition and enough time in between each skill for learning and mastery. This includes reviewing and integrating past lessons.  

Children do not progress to the next skill until the current lesson is mastered. As the children learn new material, they continue to review old material until it is stored into the child’s long-term memory. Reading and spelling are taught simultaneously.

This approach was a gigantic contribution to the advancement of literacy skills. It is really quite remarkable that a reading approach developed in the 1930s is still one of the most reliable methods for teaching students with learning differences today!