The Multi Sensory Reading Program

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In today's society, the child who doesn't learn to read has many limitations in life. If children don't learn to read with comprehension, if they don't read with fluency and with critical thinking skills across all content areas, their possibility for academic success, personal independence, self-esteem are often unreachable.

Purpose of Study

In the twelve years of my teaching career, I have taught several different reading programs to students with reading disabilities at the high school level. I currently teach elementary students with reading disabilities. Most students show growth within their current programs, but I believe there is a program in which all students could make progress, using a multi-sensory reading program to meet their educational needs. This paper will answer, "What are the effects of using multi-sensory instruction to improve the reading of special education students with dyslexia?"

I have always taught using several modalities to address all learning styles never realizing there are reading programs using this approach, multi-sensory instruction. After investigating the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading I had several "I have found it" moments. The techniques used to teach reading made sense. They are good teaching practices. The Go Phonics program is very thorough, multi-sensory, systematic phonics program. It begins with introduction of letters and sounds and progress to advanced phonics concepts. It is compatible with the Orton-Gillingham methodology, which teaches multi-sensory, systematic phonics in a specific sequence to develop a concrete process to learning language.

The importance of this study is due to the state of the literacy achievement gap in America as revealed in the review of the literature. Research supports the use of multi-sensory reading instruction for students with dyslexia as an effective method for student academic improvement.

Literacy in America

An estimated 5 percent to 15 percent of children are affected by dyslexia, the most common learning disability among school age children (Berninger, & Richards, 1999). Research suggests that early intervention for improving student literacy is critical to student success that impacts all aspects of the child's life (American Federation of Teachers, 2007).

A wealth of evidence continues to provide proof of an achievement gap between students. The discrepancy is recognized as early as kindergarten on assessments of letter recognition and letter-sound association, between Caucasians and African Americans, between Caucasians and Hispanic children and among socio-economic groups. (West, Denton & Reaney, 2000).

Although research results merge on common areas such as race, ethnicity, language ability and economic status as possible predictors of reading deficits, (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998) it is not known why the discrepancy continues to exist. These researchers imply race is a common factor to the achievement gap among students. There must be more than only race and ethnicity to student achievement (Bainbridge & Lasley, 2002).

Additional research revealed a significant relationship between race and poverty, with African and Hispanic Americans three times more likely to live in poverty than Caucasians (Proctor and Dalaker, 2002). There is empirical evidence that the role of poverty and low-literacy skills is a contributing factor to the achievement gap between Caucasian students and students of color. Race actively contributes to results in employment statistics, achievement in academics and the ability to use literacy skills. A continued higher unemployment rate and lower educational achievement exist between African and Hispanic Americans than among Caucasians. (Corley, 2003).

It is unacceptable that children at risk for reading deficits is related to their ethnicity or socio-economic status, yet Zill (2000) concluded these are the factors that contribute. In 2002, Bainbridge and Lasley suggest, race and economic status are not the only determining factors; school contributes to or play a significant role in the achievement gap among students of color.

Regardless of the factors contributing to the nations achievement gap, educators across the nation acknowledge that the achievement gap has several causes and that it needs to be addressed in a variety of settings, from changing instructional procedures and foster parent involvement and to improve student attitudes toward school. At the same time, educators acknowledge that the gaps also reflect larger issues in society, and that while education is part of the solution, they cannot do it alone (Rothman, 2001).

Allan Allson, a superintendent in Evanston, Illinois states, "It is not limited to instruction alone, or early childhood literacy, or peer pressure, or culturally relevant curriculum, or tracking" (p. 2). Districts across America agree the achievement gap must begin with changing teacher attitudes. Change must focus on academic improvement, researched based reading instruction, as well as approved writing and mathematics curriculum (Rothman, 2001).

With the need to close the achievement gap at the elementary level I will introduce a multi-sensory approach as a supplementary curriculum to my current reading program. The purpose of my project is to determine the effect of using a multi-sensory approach to improve the reading of special need students with dyslexia. Providing students with dyslexia a research based curriculum that addresses the student's academic needs he/she is able to access curriculum and make improvement in reading. With a clear curriculum choice and an emphasis in reading taught in a multi-sensory approach, students will begin to narrow the achievement gap and make improvement in reading.

Definition of Terms

Reading disability is defined as an inability to read with fluency and comprehension as one's age or grade level peers. For the purpose of students with an Individual Educational Plan (IEP), it is defined as the discrepancy between the student's achievement and intellectual ability. Dyslexia is defined by The International Dyslexia Association (2002):

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological 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 my include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Special day class is small group educational setting designed for children with special needs. A student eligible for this program must qualify with one or more of the thirteen qualifying disorders and/or learning disabilities. These deficits must be severe enough that their academic instruction time is more than fifty percent of the student's school day for assignment to a special day class setting. Student abilities range from far below basic to above average intelligence. Therefore, their academic instruction is aligned with an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) to fit each child's individual needs and abilities. The special day class is staffed with at least one certificated special education teacher in addition, qualified trained assistants facilitate to give appropriate instruction based on student needs (Gunsch, 2003).

The Orton-Gillingham reading approach is a language-based, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, supplemental reading curriculum. Lessons are designed to involve auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modalities reinforcing each other for optimal learning. Spelling and reading are taught simultaneously. Go Phonics strategies include explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and additional reading skills. Activities include phonics games, worksheets, and oral reading of decodable stories to improve student reading fluency and comprehension. The following statement of multi-sensory instruction is given by A. Gillingham and B. W. Stillman (1997):

A daily lesson using the Orton-Gillingham Approach requires seven steps: (1) review of letters and sounds already learned, (2) introduction of new phonogram (symbol) and its sound, (3) lists of individual words for reading aloud, carefully selected to review previously learned associations, (4) dictation of new and previously learned sounds, (5) dictation of words using only those phonograms and phonemes already taught, (6) dictation of sentences using words made up of phonograms and phonemes previously taught, (7) oral reading from a text. Although each lesson is paced and structured according to the needs of the individual, teachers must create the lesson plan material within the structured steps (p. 2).

This project is additional research to support that the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is an effective, explicit, systematic multi-sensory reading program. This project supports that elementary students in a special education classroom make academic gains in a short amount of time when given this instruction in a small group environment.


Literature Review


A review of the literature revealed a number of studies addressing multi-sensory approaches to reading for students with dyslexia. In review of the literature for this study, these questions will be addressed by focusing on the following areas:

a) achievement of students with disabilities, b) achievement of students with dyslexia,

c) teaching students with dyslexia, d) multi-sensory as a best practice, e) historical background, f) research studies that examine the effectiveness of multi-sensory instruction for students with dyslexia. Although not all of the studies achieved the goals they had set, most of the studies showed some increase in phonological awareness, decoding, fluency and reading comprehension.

Achievement of Students with Disabilities

Literacy is complicated skills and rules that include the reading and writing

required within most cultures. Reading requires decoding, appropriate word

recognition, and comprehension of the word, phrase, sentence, within a passage. Writing

requires accurate letter formation and spelling, sentence structure, and the ability

to write a variety of different genres with logical unified structure.

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) recognizes the

significance of giving attention to important issues related to literacy and argues for

effective reading and writing instruction for students with disabilities. The literacy issues

for grades fourth to twelfth, its overall outcomes, and contributing factors.

Recent reading data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that a significant number of students in the U.S. scored at the Below Basic level of proficiency, indicating students have not acquired necessary skills for proficient work at grade level. These students had difficulty with critical thinking skills needed to understand what they read, ability to make predictions based on the passage, ability to identify specific idea within the passage, expanding of the ideas in the text, and/ or drawing conclusions based on the passage (National Joint Committee of Learning Disabilities, 2008). Alarming numbers of students in the United States do not read and/or write at levels required in today's society.

Literacy development is based on oral language development. Students with reading deficits often have receptive and expressive oral language deficits that become more critical as demands increase in areas such as vocabulary, content comprehension, sentence syntax and semantic, and figurative and inference language. Cognitive deficits impact students' self-awareness and self-control, therefore problem-solving and the ability to self-direct and monitor behaviors is related to educational achievement. As a consequence of these deficits, students with learning disabilities often have difficulty maintaining positive attitudes, adequate motivation and determination required to have academic success. These students may have little understanding of their individual

strengths and weaknesses and the modification and accommodations needed to support their academic progress.

The learner's characteristics must also be considered when developing assessment and delivering instruction. Developmental characteristics may manifest in resistance to instructional assistance, particularly for students with a learning disability. Some learners demonstrate a desire for independence, often resisting adults even if their assistance is necessary for success. In addition, these students have a need for peer group acceptance and access to peer social interaction. Students may avoid appearing different in any way from their peers for the fear of rejection or isolation. Perceived social acceptance, which may be weaker in students with disabilities, is a predictor of school success and lifelong attitudes and function. Learner characteristics contribute to the literacy gap between typical students and students with learning disabilities that correspond with increasing demands of the standard based curriculum and rising expectations for independent student learning (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2008).

Achievement of Student with Reading Problems

The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The major difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing. Some students with dyslexia manage to learn early reading and spelling skills, especially with direct, explicit instruction, but later experience their most significant difficulties when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding instructional material, and writing assignments. People with dyslexia can also have problems with oral language, even after good language is modeled or demonstrated in their homes and best practices of language instruction is delivered in school. Self-expression may be difficult, appropriate word usage, or to adequately comprehend what others mean during instruction or conversation. These language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to significant difficulties in school and in relating to other people. The impact of dyslexia contribute to difficulties well beyond the classroom into the community.

Dyslexia can also impact a person's self-worth. Students with dyslexia often express feelings of being "dumb" and less competent than they in fact are. After experiencing a great deal of pressure due to academic troubles or failures, a student may become unenthusiastic about school (Johnson, K., 2006). These affects are supported by Janice Edwards, she reports the emotional cost of dyslexia include loss of self-assurance; feelings of self-doubt and disappointment all contribute to the student's effectiveness to demonstrate academic abilities (Edwards, 1994).

The most common deficits students with dyslexia report include problems in writing assignments and taking written tests, spelling errors, struggle with note taking. In addition, the inability to use daily organizational skills and high distractibility, all contributing to undeveloped study skills (Gilroy & Miles, 1996).

Teaching Students with Dyslexia

Not all students learn the same way. According to this information, differentiated instruction provides a teaching method and student learning strategies that have varied options for understanding information and demonstration of information learned. The model of differentiated instruction demands instructors to be flexible in their presentation and adjusting the delivery of material to students rather than expecting the learner to access curriculum in a set format. Classroom teaching is a combination of whole-class, group and individual instruction. Differentiated instruction is a teaching theory based on the idea that a variety of modalities of instruction are a best practice in relation to individual and diverse students in the classroom (Hall, 2007).

To differentiate instruction is to acknowledge students' diverse background knowledge, first language, willingness to learn, and best modality of learning, and to deliver instruction in view of that. This effective method of teaching and learning is best for students of diverse abilities in the same classroom. The expectation of differentiated instruction is to maximize each student's potential and individual success by meeting individual student learning needs.

The components of differentiated instruction are the philosophy and stratergies developed after years of educational hypothesis and research. Differentiated instruction provides the concept of a willingness to learn. In 1980 Fisher's research supports the work done in 1978 by Lev Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development (ZPD), the difference between what a student can do independently and areas that require support. The researchers revealed the higher the performance level, the more students learned and enjoyed the subject matter (Tomlinson, 2000).

One of the most important skills an instructor should have when working with students with reading disabilities is effective, explicit and systematic instruction. This is extremely important for teaching the construction of language to children with reading disabilities. Phonological processing skills as well as reading fluency should be taught through explicit and systematic instruction to provide students skills to develop strength in each of these skills. Evidence supports that many students with reading disabilities have deficits because of inadequate instruction or other contributing factors (Vellutino, 2004).

Explicit Instruction

Explicit instruction is an organized instructional approach that includes focused, clear, and detailed procedures of instruction, resulting from effective schools research combined with behavior analysis results. Explicit instruction is defined by Barak Rosenshine (1997):

(a) observable direct group instruction with maximized teacher and student interactions, material delivered at an appropriate pace, frequent student interaction, with the condition of immediate feedback to students and (b) the less observable, instructional component of the approach, use of student background knowledge, scaffolding intervention, and careful review of material and strategies to be taught. Research identified the use of explicit teaching as a best practice as essential for positive student outcomes (p. 197).

Explicit instruction begins with clear instructional procedures and goals. The format of instruction requires that it always be clear and understandable, presented by good modeling from the teacher. Instructors need to state the exact instructional areas of learning so that both teacher and students understand the expected outcomes of the learning experience. Explicit instruction also includes guided and independent practice with corrective feedback. In order for students to gain meaningful outcomes from learning experiences, students need to be engaged and think about the material (Iovonanne, 2003).

Systematic Instruction

Systematic instruction refers to a carefully planned sequence for instruction, similar to cooking with a recipe. The recipe is an organized step-by-step procedure in order to have a desired outcome when cooking. The recipe for systematic instruction is deliberate, thoroughly thought out, and planned, prior to activities and lessons being created. Systematic instruction is clearly designed to include all areas of good reading instruction, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Systematic instructionally designed lessons build on previously taught material, from simple to complex, with clear, brief student objectives that are guided by ongoing assessment. Students are provided opportunities to practice skills learned to improve learning and meet objectives.

Systematic instruction must always include clear instructional goals. Systematic instruction involves identifying educational goals, implementing instructional measures, evaluating the value of the teaching procedures, adjusting instruction based upon the assessment and student outcomes (Iovonanne, 2003).

The strategies students use for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency, and comprehension needed to become independent readers must include explicit, direct instruction that is systematic, chronological and effective. The instruction is organized and presented in a way that follows a logical sequence and fits the format of alphabetic principle. When instructors have no assumption of student prior skills or language knowledge it maximizes student engagement. This instruction proceeds at a speed appropriate with students' needs, ability levels, and demonstration of progress.

Multi-sensory Instruction

The multi-sensory reading methods are an explicit and systematic approach of instruction for students with dyslexia, and reading difficulties. Orton in cooperation with Gillingham developed an educational intervention that began the use of sensory multi-sensory instruction for treatment of students with dyslexia. The Orton-Gillingham approach to improve reading instruction for students with reading deficits is still commonly used for remedial reading instruction. Multi-sensory instruction is the bases of many reading intervention programs used in schools today (Goeke, 2006).

The Dyslexia Handbook (2007) proposes that a multi-sensory instructional program should be delivered in a small-group setting and include reading, writing, and spelling in accordance with a students Individual Education Plan (IEP). Teaching includes multiple skills for language instruction, beginning with the most basic skill of phonemic awareness that enables students to segment, blend, and manipulate sounds in spoken language. In addition, instruction introduces the concept of letter-sound

patterns in words have meaning and sounds are written with letters in a sequential

order to create words. Students with this skill can blend sounds represented by

letters into words and can separate words into sounds for spelling and writing. Language instruction that includes the study of language units such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots provide organization for student learning. In addition, instruction that includes semantics, syntax, and pragmatics are also a best practice of instruction for students with dyslexia.

Students with dyslexia require clear, direct, collective, thorough, and focused language instruction in a small group setting to make progress. Multi-sensory learning involves the use of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic approach concurrently to improve memory and learning of written language (International Dyslexia Association, 2008).

Additional research supports The Dyslexia Handbook advocating that individuals with dyslexia need special programs to learn to read, write, and spell. Traditional educational instruction is not always a successful remediation for students with dyslexia. Direct instruction of letter-sound recognition taught in a sequential, cumulative way is critical to student learning. There must be systematic teaching of the rules required for written language. This approach is called structured, or systematic language instruction. Students with dyslexia benefit from multi-sensory as a best practice for language instruction. Lessons that are multi-sensory utilize all pathways of learning concurrently seeing, hearing, touching, writing and speaking. It is suggested that instructors be trained when using a researched based multi-sensory approach for students with dyslexia. Research indicates the use of trained instructors is an effective intervention for students with dyslexia (International Dyslexia Association, 2008).

Multi-sensory Instruction as a Best Practice

Multi-sensory instruction is one important best practice for students with dyslexia that is used by teachers with high expectations for student outcomes. When looking at the word multi-sensory it is necessary to define each word component individually. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines multi as a prefix, meaning, "more than one" (p. 496). Furthermore, it defines sensory as and adjective, meaning, "pertaining to the senses or sensation" (p. 665).

Multi-sensory instruction includes the use of three learning senses, auditory, visual and kinesthetic to teach students. Lessons are taught using two or more of these modalities at the same time in order for a student to have a personal awareness of information. When instructors teach in two or more ways it permits students diverse avenues for response.

Research supports the idea Albert Einstein suffered with the reading disability, dyslexia. He defined learning as an experience rather than knowledge. He suggests that we have a personal awareness in learning when using all our senses. Human beings have an inherent need to see, touch, taste, feel and hear the unique characteristics of an object in order to define it better (Wesson 2002).

In 2001, the article Clinical Studies of Multisensory Structured Language Education for Students with Dyslexia and Related Disorders reveal what distinguishes multi-sensory structured reading instruction from other approaches is what is taught and how it is taught (McIntyre & Pickering, 2001). What is taught refers to the structure of words, letter-sound relationships, syllable understanding, using words to build sentences, and the meaning of language both oral and written. How it is taught refers to the method of instruction.

In 200l, McIntyre and Pickering suggest the components of multi-sensory instruction include synchronized instruction using all learning paths to improve learning and memory. Materials are organized in a logical order of language, from simple to complex, lesson introduces new learning based on known information and reviewed to demonstrate understanding. All multi-sensory phonic instruction taught directly and systematically with continuous student assessment to identify weakness and strengths for instruction.

Research validates that a multi-sensory reading approach strengthens the brains of struggling readers. Multi-sensory learning intergrate a multitude of learning avenues during instruction, especially the involvement of visual, auditory, tactile learning paths. When struggling learners are taught to read using direct, explicit, systematic, multi-sensory phonics instruction, research using brain imaging identified there is a significant change on the brain (Shaywitz, 2003).

In addition, studies have shown how struggling readers use brain pathways made significant changes after given direct, explicit, systematic, multi-sensory phonics. Phonemic awareness instruction noticeably improves students with reading deficits overall reading accuracy and fluency. The changes in brain imaging after multi-sensory instruction intervention show a significant increase usage of the left hemisphere of the brain during reading activities. The brain activity of the poor readers appears increasingly more like the brain activity of the good readers. Previously identified struggling readers began to develop reading pathways in their brains that were not present before the instruction occurred.

Early identification and intervention using this research-based method can facilitate and/or avoid student difficulties in reading. It is documented that multi-sensory instruction is an effective method for older students who already struggle with reading, it can improve their continuous reading deficits, changing those learners into more skilled readers. For students with reading difficulties, learning disabled and students with attention problems, these instructional methods give them specific strategies, permitting them to become competent readers and spellers, significantly effecting their schoolwork and overall success in life (Shaywitz, 2003)

Effectiveness of Multi-sensory Instruction

In addition to the original Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory instruction model many variations developed. Some of the modified Orton-Gillingham approaches/program include: a) The Orton-Gillingham Approach, b) The Herman Approach, c) The Slingerland Approach, d) The Wilson Reading System, and e) The Susan Barton approach.

Orton-Gillingham Approach

Orton-Gillingham is the structured, sequential multi-sensory instruction of written language based upon the continuous use of a variety of skills, visual concept of words, auditory letter sounds, and how the voice and mouth or the hand feels when producing letters or words. The multi-sensory approach is built on the theory that the combination of the visual, auditory, and tactile-kinesthetic sensory organs usage improves reading (Gillingham & Stillman, 1997). Sound-symbol relations must be taught both visual and auditory, where the student sees a letter and hears the sound that it makes and auditory to visual, where the student hears a sound and recognizes the corresponding letter. The Orton-Gillangham approach suggests syllable identification is a necessary skill for the reader to master in order to improve the learner's reading skills. For best results multi-sensory instruction should be taught in a small group setting (McIntyre Pickering, 2001).

In addition, in 2001, Colony defines Samuel T. Orton as the father of dyslexia. Suggesting his work along with two colleagues, Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman, developed the Orton-Gillingham-Stillman Approach to reading intervention for struggling students. Since the introduction of the multi-sensory approach as a best practice several modified versions of the Orton-Gillingham method have been developed (Richardson, 2001). The multi-sensory approach is the use of visual, auditory and kinesthetic senses working in unison to strengthen reading skills (Gillingham & Stillman, 1997). As the student builds words, they also develop the association between what is seen in written language, what is heard, and what is felt in the mouth as letter sounds are made and the letters are printed when writing (Gillingham & Stillman, 1997).

Research and the additional modified versions of the Orton-Gillingham approach are evidence supporting multi-sensory teaching. Current research, much of it supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), agree the effective use of teaching language in a structured and explicit instructional model for children with dyslexia is a best practice. Young children in structured, sequential, multi-sensory reading instruction, that included phonemic awareness, made significant improvement in decoding skills. These multi-sensory approaches showed similar results in clinical studies for a variety of students (Goldsworthy, 1996).

Numerous researchers revealed that early intervention, phonics, and multi-sensory techniques are the most supportive intervention for students with dyslexia. Phonics instruction during beginning reading development is critical for dyslexic students according to Dr. Reid Lyons of the National Institute of Health (NIH). Studies at the NIH have shown if students are given early and proper phonics instruction that a large number of even the lowest readers can learn to read at grade level (Lyons, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003).

Orton-Gillingham techniques was implemented in the state of Michigan in the City of Pontiac School District as part of a professional growth plan. Both Special Education and General Education classrooms participated in multi-sensory instruction. Students were assessed on both individual phonetic sounds and words. The word test included both nonsense words and real English words. Pre-test assessments were given at the beginning of the year, at the midterm of the year, and post-test assessment at the end of year.

Kindergarten through fifth grade students, both general education and special education, participated in the program. Student made considerable gains during the year of multi-sensory instruction as indicated by individual student assessments. Students made gains in their phonics reading skills during the school year at all grade levels, with both higher pre and post test scores of the next grade level. This implies the Orton-Gillingham instruction gave students skills for the next grade level better than previously used curriculum. In addition, student performance, based on mastery of real English words is higher than that on the nonsense words. This confirms the value of teaching meaningful language; however, the improvement in reading nonsense words confirms the importance of teaching phonics for facilitating students decode unknown words. Special education students beginning the school year with the lowest test scores ended the year with assessment scores equivalent to their same grade peers in general education.

The overall results of using Orton-Gillingham techniques confirm multi-sensory instruction is a best practice, therefore, benefiting both Special and General Education students. Multi-sensory reading instruction should be included in a comprehensive reading program so all students have the opportunity to improve their reading skills (Axeland-Lentz, 1998).

Additional research by Ann Hoefer in 2004 supports the assumption multi-sensory instruction is a best practice for special education students to make improvement of reading skills. The study was conducted at the Van Buren Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in a Level 1 Special education classroom. Five students, ages eight - ten years old were the subjects of her study. They included; one male third grader, one female third grader, two female fourth graders, and one male fourth grader assigned to the Level 1 classroom 58% of their school day.

The Orton multi-sensory instruction program was used for a six-week period in the fall of 2004. Instruction was implemented both one-on-one and small group to all five students. Students began by answering a reading interest survey. Questions included how the student felt and thought about reading. Results revealed all students did not like or want to read either in the classroom or for leisure.

The students received thirty minutes of daily instruction developed based on student individual needs using the Orton lesson plan of instruction. Daily instruction included drill work, spelling and reading. Weekly progress was monitored using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills assessment.

Results indicated an improvement in spelling using the program. The phonics instruction progress monitoring scores were inconsistent from week to week, yet overall monitoring scores indicated individual growth (Hoefer, 2004).

With the recognition that many students in the Chugach School District in Alaska seemed to be having literacy-related difficulties, the district took an aggressive approach toward the instruction of reading. An assessment indicated that 98 percent of students in the district were not reading at grade level. In the summer of 1996, teachers attended a workshop focused on reading instruction strategies that promote phonemic awareness as well as fluency and comprehension. In addition, the entire district adopted the Multi-sensory Approach to Reading, based on the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading to the senses, auditory, visual and tactical.

In the fall of 1996, prepared with new instructional strategies to teaching language arts, teachers began to tackle the decoding skills that most students were lacking. Using the multi-sensory approach as a part of each classrooms reading instruction the daily lessons were structured, organized and based on scientific research approach. In addition, students are provided the strategies to show proficiency and retain material taught through a process of experiencing the language arts lessons.

All K-12 students participate in the program regardless of their reading level. Pre-tests are given at the beginning of the school regardless of their reading skills. This information provides data to develop an individual profile for each student and an action plan for reading improvement. Many secondary teachers embrace the program because they have strategies to intervene when they observe students struggling.

State and district standards provided this district's accountability requirements for reading. The presentation of lessons varied from classroom to classroom, but the process remains the same. Teaching begins with the structure of the language and progresses toward reading. The program provides students sequential learning that includes writing, reading, and spelling followed by assessments in each area.

In the first year of using multi-sensory reading approach, results indicated students being able to use an organized strategy for attacking words, therefore, not having to rely solely upon memorization. The standardized test scores in the Chugach School District improved 33 percent and use of the this approach created opportunities for all participants have a better understanding of the English language (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1998).

The Herman Approach

Renee Herman developed the structured, sequential Herman Approach to reading. It is a modified version of the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory reading techniques. Instruction began at each student's level of ability and taught lessons in sequence in order for student to reach mastery of each reading skill level. Multi-sensory strategies that connect visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile input help students with visual and auditory processing difficulties. Kinesthetic and tactile lessons are carefully taught in repetitive sequence until the student responds with fluency and confidence. The Herman Approach reading curriculum includes, decoding symbols, word recognition and comprehension (McIntyre & Pickering, 1995).

A Michigan school district reported the effects of The Herman Approach on students second through eleventh grade. The study included 52 students, with 83% of the students in this study male and 17% female. The students received daily reading instruction. After one year, the word recognition and reading comprehension assessments were administered to 12 students in grades two through six, 26 students in grades seven and eight, and 14 students in grades nine through eleven. All students improved in both word recognition and reading comprehension having significant gains for all age and grade levels represented in this study. Growth at all grade levels in reading comprehension skills was consistently higher than gains in word recognition (Herman, 2001).

Slingerland Approach

The Slingerland Multi-sensory Approach was developed for classroom instruction. The modified Orton-Gillingham strategies were used as an intervention teaching method. Today it is used both as a preventive and remedial instruction as a best teaching strategy in classrooms, small groups, and in one-on-one setting with elementary students and older individuals with reading deficits.

The Slingerland approach varies from more conventional instruction in several ways. Simultaneous, multi-sensory teaching strategies are incorporated into all sections of the lesson. The reason and construction of English are taught, beginning with the smallest component of sight, sound, feel of a letter. All the reading skills of fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, and written expression are taught simultaneously. The goals of this approach foster independent reading and written expression (Briggs, & Clark, 1997).

A longitudinal study in Southern California provided results of 5th and 6th grade students, both general education and students with learning disabilities given instruction using the Slingerland Approach. Not all students remained in the school district for the duration of the study. Eighty-one percent of students with disabilities maintained grade point averages and standardized achievement test scores within the average or above average range. With respect to ethnicity, it was found that 75.4% of the Hispanic students with disabilities group and 66.1 percent of the Hispanic non-disabilities group maintained grade point averages of C or better. Both general education and students with disabilities shared the same attitudes towards school, homework, and extracurricular activities that involved same age peers. Goals for higher education and/or vocational employment were similar for both groups (Royal, 1987).

Wilson Reading System

The Wilson Reading System is another multi-sensory reading program reviewed. The Wilson Reading System is a corrective reading and writing program for students with language-based learning disability at the middle, high school and adult levels. The Orton-Gillingham philosophy is the foundation for the Wilson Reading System provided through a 12-step program. Student reading and writing mastery is the focus of the program with the goal that students will independently apply these skills across all academic studies.

Just as other Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory programs the Wilson Reading System's instruction are direct, sequential, provide teaching differently than traditional phonics instruction. Students start with beginning reading skills of sounds, progressing to simple words, short sentences, easy-reader stories, and finally to books, learning from repeated practice and review. Each concept introduces new skills while reinforcing those already learned. When students read text including previously taught skills they experience improvement in reading decoding and comprehension.

Although the Wilson Reading System was originally designed for students with disabilities related to reading and language, the program is a proven and effective instructional strategy for all students (Wilson, 1998).

Wilson and O'Connor designed this study to focus on two concerns in one school's special education program. The first issue was the low reading skills of student with disabilities. The second issue focused on the staff's training and experience using multi-sensory reading instruction. The Wilson Reading System program provided a solution for both concerns.

The researchers provided data that indicated students with reading deficits showed significant improvement in basic reading and spelling skills when phonological awareness and word structure are taught directly and systematically. Teachers should use instructional strategies that are direct, systematic, and multi-sensory as a best practice of instruction.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the use of Wilson Reading System would improve student's basic reading and spelling skills.

Researchers, Wilson and O'Conner, selected 220 identified special education students receiving reading intervention in a small group. The students selected had not shown progress in reading, even with specialized instruction.

The researchers used the Woodcock Johnson Reading Mastery Test to measure growth in word attack, passage comprehension, and total reading. Student's ability to decode nonsense words was assessed using the word attack sub-test. The Wilson Reading System was used to measure student growth in spelling. Student current level of performance was determined using both Woodcock Johnson Reading Mastery Test and Wilson Reading System as a pre-test of student skills. Trained teachers used direct, systematic, and multi-sensory instruction. Lessons were taught two or three times weekly throughout the school year.

At the end of the year, research indicated significant improvement in the word attack and passage comprehension subtests scores of all students. Passage comprehension scores improved an average of 1.6 grade levels. Total reading showed significant improvement as well, with an average increase of 1.9 grade levels. Teachers reported increased student self-confidence and improved self-esteem (Wilson, & O'Connor, 1995).

Barton Reading and Spelling System

The Barton Reading & Spelling System is an Orton-Gillingham influenced phonics reading program. No formal training is required to teach this intervention program. This program is designed for students with reading difficulties. The Barton Reading & Spelling System is designed for a student to improve their reading skills when they complete a systematic sequence of lessons two times weekly for two to three years.

The program was originally designed for tutors or parents to use with students, but later implemented in schools for small group instruction for individuals with reading deficits. There are ten levels to the Barton Reading & Spelling System. Each level is a prerequisite for the levels that follow. The program includes both pre-test and post-test. Level 1 pre-test determines where to begin instruction. Most students begin at Level 1 and after completion of the program will demonstrate ninth grade level in reading, spelling and beginning writing skills (Barton, 2002)

Research conducted at two Superior Therapy Services, Inc. clinics in Florida by Speech/Language Pathologists included use of the Barton Reading and Spelling System. The study provided results of 18 elementary students identified with reading deficits and were pre and post tested using the Phonetic Reading Test.

Student outcomes using the Barton Reading and Spelling System indicated significant growth in decoding, reading fluency and comprehension. With eighty-two hours of intervention growth was found in all areas of instruction. Student reading fluency indicated over one and one-half years in academic growth. The largest improvement was in three areas, students demonstrated two years growth in word decoding, reading comprehension and academic reading level (Campbell, & Norsbisch, 2009).

These Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory approaches, utilizes all three pathways in learning individual sounds and words. Suggesting that teaching the fundamentals of phonic relationships of the alphabet both visually and orally, through direct, explicit instruction would improve reading for all students with reading difficulties.

Historical Background

As early as 1877, Adolph Kussmaul's, research found adults with average intelligence, optimum sight, and speech had a reading disability. He labeled this specific disability as word-blindness. Later, Hinshelwood gathered data that confirmed Kussmaul's findings. His research results in one study found adults with average intelligence, sight and speech lost their ability to read. Through further investigation of the brains of these individuals after death indicated defects in the left hemisphere. Hinshelwood's research also concluded that males had a higher frequency of reading disabilities than females and it is often inherited (Richardson, 1992).

In the 1900s, Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a research in dyslexia observed and provided intervention for stroke victims. In the 1920s he began using multi-sensory methods during therapy at his Iowa mental health clinic. Orton met a boy who had lost the ability to read, similar to his stoke victims. Orton began researching reading difficulties and concluded that there was a cause unrelated to brain damage that made learning to read difficult. He identified the condition in which individuals see a mirror or reverse image of words, strephosymbolia (Orton, 1925).

Orton recommended that letter reversal and transposing letter sequences in words could be corrected with the use of kinesthetic-tactile activities that reinforce the visual and auditory associations of words. He concluded dyslexia is caused by the inability of the brain to establish hemisphere dominance (Orton, 1928). Orton's findings concerning hemisphere dominance was supported by studies in the 1980s and 1990s establishing that the area of the brain associated with language processing is the left hemisphere. Research also confirmed the right hemisphere is physically larger in individuals with dyslexia than non-dyslexia individuals (Galaburda, Menard, & Rosen, 1994). Brain imaging research provides researchers the ability to observe the brain as it is working. These studies suggest different patterns in the brains of individuals with dyslexia and non-dyslexic individuals.

Brain imaging research revealed that learning to read is associated with both areas of the brain, increased activity in the left hemisphere and decreased activity in the right hemisphere (Turkeltaub, Gareau, Flowers, Zeffiro, & Eden, 2003).

Additional brain research at the University of Washington revealed there are chemical differences in the brain function of individuals with dyslexia and non-dyslexic children. Neuropsychologist Virginia Berninger and Neurophysicist Todd Richards, researched brain activity of both children with dyslexia and non-dyslexic children during oral language tasks. Most of the brain activity took place in the left hemisphere, which is known to be the area for language processing. The children with dyslexia were using a significantly more area of the brain to produce the same language task as the non-dyslexic children. This means their brains were working a lot harder and using more energy than the non-dyslexic children. These researchers suggest that children with a reading disorder may be treated but possibly not cured (Berninger, & Richards, 1999).

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development supports research that confirms multi-sensory instruction for student with reading deficits often improves individual's reading skills. Students given multi-sensory instruction in an organized, sequential sequence made significant improvement in decoding skills. Instruction begins with the simplest letter sounds, then progressing to words and sentences. Both classroom and clinical studies showed similar results for students with reading disabilities (Goldsworthy, 1996).

Extensive research into dyslexia has revealed that early intervention; multi-sensory techniques to teach phonics and phonemic awareness are a best practice for treating students with dyslexia. According to Dr. Reid Lyons of the National Institute of Health (NIH), students with dyslexia should receive phonics instruction during their initial introduction to reading. Studies at the NIH have shown that at the poorest readers can learn to read at grade level, if they are given early and phonics instruction (Lyons, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003).


The review of literature in this chapter has provided empirical evidence for the use of reading interventions based on the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory approach for teaching students with dyslexia. The literatures suggest early identification of students with dyslexia and prompt reading interventions are extremely important for student improvement. In addition, the literature suggests the instruction must be direct, structured, and sequential for best student outcomes. Although, not all of the studies achieved the goals they had set, most showed some improvement in decoding, phonemic awareness and reading comprehension.