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.

This video by Kelli Sandman-Hurley does a great job of explaining dyslexia.

How do people get dyslexia?

The causes for dyslexia are neurobiological and genetic. Individuals inherit the genetic links for dyslexia.  Research shows differences in how the brain of a person with dyslexia develops and processes language. Dyslexia is not caused by lack of motivation, lack of intelligence, nor parenting styles. Students with dyslexia have average to above average intelligence and we feel that the strengths of our students are as important to address as their struggles with language. Our students are bright and just need the right instruction for their learning style.

Is there a cure for dyslexia?

No, dyslexia is not a disease. There is no cure.  With proper diagnosis, appropriate multisensory structured instruction, hard work and support from family, teachers, friends, and others, individuals who are dyslexic can succeed in school and later in life.

Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images
It is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.
— Steven Spielberg, Award Winning Director

How do I know if my child has dyslexia or a learning difficulty?

In Canada, dyslexia or other learning difficulties can only be diagnosed by an educational psychologist after a series of standardized assessments have taken place. Even with years of experience, a learning disability such as dyslexia can not be determined based on observation or general classroom performance.  If you are seeking an assessment to help in understanding your child’s learning abilities, we are happy to offer some guidance in seeking a practitioner who can help you with this.

It is important to note that students can be assessed early, as young as kindergarten, for being at-risk for dyslexia. There are key academic skills of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, letter naming, sound naming and word reading that can be assessed early to determine if a child is showing a likelihood of struggling with elements commonly difficult for those with dyslexia. Early assessment and identification can result in a stronger likelihood of helping a child gain the right kind of intervention and close the gaps between they and their peers.  

Is the Orton-Gillingham approach only for students with dyslexia?

Although the approach was developed for students with dyslexia, it is highly effective for students with other language-based learning difficulties and for students who are simply struggling to read or spell.  Since our OG lessons are conducted on a one-on-one educational therapy environment, each student’s lesson has been specifically developed for him or her. The child’s specific needs with phonetic spelling and reading, sight word spelling and reading, alphabet sequencing, general sequencing, reading fluency, comprehension, and writing skills are each individually addressed in each lesson. Because our OG Practitioners carefully plan each student’s daily lessons, rather than applying a set curriculum, we can individualize each lesson for each student.

Perhaps my early problems with dyslexia made me more intuitive: when someone sends me a written proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures I find that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read.
— Richard Branson
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Can individuals who are dyslexic learn to read?

Yes, if children who are dyslexic get effective phonological training in Kindergarten and 1st grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until 3rd grade.  Research shows that 74% of the children who are poor readers in 3rd grade remain poor readers in the 9th grade. Often they continue to struggle with reading into adulthood.

It is never too late for individuals with dyslexia to learn to read, process, and express information more efficiently. Research shows that programs utilizing multisensory structured language techniques can help children and adults learn to read.

Why can't any teacher read about OG and tutor/teach my child?

The Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching and remediation of a learning disability is scientifically sound, research-based and involves intensive training and practice. It is firmly supported that prescriptive, multisensory, research-based remedial teaching can not be "picked up" by simply reading a book or two on the subject.

Our specialists have all undergone intensive training from a recognized Orton-Gillingham training academy in Canada or the USA. In addition to their other university work, our OG Practitioners are certified Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and also benefit from ongoing support from our founder, who is a respected international Orton-Gillingham expert. Our centre was the first fully accredited Orton-Gillingham centre in Canada.

Families come to REACH by referral from a psychologist or teacher, or when it is important to them to provide the most knowledgeable and experienced individuals to help with their child's learning difficulty.

Where can I learn more about dyslexia and other learning disabilities? 

The internet can be a wonderful source for information, but is also, unfortunately, an opportunity for well-marketed but poor information to be disseminated. At REACH we aim to support parents in finding resources that support scientifically sound approaches to intervention, and evidence-based information about learning difficulties. While these links are no where near exhaustive, we hope they will help provide some paths to solid information. Note: If you find information on the internet regarding "curing" or otherwise intervening with dyslexia, look for the research to support any claims, as well as the accreditations and professional affiliations of those named in providing the support.


If you are interested in becoming an OG Practitioner, click here to find out more about the Orton-Gillingham training that Reach Learning Centre offers.