Literacy Series Post #5: Multi Sensory Language Education (MSLE), Reading Instruction, and the Orton-Gillingham Method

Studies show that children with dyslexia or related speech sound disorders need a multi-sensory approach to reading. Multi-sensory education incorporates three learning pathways, which are: auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (touching or moving), and visual (seeing). This approach is beneficial not only for students with dyslexia, but for all learners. It can be implemented in a large group setting as well as with individuals, small groups and at-risk populations.

Multi-Sensory Language Education

The content of Multi-Sensory Language Education (MSLE) includes phonology and phonological awareness; sound-symbol association; syllable instruction; morphology; syntax; and semantics.  The method of instruction includes techniques that are simultaneous and multisensory; systematic and cumulative; directly taught; diagnostically taught; synthetic and analytic in principle.


  1. Phonology and Phonological Awareness: this means the study of sounds.  A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language; to understand the internal linguistic structure of words one has to be able to distinguish these discrete pieces.
  2. Sound-Symbol Association: this is the understanding that arbitrary marks on a page stand for particular sounds in a language.
  3. Syllable Instruction: a syllable is a single burst of phonemes which must include one – but only one – vowel sound and a single consonant or consonant cluster, e.g., /sp/.
  4. Morphology: a morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a language.  Any suffix or prefix is a morpheme, carrying its own meaning, as is the base word or root word.  Thus, “run” is one morpheme; “running” has two morphemes.
  5. Syntax: this is the set of principles that dictate the sequence of words in a sentence a well as their function.  Grammar, sentence variation and the mechanics of language are syntactical elements.
  6. Semantics: the aspect of language that concerns itself with meaning.  Since comprehension is the goal of literacy, semantic information is included at every level of a lesson from the very beginning.


  1. Simultaneous, Multisensory:  this teaching uses all available sensory pathways – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile; all are employed together to enhance memory and learning.
  2. Systematic and Cumulative:  teaching material must be organized to follow the natural order of language, beginning with the easiest and progressing methodically to subsequent elements.  Learning builds from simple to complex, never skipping steps.
  3. Direct Instruction:  instructors never assume something will be inferred.  Every element is presented directly, and involves continuous student-teacher interaction.
  4. Diagnostic teaching:  every instructional session is in a sense an assessment, and based on the daily assessment of a student’s needs, the teacher knows what to prescribe for the following lesson.
  5. Synthetic and Analytic Instruction:  teachers show how to bring the elements of language together to form a meaningful whole (synthetic – bringing together) as well as separately presenting the whole and showing how to break it into its parts (analytic – taking apart).  This is “critical thinking”.

Using the Orton-Gillingham approach, a multi-sensory reading method, our reading teacher systematically builds your child’s reading skills through tactile, kinesthetic, oral, visual, and auditory modalities. The Orton-Gillingham approach incorporates the five components essential to effective reading intervention: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension strategies. These are essential skills to prepare for school and life-long learning. Your child will learn:

Left-right orientation

Spelling patterns

Word order

Encoding (writing)

Letter and sound association

Sight words

Word parts

Fine motor skills*


Sound and word patterns


Letter formation

*CSLOT occupational therapists are available to provide support/consultation in these areas.

If you think your child needs Multi-Sensory Language Education, visit our appointment page to book a literacy evaluation.


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