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March 2021


What research is available on Orton-Gillingham?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on Orton-Gillingham. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed Orton-Gillingham. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Giess, S. A., Rivers, K. O., Kennedy, K., & Lombardino, L. J. (2012). Effects of multisensory phonics-based training on the word recognition and spelling skills of adolescents with reading disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 27(1), 60-73.
    From the abstract: "The purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of an Orton-Gillingham-based reading instruction system, the Barton Reading and Spelling System (BRSS; Barton 2000), that was used as a supplemental reading instruction program for increasing the lower-level reading skills of a group of adolescents with persistent reading problems. Nine students participated in the supplemental reading program based on pre-test scores of a spoken and written language assessment battery. Progress was measured at the end of intervention by post-testing students on the same assessment battery. Each student showed some improvements from their pretest to posttest scores on all of the measures utilized, with some having moderate to large effect sizes, supporting the view that the BRSS is an appropriate supplemental reading program for struggling adolescent readers within a response to instruction framework. Future research should include a larger sample size and a control group. (Contains 5 tables.)"
  2. Hazoury, K. H., Oweini, A. A., & Bahous, R. (2009). A multisensory approach to teach Arabic decoding to students with dyslexia. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 7(1) 1-20.
    From the abstract: "This paper proposes a technique for teaching decoding of the Arabic language to Arab dyslexic students following the multisensory, systematic, explicit phonics approach and based in part on the Orton-Gillingham approach. This technique emphasizes vocabulary controlled, font-modified, cumulative, color-coded reading materials, and orthographic rather than linguistic patterns. A comprehensive theoretical framework and a detailed development of the multisensory lessons are provided, and a sample lesson is included. This method needs to be tested empirically to measure its effectiveness. Supplementary activities are recommended to maximize its benefits."
  3. Lim, L., & Oei, A. C. (2015). Reading and spelling gains following one year of Orton-Gillingham intervention in Singaporean students with dyslexia. British Journal of Special Education, 42(4), 374-389.
    From the abstract: "Despite the widespread use of Orton-Gillingham (OG) based approaches to dyslexia remediation, empirical support documenting its effectiveness is lacking. Recently, Chia and Houghton demonstrated the effectiveness of the OG approach for remediation of dyslexia in Singapore. As a conceptual replication and extension of that research, we report results of 39 students with dyslexia aged between six and 14 years enrolled in an OG intervention programme over a period of one year in a single-subject research (pre-test/post-test) design. Analyses of variance showed that students significantly improved in standardised tests of reading and spelling with moderate effect sizes (Cohen's d = 0.52-0.58). Additionally, an inverse relationship was found between students' ages when they began intervention and gains made during the intervention. Results thus indicate the effectiveness of an OG approach in remediating literacy difficulties in students with dyslexia and, taken together with previous studies, further suggest the importance of early identification and intervention."
  4. Ritchey, K. D., & Goeke, J. L. (2006). Orton-Gillingham and Orton-Gillingham-based reading instruction: A review of the literature. Journal of Special Education, 40(3), 171-183.
    From the abstract: "Orton-Gillingham (OG) and Orton-Gillingham-based reading instructional programs are commonly implemented reading programs in the United States. Twelve studies that employed quasi-experimental or experimental designs are reviewed. These studies included elementary students, adolescents, and college students. Of the 12 studies, 5 reported that the OG instruction was more effective than were comparison or control interventions for all measured outcomes, 4 reported that the OG instruction was more effective for at least 1 (but not all) outcomes in comparison to other intervention(s), 2 reported that the alternate instruction was more effective than the OG instruction, and 1 reported no significant differences once covariates were included. The largest effects were reported for word attack and non-word reading outcomes, with mean effect size of 0.82, and comprehension outcomes, with a mean effect size of 0.76. Following a summary of each study, limitations of the current review and implications for future research and practice are described. Given the small number of studies, the lack of methodological rigor of the existing studies, and the inconclusive findings of the effectiveness of OG programs, additional research is needed before the scientific basis can be established."
  5. Rose, T. E., & Zirkel, P. (2007). Orton-Gillingham methodology for students with reading disabilities: 30 years of case law. Journal of Special Education, 41(3), 171-185.
    From the abstract: "Although numerous studies have investigated autism methodology case law, few studies have investigated case law regarding reading methodology, particularly the Orton-Gillingham approach, for students with reading disabilities. We provide the results of a systematic case analysis of all published Orton-Gillingham decisions from the original passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through 2005. Results indicate that in the past 30 years, hearing/review officers and courts reviewed 64 Orton-Gillingham cases, with 77% occurring within the last 10 years. Unlike autism methodology cases, districts have won an overwhelming majority (75%). Although inconclusive, the addition of the terms "peer-reviewed research" and "scientifically based research" in the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA may benefit parents in Orton-Gillingham methodology disputes, thus leading to increased litigation. This article concludes with recommendations for reversing the upward trend in the number of Orton-Gillingham reading methodology disputes."
  6. Stebbings, J. A., Kline, E. (2020). Academic and cognitive remediation for students with learning disabilities: A comparison between Orton Gillingham and NILD educational therapy. International Journal for Research in Learning Disabilities, 4(2), 15-34.
    From the abstract: "This study compared the effectiveness of Orton Gillingham (OG) tutoring and National Institute for Learning Development Educational Therapy (NILD). A randomized controlled trial using 27 participants determined whether academic and cognitive outcomes differed between the groups over a 9-month period. Participants had designated learning disabilities (LD) in reading (RD), written expression (WD), and/or math (MD), and received 64 hours of one-to-one remediation. Pre and post measures were conducted using WJ IV Cognitive and WJ IV Achievement assessments. Results indicated that the standard score median increased in both groups for Fluid Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Word Attack with Fluid Reasoning and Reading Comprehension increasing more dramatically for the NILD group and Word Attack increasing more dramatically for the OG group. Outcomes are congruent with the instructional focus of each approach thus supporting the efficacy of both approaches which currently lack robust empirical evidence. This preliminary research provides important contributions for researchers and practitioners considering interdisciplinary remedial options for students with LD."
  7. What Works Clearinghouse. (2010). Orton-Gillingham-based strategies (unbranded). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
    From the abstract: "'Orton-Gillingham' is a broad, multisensory approach to teaching reading and spelling that can be modified for individual or group instruction at all reading levels. Teaching sessions are action oriented with auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements reinforcing one another. The approach targets persons with the kinds of language processing problems (reading, spelling, and writing) associated with dyslexia. This report focuses on unbranded interventions that are based on general 'Orton- Gillingham' principles and interventions that combine multiple branded products based on 'Orton-Gillingham' principles. However, no studies of unbranded 'Orton- Gillingham'-based strategies that fall within the scope of the Students with Learning Disabilities review protocol meet What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards. The lack of studies meeting WWC evidence standards means that, at this time, the WWC is unable to draw any conclusions based on research about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of unbranded 'Orton-Gillingham'-based strategies for students with learning disabilities. (Contains 3 footnotes.)"


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Orton-Gillingham
  • Reading intervention, Orton-Gillingham
  • Multi-sensory instruction, Orton-Gillingham

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.