Is Multi Sensory Language and Orton Gillingham real or snake oil?
December 11, 2017 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Two lovely families with kids with learning challenges (ASD and dyslexia) are at a natural crossroads with their kids treatments. Both families have been saying to me just a friend that loves them) that their kids have much more profound disabilities than they had thought because this treatment is not working as quickly as they hoped. I wonder if the treatment is right for these kids.

I don't know much about the most recent pedagogy with reading and learning but I saw an alarming sentence reading about it along the lines of "This is the stuff they won't tell you at university". From my quick phone google I couldn't find much credible evidence but that means nothing.

As they are both now looking to move interstate / overseas it is a good time for them to consider a different kind of therapy without hurting anyone's feelings. I had suggested the current therapy isn't delivering what it promised, but didn't say much more.

Do you have any links or papers or experience with this that might inform if in their new cities they should look for tutors from different areas or pursue the same type of treatment. I'm not gonna lie, it looks really dodgey to me, similar in hype as some kind of MLM/homeopathy kind of stuff. But maybe it's just they're so excited everyone is sounding like a cult member.

I'm someone people often ask for recommendations and advice. I try to stick to my area or qualify with "I have no idea what I'm talking about but X person knows, I'll link you up". I'd like to be able to either satisfy myself these kids are getting the best known therapy or give their parents some ideas on other things to look at next year.

Tell me everything about Orton Gillingham and Multi Sensory Language, these kids are rockstars and their highly motivated lovely parents are really, really worried and sad.
posted by taff to Education (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I ran your question by my friend who is a licensed therapist who counsels mostly children with ASD and other related issues. She directed me to this article from the International Dyslexia Association. TL;DR to the question of does it work? As pretty much everything with therapies: it depends. It works for some, it doesn't work for others. There are other modalities the families can investigate.

The bottom line is, nothing is 100% guaranteed and if they're being sold that this method IS a guarantee, that should be a clue that they should look elsewhere. No therapist worth his or her salt will guarantee a result. Now, if the parents are the ones who think there should be a result after X amount of time, no matter what, that's a problem, too. Sometimes it takes WAY more time than parents like for a treatment to really be effective. Are they being too impatient? Are they expecting miracles even if they weren't promised them? These are questions for the families and their therapists.
posted by cooker girl at 6:35 AM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Orton Gillingham has a very good track record and is one of the most efficacious interventions for dyslexia. I am less familiar with Multi Sensory Language as an approach, but a cursory look suggests it folds in many of the same kinds of techniques. The idea is that dyslexic brains are less efficient at phonological processing, breaking language into the individual language sounds that make words, and are less efficient at making rapid connections between these language units and the symbols that are associated with them. This is all well researched and well understood. Using multi-sensory approaches to learning how to pair these up is effective in improving the ability to decode words. Fluency often remains a challenge for people with dyslexia, but many learn compensatory strategies to address this. Here is a decent overview of interventions.

That being said, it works in kids with dyslexia, and is not as well understood in kids with more complex needs. It also works on remediating the dyslexia portion of things, but is less effective at addressing other things that might be contributing to difficulties with reading, like subtler language concerns that interfere with comprehension, or difficulties with attention regulation that can interfere with comprehension. It is also not in any way designed or believed to address things that are more related to autism.

So, is it effective at addressing dyslexia? Yes. Is it the right intervention for these specific children? Difficult to say. Have they had a comprehensive evaluation? Like by a neuropsychologist or autism specialist? That would give a more comprehensive picture of each child's strengths and needs and help target therapies to address those needs.
posted by goggie at 7:00 AM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Orton Gillingham method works for some kids and not for others, depending on their needs. It's definitely not a cult or in any way equivalent to homeopathy or MLM; here's a sample lesson you can watch to verify that for yourself. As a layperson, I find it to be not that different from other kinds of phonics programs, though it incorporates multi-sensory methods and a specific learning order. If someone is selling it as a miracle cure, that might indicate an issue with that person rather than anything about the method itself.

One other word of caution: if you or your friends are expecting quick results, you might consider whether those expectations are realistic. It can commonly take multiple years for dyslexic students to catch up to grade level, depending on their specific needs and how early and often they're getting help. If they started older, it will likely take longer, and even after they've caught up, they may still require support. Sometimes it takes time for families to reconcile themselves with this reality.
posted by ourobouros at 2:32 PM on December 11, 2017

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