The approach is named after two seminal names in the field of dyslexia. Dr. Samuel T. Orton was a neuropsychologist and pathologist who bridged scientific findings with forms of remediation. He was one of the first to acknowledge that dyslexia, or as he called it, stephosymbolia, was an educational issue. Anna Gillingham was an educator and psychologist who, along with Bessie Stillman, wrote an instructional manual to guide the training and instruction of teachers. The knowledge and expertise of the two has proven to be a successful combination in helping dyslexics overcome their literacy struggles.
The Orton-Gillingham Approach is always geared towards the student as an individual. To that end, a student must be instructed on the basic principles of the English language that come naturally to some and remain a puzzle to others. The approach is characterized by personalized, multisensory, structured, and systematic teaching that is based in language and direct instruction. Tutors and teachers that receive Orton-Gillingham training use diagnostic and prescriptive tools to sequentially teach phonics. In doing so, the student learns cognitively and becomes more confident in his or her linguistic skills.
In 1995, The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practioners and Educators was established to maintain the standards and ethics of the approach, as well as, certify and accredit individuals and programs that meet those standards.