What is visual dyslexia?

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What is dyslexia?

According to the International Dyslexia Association , dyslexia is: 

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Dyslexia looks different for different people and even the same person at different ages. It can be quite severe, making it difficult for a child to read or spell at all, even after lots of teaching and practice. Dyslexia can also be very mild and students might “fly under the radar” for years or just be considered “careless” spellers or “reluctant” readers. Students with this profile are sometimes identified as having “visual dyslexia,” to distinguish them from students who have difficulties with the phonological (sounds) part of reading and spelling. But what is visual dyslexia?

Are there different types of dyslexia? 

The International Dyslexia Association is widely recognized as an authority on the subject of dyslexia. They do not recognize visual dyslexia as a subtype of dyslexia. In fact, they emphasize that dyslexia is not a vision problem. And therefore, glasses, colored filters and vision exercises are not treatments for dyslexia. But just the same, kids with dyslexia can be very different from each other. Terms like “visual dyslexia” and “phonological dyslexia” have gained popularity with some professionals because they describe how students are unique and help evalutaors and tutors communicate about what students need.

What is visual dyslexia?

Visual dyslexia is also known as surface dyslexia or dyseidetic dyslexia. These terms describe a reader who has difficulty remembering how to read and spell words, but who does not have significant problems with the phonological or sound parts of language. There is some research that shows this is a true distinction and may help us understand causes and improved treatments for dyslexia. However, these subtypes of dyslexia don’t completely explain differences between different students and there isn’t enough evidence to support giving these readers a different kind of treatment or intervention.

What is phonological dyslexia?

Phonological dyslexia is a term used to describe readers who have difficulty with the phonological or sound parts of reading. The might struggle with oral language skills like rhyming or repeating multisyllabic words when other kids their age are mastering the skill (kids who say pah-sketti for spaghetti beyond preschool, for example). Readers with this profile might not include all the sounds when they read or spell a word or might say the wrong sound for a letter they see.

Are there other types of dyslexia?

While there are not clear cut “types” of dyslexia, students can have varying degrees of need in different skills. They are similar, the same way a pink striped sock and a pink polka dot sock are similar. They might both match your sweater and be made of wool. That doesn’t mean they’re a perfect match!

Some people with dyslexia mainly have weaknesses in their phonological skills. They might need a lot of practice to learn to read long science words or a lot of practice counting the sounds in words and making sure to include all the letters.

Others might have no problem with phonological skills, but have a great deal of difficulty rapidly and fluently applying rules and patterns they know to words on the page. This often shows up in testing as a weakness in Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN), the ability to quickly and accurately recall knowledge, like letter and number names. 

Still other students have difficulty in both of these areas. This profile is known as “double-deficit dyslexia” in which students have difficulty in both phonological skills and RAN. These students often make slow progress and need more repetition and review than those with only one deficit.

What helps with visual dyslexia?

If a student is evaluated and given a diagnosis of dyslexia, the chief recommendation is usually an explicit, sequential, program of reading instruction that includes instruction in letter-sound relationships, spelling rules, vocabulary and comprehension. Orton-Gillingham (OG) is one approach for teaching dyslexic readers. These approaches may also be known as “structured literacy” and, while OG is older and well-known, there are many other programs and instructional approaches that can also be quite effective.

Students whose signs of dyslexia are mostly visual (poor spelling) and not phonological (segmenting and blending sounds in spoken words) might need more spelling and morphology instruction, and less practice with phonemic awareness exercises or letter-sound drills. But this is still done effectively under the umbrella of structured literacy or Orton-Gillingham instruction. As an educator certified in Orton-Gillingham, I’ve taught students who fit each of these profiles, and some who didn’t quite fit any. I’ve had other students without a dyslexia diagnosis at all. For all of these different students, the Orton-Gillingham approach has been effective, as long as we are accurately recognizing the skills they need.

As different as these profiles seem, their needs are very similar, at the core. We use the language parts of our brain for reading (not the same visual parts we use to recognize faces or objects). So whether a reader is struggling with mostly spelling or mostly decoding or mostly fluency, the answer still lies in studying the English language. 

For example, I work with some middle grades students (4-7th grade) who are adequate readers and are good at spelling the sounds in words, but they forget which there/their/they’re or to/two/too to use. Their writing might be phonetically readable for other words, but not correct. They may spell compete as cumpeet or walked as wockt. It helps tremendously when they learn the patterns and rules behind English spelling. They learn about words that come from Anglo-Saxon, and those that come from French, Latin and Greek. They learn how often a certain spelling is used in English words so they can start to make educated guesses about words they aren’t sure of. They learn how meaning impacts spelling. Walk + ed sounds like /wokt/ but it means that someone did the action (walk) in the past (-ed) and that’s how we spell it.

So is it wrong to say my child has “visual dyslexia?”

I wouldn’t say it’s wrong to use the term “visual dyslexia,” but I would say it’s imprecise and sometimes not a useful piece of information. Our scientific understanding of dyslexia and reading development has come a long way, but it is still growing. Scientists use brain imaging and studies of people with dyslexia over the course of years to learn more about what kind of instruction is effective. We may learn something different through this research that helps us help students more promptly and more efficiently by tailoring instruction to their needs.

But for now, no matter how your child’s dyslexia presents, the most important thing is to get connected with teachers or tutors who are experts in the process of learning to read. Finding a tutor certified in Orton-Gillingham or an OG-based program (Wilson, Sonday, etc.) is one way to make sure the person has sufficient expertise. It’s more important to recognize that a child is struggling and give them the instruction they need than it is to give that struggle a specific label. 

And that’s what we do at Deep Roots Learning Solutions, Inc. We offer Orton-Gillingham instruction in a convenient, effective, online format. If your child needs explicit, systematic reading instruction, contact us for a free consultation and demo lesson . Let’s talk about how we can help!

An Orton-Gillingham Tutor Near Me

As the school year comes to a close, many parents are thinking about using the summer to help their children catch up on skills with the help of a tutor. But if you are looking for something specific, like an Orton-Gillingham certified tutor, you might have to do a bit of digging. Often, searching for “Orton-Gillingham Tutor Near Me” gets you search results for large tutoring organizations or referral services. Sometimes you even end up in the weeds, with information about how to get OG certified instead of how to find a tutor that is already trained! Here are my top tips for finding an Orton-Gillingham tutor near you!

Finding an Orton-Gillingham tutor near me

Some of the best local Orton-Gillingham tutors I know are totally invisible online. They built their businesses on referrals from parents and schools and so they don’t come up in a search when you look for “tutor near me” online. The best way to find these hidden gems is to ask around. Your local Decoding Dyslexia branch, Facebook parent groups and local teachers are three great sources of information about local OG tutors near you. 

If you’re not ready to ask about your child’s needs in a public forum, you can also search any Facebook groups you are in for older discussions about tutors in your area. 

Finding dyslexia therapy near me

The term “dyslexia therapy” is used to describe structured literacy instruction done by a highly-trained expert who has passed an exam through the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA) and completed their certification requirements. Some states also license dyslexia therapists, such as the state of Texas. In other states, certified dyslexia therapists are difficult to find. If your “dyslexia therapy near me” search leaves you empty-handed, there are other trainings and qualifications that can help you find a highly skilled dyslexia tutor for your child. 

How do I find tutoring for dyslexia

I’ll tell you how to find tutoring for dyslexia, but a word of caution, first: Many teachers and principals, and some whole schools, are completely uninformed about dyslexia. If a teacher that hasn’t helped your child grow significantly in reading this year is recommending something like, “Just go to the library and read to her plenty! She’ll catch up!” smile and nod and find a more knowledgeable source of information.

Tutoring for dyslexia should be done by a person with training (certification is even better!) in Orton-Gillingham or another structured literacy approach to teaching reading. Orton-Gillingham is a systematic, sequential, diagnostic, multisensory approach to teaching language skills. While some large, national tutoring companies offer tutoring for dyslexia, make sure the staff is certified in OG or another approach before signing up. There are a few people qualified to offer tutoring for dyslexia on any large directory of tutors. An exception is the Literacy Nest’s Tutor Finder directory. These tutors are not all OG-certified but there is a good concentration of them.

What is Orton-Gillingham training?

Orton-Gillingham training is an intensive combination of both classwork and a practicum supervised by an Orton-Gillingham trainer. Certified OG tutors study the structure of the English language, learn about dyslexia, and practice assessing and teaching children with dyslexia and measuring their progress. My program ran from January to December and offered the equivalent of 6 graduate credits of instruction, and a 100-hour practicum. That means I submitted my first 100 lessons to my trainer for feedback, and she also observed some of my lessons and gave live feedback.

What are certified tutors?

While there are options for shorter OG tutor training programs, such as a 30-hour training, these do not give tutors the depth of knowledge and experience needed to effectively help dyslexic students. Certified tutors have completed a supervised practicum. During that practicum, certified tutors have had their lessons critiqued by a trainer. They have also assessed students and planned and taught lessons that moved them along the sequence of skills. While OG training is an excellent option for many, especially classroom teachers, certification makes a difference. Certified tutors, in my opinion, are the best choice for students who are dyslexic or struggling greatly to learn to read.

At Deep Roots Learning Solutions, we choose tutors who are certified, or who are in the process of completing their practicum for certification, to work with our students. An OG tutor that has completed a rigorous training and practicum program for OG certification is qualified to assess a student’s changing literacy needs, bring in additional teaching resources as needed, and recognize needs that may best be referred to other professionals. 

Are all OG tutors the same?

Find a certified OG tutor: check. Should be pretty easy, right? You know they need to complete a practicum, and that certified is better than trained. But there are several different organizations that provide OG tutor training, and they all use slightly different terminology. And Google does not know the difference, so when you search for “Orton-Gillingham tutor near me” you’re going to get a mixed bag of different training backgrounds. Here are some of the big ones:

Orton Academy

The Orton-Gillingham Academy (OGA), formerly known as AOGPE, is one of the largest and most well-known of the organizations training OG tutors. They train individuals at four levels: Classroom Educator, Associate Level, Certified Level and Fellow Level. An Associate Level OG tutor works under the supervision of their training fellow, and a Certified Level OG tutor is able to teach and tutor independently of their fellow. So if a tutor you are considering is OGA Certified, they have cleared a pretty high bar of training and supervision! The Academy offers a directory of tutors it has trained.

International Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association also certifies OG tutors through an affiliated program, The Center for Effective Reading Instruction (CERI). Tutors can complete an IDA Accredited Program and become Dyslexia Interventionists (formerly known as Dyslexia Practitioners) or Dyslexia Specialists (formerly known as Dyslexia Therapists). These OG tutors have also passed an exam and completed a supervised practicum. CERI also certifies people at the classroom teacher level.

OG reading programs

Orton-Gillingham is an approach to teaching, rather than a specific curriculum. OG tutors often follow a specific sequence of reading skills introduced in their training, but compose their own lists of practice words and decide when to practice a skill more and when to move on. They may use materials from many different sources, with a focus on teaching the next skills a child needs, rather than getting to the next chapter or unit of a program.

In addition to these “pure” OG tutors, there are many different programs that are based on the principles of Orton-Gillingham or structured literacy. Some are taught by teachers who receive live training in using the materials. Others are designed to be used without explicit training because the instructions are in the lessons.

Barton tutoring

One popular program for dyslexia tutoring is the Barton System. Barton is an “Orton-Gillingham influenced” program that consists of 10 levels. It is designed for parents, or other individuals without teacher training, to study and teach on their own. Each level includes training DVDs for the tutor and lessons and materials for the students. The upside of choosing Barton tutoring is that everything is laid out and the lessons are explicit and systematic. The downside of choosing Barton tutoring is that it’s not as flexible as OG because students need to begin at Level 1 and progress through all the levels, regardless of their starting skill level.

Wilson Reading

Wilson Reading (WRS) is another Orton-Gillingham based program that is commonly used in some parts of the country. In Massachusetts, where I live, it is commonly offered both in schools (usually in special education) and by private Wilson tutors. Wilson certifies teachers in its program, so make sure if you are selecting a Wilson tutor they are certified at the appropriate level. The Wilson Reading website also provides a directory of certified providers. 

Final thoughts

Children with dyslexia, or with characteristics of dyslexia, need specialized literacy instruction to gain skills and become successful readers and writers. Finding a tutor can be quite challenging in a world where dyslexia is often misunderstood, even by those in the education field. If your family is investing time and money into tutoring for your child, it’s important to find a person who is the right fit, someone with the skills and training to help your child succeed. 

If you are looking for a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor to work with your child online, contact us today! We have spots open. We would love to give you a demonstration of what our online lessons look and feel like and help you decide if working with an online OG tutor is a good fit for your child.

Where to?

Tutoring services – find out how we can help students reach their reading and writing goals with online tutoring

Small group classes – get the benefits of specialized instruction at an affordable price with book clubs and writing classes.

More resources – learn about reading instruction, dyslexia, and tools to try at home.

Can kids with dyslexia learn to read faster?

Even with lots of good reading instruction, some readers with dyslexia still read very slowly. While the Science of Reading is pretty clear about the best ways to teach students to decode words, improving reading fluency for dyslexic students is another challenge, and one that can be harder to overcome. Here’s what it takes to help students with dyslexia read faster.

It takes knowledge and patience

Do all dyslexics have trouble reading?

The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Many students with dyslexia struggle to read from the very beginning of their schooling. They may be slow to learn letter names and sounds, and even have early difficulties with conversational language, like recalling specific words or pronouncing multi-syllabic words. 

For other students, strong visual memory capabilities and lots of practice can memorize an impressive number of words. They may read slowly, or mix up similar words (saw/was, though/through/thorough/tough) but can often read well enough with these so-called compensatory strategies to read “at grade level” through second or third grade. Students with this profile are sometimes diagnosed with “stealth dyslexia,” meaning they have dyslexia but it is very difficult to detect. These readers may find reading exhausting or unpleasant, or be known for their poor spelling, but don’t get any specialized instruction because their needs aren’t recognized. 

In one example that really changed my thinking, I assessed a fifth grader who was pretty successful in class, but his parents had long-standing concerns about his reading and spelling. I found that, while he was passing grade-level reading assessments, he did not know the sounds of the short vowels! When he encountered unknown words or nonsense words, he did not have the skills to decode them. That severely limits a person’s ability to gather information about an unfamiliar topic through reading. 

So do all dyslexics have trouble reading? I’d say: eventually, without support, most will.

What is the best reading program for dyslexia?

The recommended reading approach for students with dyslexia is structured literacy. This can include lots of different programs, including Orton-Gillingham and OG-based curricula, like Wilson Reading or Barton. But structured literacy describes any program that teaches literacy skills in a comprehensive, explicit, sequential manner. It includes instruction in phonemes (sounds in spoken language), sound-symbol correspondence (phonics/”sounding out” words), orthography (spelling patterns), morphology (including prefixes and suffixes), semantics (vocabulary and comprehension) and syntax (grammar).

If your child is struggling with decoding and reading fluency, we can help! Our Orton-Gillingham tutors are available to plan and carry out a customized tutoring plan for your child. Contact us today!

Improving reading fluency dyslexic students

While the core problem for most readers with dyslexia is in the phonological (sound) part of reading, some students also have trouble quickly identifying letters (and/or numbers, colors or objects). Students who don’t perform well on this rapid naming task, in addition to having phonological awareness deficits, are sometimes described as having a double deficit. When readers have low scores in both areas, they take longer to develop reading fluency and may always be slower than average readers.

For these students, I often use a fluency-focused program in addition to Orton-Gillingham to help them develop these skills. There are many different possibilities for improving fluency, but the basic principle is that students benefit from repeated reading with feedback, and from hearing a model of a more fluent reader. 

While we often think of reading fluency as “reading fast enough,” there are actually three components of fluency and they are all important. Fluent reading is reading that is accurate, expressive, and fast enough to allow for good comprehension.

  • Accuracy – it should go without saying that for reading to be considered fluent, the words have to be read accurately to understand the text.
  • Speed – reading fluency assessment too often focuses on fluency, getting kids to read faster. Kids become aware of these speed goals and focus on zooming through the text, at the expense of accuracy or understanding.
  • Prosody – prosody is the most challenging component of fluency to explain, but you know it when you hear it. I tell students it’s reading “like a storyteller,” using phrasing and intonation to express the emotions of the story. Lots of the feedback we give students – stop at the periods, notice the quotation marks, act out what the characters are saying with your voice – promote prosody. 

It’s not glamorous

Teaching the early stages of reading can be really exciting. Students go from non-readers, struggling to remember individual letter names and sound, to slowly joining together sounds and then having that a-ha! moment when they recognize the word they’ve just read. My son used to giggle uncontrollably every time he sounded out a word successfully. This stage is lots of work, but rewarding!

Building fluency can be a slower, less glamorous process. Even with the best types of instruction, improving reading fluency for dyslexic students can take years. Take data, like counting how many words per minute a student is reading, or take a short audio recording of them reading now, and again in a few months, so you can celebrate that growth, even when it takes a long time!

If your child is struggling with decoding and reading fluency, we can help! Our Orton-Gillingham tutors are available to plan and carry out a customized tutoring plan for your child. Contact us today!

Becoming an Orton-Gillingham Tutor

When I realized I wanted to get out of the special education position I was in, I had no idea where I would go. I had heard of Orton-Gillingham but I didn’t really know what it was.

I was still passionate about education and I felt committed to the students I was teaching. But I was exhausted. My program was substantially separate, meaning my middle school students were in my class for the majority of the day, and when they attended other classes, like social studies or gym, they were attending with the support of paraprofessionals. Coordinating all those people and schedules, never having an empty classroom, and supporting children in both academics and social-emotional needs was more than a full-time job and I felt like someone was always getting short-changed.

Although being in a public school classroom limited what I could do in some ways, I also found a lot of satisfaction working with a team and helping my students succeed in our school community. But I felt like I really didn’t know everything I needed to to help them grow. Then I had a couple of lucky experiences that led me to become an Orton-Gillingham tutor.

Frustrations and Opportunities

Teaching Reading

I got my undergrad degree in psychology, with an elementary teaching license, at a time when my university was just beginning to rebuild their special education department. My state (Massachusetts) had just rolled out its standardized tests for teachers (MTEL) and the entire school of education was trying to learn together what was expected of new teachers. 

My courses on reading were almost all from a balanced literacy perspective. We learned about how to foster a love of reading, how to incorporate diverse literature, and how to engage students with books and learning. But we had just a couple of short class sessions on basic reading skills – phonics, sounds in English, assessment. The message was that, while we had to learn that stuff for the test, it wasn’t really what teaching elementary school would be about.

My entire master’s program in special education included one single class on reading and math instruction, called “Literacy and Numeracy.” I finished that master’s, went into a classroom teaching students with autism, and didn’t really question why we were only using sight word instruction programs. I moved on to a new school where some students were getting a bit of phonics instruction, others were getting mostly sight words, and no one was talking about whether one was better than the other or why. I dug into the closets and pulled out some dusty old readers to use with my groups. But I was still piecing it all together.

Orton-Gillingham, Finally!

In 2014, a new administrator brought in an Orton-Gillingham trainer to train a cohort of teachers. Up until that point, many of the teachers of students with moderate special needs were trained in the Wilson curriculum, and students whose needs were different, or who needed more intensive reading instruction, were often being taught by tutors who contracted with the district. The administration decided to get some of their own teachers trained so they no longer had to outsource those services.

From the first class, my mind was blown! Here was all the stuff that I felt like I was missing. I had known just enough to know I didn’t know enough to teach reading effectively, and here was the missing piece. Or the many, many, missing pieces. 

I realized that not only had I not been taught to teach phonemic awareness, decoding or spelling, but I hadn’t even been taught these skills myself. When I was growing up, whole language was the main method of teaching reading. Anything I knew about the writing system of our language came from my English teacher mother or things I inferred on my own from lots and lots of reading.

After 6 months of classes, papers and reading, and 100 lessons written and taught with feedback from our trainer, I was certified at the teacher level to teach using the Orton-Gillingham approach. 

If you’re an educator who wants to learn more about becoming a tutor, check out my educator resources.

The Grass isn’t Always Greener…Until it is

With my new Orton-Gillingham qualifications, I applied for a different position in my building. I moved from teaching students with severe special needs (the designation in Massachusetts for the highest-need students) to students with moderate special needs, in a resource room setting. That meant they came to me for only certain subjects. I taught reading to some students, math to others, and a study hall-type tutorial to many of the middle schoolers. Better than before, but with a schedule of 30-45 minute groups throughout the day, nothing was as intensive as my students needed. 

I started to tutor privately on evenings and weekends. At first, I was reluctant to offer Orton-Gillingham tutoring online, but as I learned new tools, I was able to offer better reading instruction online and I realized that there is certainly a demand for OG services everywhere, and some places just do not have enough trained teachers. Eventually, among the many changes brought in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic, I quit my teaching job and started to tutor full time. 

Aah, finally. Now, through Deep Roots Learning Solutions, Inc., I have the freedom to meet students’ learning needs flexibly. I’m not limited by “service delivery minutes” or district policy. I love working with families to decide what students need, and how often, and offer it to them. And I love watching my students learn and grow as readers, as writers, and as people as their reading catches up to their other skills. 

A Happy Ending…For Now

I’m so thankful to spend every work day teaching what I love. I am helping students learn to read and spell in a way that they will use every day for the rest of their lives. 

Sometimes I get itchy, though, thinking about the students I’m not reaching. I know there are a lot of students, like the ones I used to teach in school, whose teachers don’t have the skills and resources yet to teach them in a way that’s consistent with the Science of Reading. So, while I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me or for my company, my goal is to bring good reading instruction to more kids, especially kids in my community. 

If your child needs more help to become a skilled, confident reader and writer, contact us today for a consultation and free demo lesson!

What to look for in an online Orton-Gillingham Tutor

What to Look For and Where to Find Them

For many parents and students, the possibility of online tutoring has opened up a world of options. Students who did not have any professional private reading tutors in their small towns can now find online Orton-Gillingham tutors to teach them. There has been an explosion in tutors offering their services across the United States and all over the world. Overall, this is incredible positive for students struggling to read. But it does mean parents have more complex decisions to make.

What to look for in an Online Orton-Gillingham Tutor

Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutors vs. Trained Tutors

There are an almost unlimited number of trainings that educators and parents can take about reading and writing. The Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading is considered to be a “direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy.” Orton-Gillingham tutoring is one type of “multi-sensory language education.” It is recommended by the International Dyslexia Association for teaching students with dyslexia. It’s also beneficial for students who are struggling to read but may not be diagnosed with dyslexia.

When you are looking for an online Orton-Gillingham tutor for your child, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. One important thing to check is whether the tutor is certified in Orton-Gillingham or trained. Certified indicates that the teacher has completed a supervised practicum. They have taught a certain number of lessons under the supervision of a trainer. This is valuable because it helps them become more efficient, effective, and responsive teachers. Several of these programs also offer exams that educators can take to prove their knowledge.

There are several main organizations that accredit teacher training programs and train and certify Orton-Gillingham providers.

  • IDA – The International Dyslexia Association accredits literacy programs for professionals. It also provides individual certification in Structured Literacy through the Center for Effective Reading Instruction. Professionals who meet the qualifications and pass the exam are listed in their directory as Classroom Teachers, Dyslexia Interventionists or Dyslexia Specialists.
  • IMSLEC – The International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council is a group that accredits programs and set standards for educators learning about Orton-Gillingham, but does not certify individuals. 
  • ALTA – Like, IDA, the Academic Language Therapy Association also offers a certification exam for teachers who have completed qualified programs. Educators can test to become either a Certified Academic Language Practitioner (CALP), or with further training, a Certified Academic Language Therapist.
  • AOGPE (OGA) – The Orton-Gillingham Academy, (formerly known as the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and educators) is the third major organization for training and certifying educators in Orton-Gillingham. Like the other programs, a provider can be a Classroom Educator Level, an Associate or a Certified member, and each one signifies a different level of training and different supervised practicum requirements.
  • IMSE – The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education also offers Orton-Gillingham training and certification. This organization seems to be a popular first step for teachers learning about Orton-Gillingham for the first time, although they do also offer a supervised practicum.
  • Various programs and curricula – There are many reading programs that are based on the principles of Orton-Gillingham or structured literacy. These include some well-known programs like Wilson Reading and Barton and others that are less well-known. Like with the large OG organizations, teachers can be trained or certified in a particular curriculum and it’s important for you to know what that means. How long was their training? Did it cover students at all levels of learning, from beginning readers to students mastering upper level fluency and vocabulary?

Experience Online

Experience working online is another important piece of the puzzle when you’re looking for an online Orton-Gillingham tutor. Now that it’s become so common to tutor online, lots of tutors who prefer to work in-person are offering an online option, either temporarily during the pandemic or long-term now that they’ve discovered the benefits. 

But not all online tutors are created equal. Some have taken the opportunity to become online tutoring experts and some are offering it reluctantly because, although their students need it, they don’t feel comfortable. Tutors who don’t enjoy working online, frankly, aren’t as good. They might be distracted by technology challenges or limited in the tools they can use in lessons. So when you are interviewing an online Orton-Gillingham tutor, don’t just ask if they tutor online. Ask why they tutor online. Or ask what benefits they see of tutoring online.

If you need an online Orton-Gillingham tutor now, get in touch and schedule a free demo lesson today!

Experience with kids like yours

Everyone has a specialty, and online Orton-Gillingham tutors are no exception. Some are incredible at engaging young children and bringing fun and magic to the early stages of reading. Others have a way with older children who might feel embarrassed about working on basic skills with a tutor. Some have experience with children with different diagnoses or learning characteristics, such as learners with ADHD or autism. And of course, every student comes to tutoring with different strengths and needs, but the transition to tutoring can be easier when the tutor has some tools that have worked for kids like yours before.

If your child has particular needs, make sure you ask how the tutor might approach a student with that need. Even if they haven’t worked with a child just like yours, they should have some ideas to start with. If they sound clueless, you might not have found the right tutor!

Conclusion

Online Orton-Gillingham tutoring can open up a whole new world of reading and writing skills for children who are struggling, especially if there aren’t a lot of local services in your area. The good news is, you’re not limited to tutors in your town anymore. The bad news is tutors and their students are spread out all over the U.S. so it can be harder to get a good word-of-mouth recommendation. Know that you may have to speak with a few different tutors before you find one that is the right fit for your child but be patient! When you find the right tutor, the results are worth it!

Still have questions? Book a consult and free demo lesson today to see how online Orton-Gillingham tutoring works!

Online Orton-Gillingham Tutoring FAQ

Often, parents hear of Orton-Gillingham for the first time when their children are diagnosed with dyslexia. When I talk to parents about online Orton-Gillingham tutoring, they often have lots of questions about how OG works and what it will mean for their kids and for their family. Here are some of the questions I get frequently.

How long does online Orton-Gillingham tutoring take?

Like everything else, It depends. Some students have small gaps in their learning that hold them back. For example, some kids have attended schools without solid phonics instruction and they are missing key pieces of information, like knowing when a vowel makes a long sound when it makes a short sound. Those kids can work with a tutor twice a week for 3 or 6 months and see significant gains once they learn the particular skill they need.

Other students, including those with dyslexia, sometimes need one to three years of more intensive intervention, working with a tutor two or three days a week, to catch up to grade level.

Another factor is the age of the student, because the longer a student has struggled, the more time it takes to catch up. On the other hand, older students are sometimes able to learn more quickly because they “sort of know” lots of the things we teach and can also benefit from more deliberate learning strategies. 

How often do we need to meet with a reading tutor?

At Deep Roots Learning Solutions, we offer Orton-Gillingham tutoring to students between two and four days per week. This is consistent with the recommendations of lots of dyslexia professionals, including The Orton-Gillingham Academy, which is one of the main organizations that oversees and sets standards for OG tutoring.

Can we meet less often?

Meeting less than twice a week can make a student’s progress dramatically slower. In fact, meeting just once a week means progress takes more than twice as long because a week is long enough for students to need a lot of review between lessons. 

I won’t say we never meet with students once a week. Sometimes it’s the only option due to schedules or finances, particularly on a short-term basis. But in that case, it’s very important to include regular reading at home using the decodable text we recommend.

Can we have shorter lessons?

It truly does take an hour to teach a full OG lesson, for most students. This includes review, introducing a new concept for reading and for spelling, building phonemic awareness and reading plenty of words, sentences, and stories that support what we’ve practiced. It also includes fluency and comprehension components. 

For some students, especially younger ones or ones with challenges like autism or ADHD, sitting still for a full hour lesson is counterproductive. We always aim to work with families to create a tutoring plan that works for the student.

What technology should we have at home?

We run our online Orton-Gillingham tutoring sessions on Zoom. While just about any device can run Zoom, it’s preferable for the student to join the meeting from a Windows or Apple computer. A Chromebook runs Zoom but with fewer features. It’s important that the device has enough RAM to run Zoom without freezing or crashing. One thing that helps is freshly restarting the computer before a session.

A strong internet connection is also extremely important. 

Beyond that, it’s a matter of what makes the student most comfortable and productive. Many students prefer a mouse to the touchpad on the computer. Students who are younger and focusing on letter formation can also benefit from a touchscreen device, even if it’s an old phone or tablet used in addition to the main computer.

Headphones are helpful for reducing distractions and making sure the audio is clear. 

Can we do online tutoring on a Chromebook?

Tutoring on a Chromebook is not impossible, but it’s not ideal. Zoom does not enable Chromebook users to annotate on the screen or take control of the host’s mouse. This limits the ways we can ask a student to mark up what they are reading or play games. 

However, if a Chromebook is the device you have available, Google products (Docs and Jamboard, mainly) give students more options.

How old should my child be for online Orton-Gillingham tutoring?

I used to say, “no younger than third grade.” For a lot of students, an in-person connection is very important to their learning. However, in 2020, I started working with some younger students and now I say, “It depends.” Students younger than third grade often need a parent sitting nearby to help with technology – open links, troubleshoot the computer – and manage materials. 

Can you help with homework during tutoring?

For Orton-Gillingham tutoring students, our answer is usually no. Orton-Gillingham is a diagnostic, systematic, sequential, multi-sensory approach to reading instruction. It is counterproductive to work on school assignments that don’t fall within the range of skills we’re teaching. 

For example, if a child is working on learning the short vowel sounds in one-syllable words (cup, bond, crimp), it’s not productive for us to study spelling words that follow a bunch of other spelling patterns. Without knowing the patterns that are found in the spelling words, the student has to rely on just their memory to spell them right, and they don’t stick. So although you won’t see an immediate benefit of OG tutoring on spelling tests if your child is significantly below grade level, you can trust that we are building a strong foundation that, with time, will help them to develop those skills.

For students seeking support with reading comprehension and writing, we do work with school assignments when it aligns with what we are working on. 

Do you assign homework?

No, we don’t assign homework for our online Orton-Gillingham tutoring students. What we do is send the text the student read during the lesson so you can practice it at home during the week. We’re also happy to recommend text, many available for free online, for independent or family reading.                                  

What should we do at home to practice?

For practice in between Orton-Gillingham tutoring sessions, it’s important that students read text that lines up with what they’ve been practicing in class. We can recommend appropriate texts, many of which are available for free online.

Reading with or to your child is also a great way to support their growing vocabulary and share stories with them that they aren’t ready to read on their own.

The Florida Center for Reading Research also has many free, printable, games and activities that are great tools for practicing early reading skills.

Can you help my child read faster?

Yes, but it takes time. Programs that are specifically for reading fluency usually focus on repeated readings of the same text. Those can help some students, but often low reading fluency occurs when readers aren’t automatic with sounding out the words.

And if they aren’t sounding out words automatically, that usually means that there are some phonics skills they haven’t mastered.

Often, older students with weak reading and spelling skills are also missing some phonemic awareness skills. Phonemic awareness is the ability to break apart spoken words into their sounds, or to blend together individual spoken sounds. Most kids develop those skills in the early grades, but sometimes readers struggle because they have missed some of these skills. 

Building reading fluency effectively means going back and filling gaps in the underlying skills. At the beginning, this can seem slower, but once we build those fluency skills on a firm foundation, students can read anything with confidence!

Can you help my child spell better?

Yes! The same skills (letter-sound relationships, syllables, and prefixes and suffixes) that help students read better help them spell better, too. And our online Orton-Gillingham tutoring includes practice in both reading and spelling.

What’s my child’s reading level?

Well, it’s complicated. I wish I could give you a letter or a number that universally represents what your child can read and understand. That would be so much easier! But unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The main leveling systems used in schools for children and their books are Guided Reading Levels (letters A-Z) and the DRA system (numbers from 2 up to 70). When teachers assign these, they take into account reading accuracy, fluency and comprehension. Unfortunately, these tests are not accurate and

For readers who are struggling to decode words, these assessments are nearly meaningless. They tend to be predictable, patterned texts. At the early stages, they are things like “I see the bear. I see the elephant. I see the crocodile.” So really, they’re measuring how well students use the pictures to predict what the page says. Lots of my struggling students hit a wall in second grade (or maybe third) because until they’ve learned all six syllable types and the majority of vowel team sounds, they will frequently be stumped by words in texts at this level. Until they have gotten pretty far in the Orton-Gillingham sequence, it’s very difficult to sync up what they know with a “reading level.” So instead, I recommend decodable texts.

Still have questions?

If you’re still wondering if online Orton-Gillingham tutoring is what your child needs, contact us to find out more. We are always happy to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation trial lesson to see if tutoring with Deep Roots Learning Solutions is the right fit for your child!

Can you get Orton-Gillingham tutoring online?

Getting trained in Orton-Gillingham has totally changed the way I look at students and reading. Explicit, diagnostic, teaching in phonics makes an enormous difference in how students learn. But when I became an online tutor, I had to figure out if I could still do Orton-Gillingham tutoring online. Now that I have figured it out, I won’t go back to in-person meetings for O-G!

When I first became an Orton-Gillingham tutor, I found it really difficult to quickly manage all the materials I need in a lesson. Working with students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities who were reading below grade level (and often exhausted from a frustrating day of school), I knew it was really important to use their time wisely. I also worked with some younger students who had difficulty sustaining attention for an intense one-hour Orton-Gillingham reading lesson. Then I became an online reading and writing tutor. I have developed my set of tools so I can do Orton Gillingham tutoring online. And the results have been fantastic!

The key thing that makes an Orton-Gillingham lesson work is that the teaching should be should be systematic and based on a student’s mastery of earlier skills. That means that when I first start working with a student with dyslexia or a specific learning disability in reading, I use informal assessments to figure out what they need. Then I use my lessons to systematically fill those skill gaps. So if an older reader still doesn’t automatically use the right short vowel sounds, we have to go back to the short vowel sounds. 

Sometimes those materials can look really young because they are designed for students who are learning to read in first grade. What I can do in the online setting is quickly reformat and redesign materials to make them more appealing to older readers. For example, I can insert images to go with our vowel sound practice in the reader’s notebook that are not the traditional cartoony phonics images. I can also engage students in choosing their own visuals with a quick Google image search so that they can build their notebook along with me.

Another reason that I love doing Orton-Gillingham tutoring online is that it gives me so much flexibility within the lesson. Sometimes during in-person lessons, I find that a student doesn’t understand a vocabulary word we’re discussing or has trouble with a particular sound. In an in-person lesson I usually have to make a note of that and remember to review it in our next meeting. During an online Orton Gillingham lesson I can open a new tab in my browser and do a quick search for pictures of the thing we’re discussing. I can quickly give the student a visual of an emu or the city of Dallas to help them form a mental image to go along with the new words they are reading and learning. This strategy of using pictures as well as text as a context for learning vocabulary has been shown by research to help students remember words better and for longer.

And maybe the best thing about Orton-Gillingham tutoring online is that the student and I need very few specialized materials. For the multi-sensory part of the lesson, it does help for a child to have some physical materials in front of them. They definitely need paper and a pencil and it also helps to have some kind of textured surface, which can be as simple as salt poured in a baking sheet or a rough towel on which to trace their letters. Other than that, I supply everything and put it right up on the screen. I can use ebooks that I borrow from the library or get from Kindle. I can create word lists in a Google doc and share them right on my screen. I can create activities like word building and word sorts using Google Slides. And we have all of the free online reading games available to students online to choose from for reinforcements. (I really like some from fun4thebrain.com.) With my youngest students I usually build in a game break in the middle of the lesson, something like sight words or typing to reinforce their skills but give them a break from the challenging new content. Some of my older students don’t take a break at all during the lesson, while others ask if we can save the last 5 minutes for something they want to share with me, either a piece of work from school or a funny YouTube video.

When I do my Orton-Gillingham tutoring online, I’m also able to see more students in a day. For in-person tutoring there is travel time between the students and also time to set up and break down all my materials. By doing Orton-Gillingham tutoring and that way I am able to maximize the number of students I can help!

If you’re interested in seeing what an online Orton-Gillingham lesson would be like for your child, please contact me today. I offer a free 30-minute consultation where I can assess the student and demonstrate some of the fun tools that we use.

Does Orton-Gillingham tutoring work online?

Why “Go look it up” doesn’t help poor readers understand words (And what to do instead)

The dictionary can be daunting and unproductive for struggling readers

Some people would argue that kids need to learn to use dictionaries and so if they don’t understand a word in what they’re reading they should be responsible for looking it up.

While I agree that dictionaries are one important tool for language learning, they are often not the first line of defense for students who struggle with vocabulary, or for students who are reading difficult text. There are several reasons.

  1. Dictionary definitions are sometimes difficult to understand. –  A dictionary that is at too high a level for the student is going to overwhelm them with language they do not understand, and it’s unlikely to give them a definition that clears up their confusion
  2. Looking up a word takes a long time. – When a student does not understand a word in what they’re reading, the goal is to get them back to reading as quickly as possible. Getting a dictionary, finding the word, and making sense of the definition take up valuable reading or study time.
  3. Dictionaries do not help the child figure out what the word means in this text they’re reading. – A child without enough background information about a word will have trouble choosing the appropriate definition for the word. When they are reading difficult text, the wrong definition for a word can be enough to completely disrupt their comprehension.

So what can we do instead?

Pick the right books to help your child stay engaged and learn new words, without being frustrated and confused

  1. Choose books at the students instructional level. –   pick books with some difficult or unfamiliar words, but not too many of them.
  2. Help children understand the multiple meaning of new vocabulary words. –  Look up important words and make a point of connecting them to other words your child knows.
  3. Help your child look up a word. – Give them a child-friendly definition they will understand and remember. Help them reread the troubling sentence by substituting your definition for the difficult word.  
  4. Help your child generate examples and non-examples of the word to remember it longer. – If the word is important and likely to come up in lots of reading, it helps to have a rich understanding of it. You can ask questions like, “Would you feel reluctant to go outside on a cold morning?” or “Would going to brush your teeth be considered a mission? Why?” The yes or no answer isn’t as important as the explanation. Bring in the topics you and your child feel passionate about, like sports or music, to make these connections memorable.

Here’s what could go wrong with using the dictionary

Using the dictionary without support can leave kids confused and ready to abandon a hard book!

Child: “Mom, what does loafer mean?”

Parent: “Here’s the dictionary. Look it up.”

Child: “It’s a shoe?” *rereads sentence* “Oh.” *Puts down Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and gives up on reading for the day.*

Here’s what a vocab conversation could look like:

Child: “Mom, what does loafer mean?”

Parent: “Where did you read it?”

Child: “Here. ‘As it pulled up, one of the loafing men at the corner dashed forward to open the door in the hope of earning a copper, but was elbowed away by another loafer, who had rushed up with the same intention.’”

Parent: “This dictionary says, ‘a person who idles time away.’ Basically, it’s someone who hangs around wasting time.”

Child: “Oh!”

Parent: “So, when is a time you might be a loafer?”

Child: “Saturday afternoons when I watch TV.”

Parent: “Definitely!”

Child: *Goes off to finish reading book.*
It takes a little longer, but discussing and developing vocabulary is an investment in your child’s language skills that will last the rest of his life. The dictionary has its place, for sure, but it can be discouraging and distracting for struggling readers to tackle on their own.

When kids find words they don’t know, they need discussion and support to gain a rich, lifelong understanding of new vocabulary.

8 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Reading Fluency

What is reading fluency and why does it matter?

Reading fluency can be defined as the ability to read accurately, with sufficient rate and prosody (that’s phrasing and expression) to understand what you have read. Schools often measure it with an assessment like AIMSWeb or DIBELS, and they may report it as a score for ORF (Oral Reading Fluency), PRF (Passage Reading Fluency) or WRF (Word Reading Fluency). Students are asked to read out loud from grade-level text for one minute, and the number of words they read correctly is reported. The district establishes (or adopts) benchmarks–expectations for how many words a student should be reading per minute in the fall, winter, and spring of each grade. Then teachers use different types of lessons to improve your child’s reading fluency.

Why all the fuss about reading fluency? Children who don’t read fluently:

  • Have trouble making sense of what they read
  • Have trouble finishing their work on time
  • Often dislike reading
  • Often feel worried or embarrassed about reading out loud.
  • Find reading exhausting!

So what can parents do to improve your child’s reading fluency?

Some of the best strategies for improving reading fluency work both in school and at home. Find something to read and get started!

Pick the right text – Although some experts think it helps to practice with harder texts, most researchers recommend using stories kids can read mostly correctly (90% of words) to practice fluency. Teachers often send home texts that kids have already read in class, and which can be great choices for extra practice at home.

  • Reread a text several times – This works great with short texts like poems or a couple paragraphs of a story. Have your child read it a few times, enough so that they can “work out the kinks” and recognize all the words, but not so much that they just memorize the words.
  • Be a reading fluency model – Read out loud to your child. You can either read them a story they aren’t able to read alone yet, or reread an old favorite. Hearing how you pronounce words, group words into phrases and change your tone of voice for question marks and exclamation points helps them to know what good reading sounds like. Hearing good reading builds vocabulary, which can improve your child’s reading fluency.
  • Take turns – When your child is reading, the “I read a page, you read a page” strategy can keep your child interested and motivated to keep reading. It also gives the same great modeling as reading a whole story to them. Even better, they will hear you read some of the hard words that come up more than once in the text, which helps them figure out how to pronounce them.
  • Give feedback – after your child reads a section, tell them what they did well, and give them a suggestion for something to try next time. For example, “I really like the way you went back and read the whole sentence after you stopped to sound out that word. Reading the whole sentence is something readers do to make sure everything makes sense. Next time, watch out for words that look alike. I noticed you mixed up of and for when you were reading.”
  • Find new audiences – Kids need to read, read, read to boost fluency. Have them read to siblings (big or little), pets, or stuffed animals. Can they read to a grandparent over the phone, or on Skype or FaceTime?
  • Give them the chance to perform! – Record a video of your child the first time they read a new story, and then again when they have practiced. Point out how practicing helped them read faster, more accurately, and with more expression. Have them practice a book so they can read the family bedtime story when they are ready.
  • Practice, practice, practice – Like with any skill, practice makes perfect. Have your child do a little bit of reading fluency practice every day. Even 10 minutes could really improve your child’s reading fluency over the course of a few weeks.