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A Speech-to-Print, Linguistic Phonics Approach: What Is It and How Does It Compare to Orton-Gillingham?

Miriam Fein, MS, CCC-SLP

A speech-to-print approach to the remediation of reading and spelling difficulties shares many features with the Orton-Gillingham approach but also differs in significant ways. Highlighting the speech-to-print approach that is also known as linguistic phonics or structured linguistic literacy, this article provides an introduction to the concepts, skills, and knowledge taught, as well as to the organizational principle and methodology of instruction as compared to Orton-Gillingham. The speech-to-print approach roots instruction in the individual sounds of words with a focus on streamlined, integrated teaching, and an emphasis on scaffolded practice with immediate feedback. Constructs and models from the scientific literature, such as set for variability, statistical learning, self-teaching, spaced repetition, and cognitive load theory, are discussed in relation to the features of the approach. Although practitioners cannot yet rely on definitive evidence about the efficacy of specific approaches and programs as compared to others, a speech-to-print approach aligns with several key evidence-based principles and has been shown to have positive outcomes.

Dr. Samuel Orton’s trailblazing work in the 1920s and 1930s shed light on the word reading difficulties that became known as dyslexia. Anna Gillingham built on his findings and methods to train teachers in an instructional approach, Orton-Gillingham (O-G), that has influenced the development of many programs and resources, not only for those identified as dyslexic but also for classroom instruction aimed at all beginning readers. Orton’s theories and the instructional methods that grew out of them continue to influence the field of reading instruction and intervention.

Since Orton’s initial observations, the scientific study of reading development, now referred to as the science of reading, has expanded our understanding and elucidated the significance of phonemic awareness (McGuinness, 2006), orthographic mapping (Ehri, 2014), individual differences (Stanovich, 1980), processing models of word reading development (Seidenberg & McClelland, 1989), self-teaching mechanisms (Share, 1995), statistical learning (Arciuli, 2018), and set for variability (Steacy et al., 2019), as well as the overlap of dyslexia with language disorders (Adolph & Hogan, 2018). Additionally, we now have findings from both cognitive science (Sweller, 1994) and educational research (National Reading Panel, 2000) that can inform the teaching of reading.


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