What is multisensory learning

Multisensory learning, and particularly the Orton Gillingham multisensory approach is increasingly used in the treatment of learning disorders and difficulties, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders as well as helping those with generalised learning disorders.
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The Orton Gillingham multisensory approach finds it roots in the 1920s and the extraordinary work of Dr Samuel T Orton a neuropsychiatrist practising in the United States and his colleague, educationalist and psychologist Anna Gillingham.

In the 1920s Orton researched the reasons behind reading failure and language processing difficulties identified dyslexia as an educational problem.

Anna Gillingham encouraged by Orton transformed his research work into a coherent and systematic sequence of instructional concepts (usually described as phonics, syllabication, morphemes and spelling). Gillingham later published a manual that forms the basis of what we know as the Orton Gillingham multisensory approach.

 The Orton Gillingham approach has been used in many countries since the 1930s in public schools, private schools and for-profit and not for profit educational centres to help dyslexic, and non-dyslexic students both adult & child learn to read, write and spell with confidence.

Orton Gillingham multisensory approach practitioners now use the multisensory approach in the general classroom to teach maths and English as a second language (ESL). The approach is equally used to assist those with dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and other neurological deficits.

Support for the Orton Gillingham multisensory approach is based on a body of knowledge collected since the 1920s and from contemporary scientific research into how learning takes place. With the advances in technology and the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers are gaining a better understanding of how the multiple neurological pathways that influence learning relate to each other and how they can be harnessed by the use of multisensory learning.

Multisensory learning and brain plasticity

Not long ago the brain was thought to be rigid and incapable of change. Once matured at an early age the brain lost its ‘plasticity’ and became ‘concrete’ meaning that any damage caused by a stroke for example, or a neural deficit such as dyslexia was considered permanent with the patient/student having to live with the consequences.

Today neurologists, psychiatrists and other researchers are confident the brain maintains its neuroplasticity through adulthood meaning there is hope for those suffering brain damage as a result of a stroke or those children and adults with learning disorders.

Our work at Neurosensory with children and adults with learning disorders including dyslexia confirms the multisensory approach, using the visual, the auditory and the kinaesthetic (touch and movement), overcomes neurological deficits by harnessing the power of the brain to heal itself and to at least in part overcome their learning disorders.

About the author
Antonia Canaris

Antonia Canaris

Founder of Neurosensory, Antonia Canaris is an experienced educator and a leading expert in multisensory learning.

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