The multiple-linguistic factors approach to language-literacy therapy

The multiple-linguistic factors approach

.....aka Orton-Gillingham..... aka Structured Literacy.....aka Connectivist Model

Research supports a simultaneous, multiple-linguistic factors (or multiple-component) approach to treatment of dyslexia and other language-literacy impairments.  In this approach, the language elements or  structures in multiple domains of language are explicitly identified and connected to one another.  Hence, this approach is known as a connectivist approach. The International Dyslexia Association has recently advocated for the term structured literacy to refer to this approach.

The Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach was first outlined in the first half of the 20th Century. Over the subsequent decades, research has confirmed that the most effective versions of O-G address multiple aspects of language structure, not just a phonics component (i.e., multiple-linguistic / multiple-component).  Read this article for a description of how the O-G approach conforms to a multiple-linguistic approach.

More recently, brain imaging research has revealed that learning to read and write requires the interconnection (sometimes referred to as "functional connection") of the brain centers responsible for processing these components:  speech sounds, letter symbols, word meanings. These centers are connected through focused practice with these components. People with dyslexia need more explicit,  more structured and more expertly designed practice than do people without dyslexia. Richards & Berninger, 2013; Paul, 2014).

This therapy requires a practitioner with a thorough knowledge of how language is structured across all the domains of language, as well as an understanding of how to teach it.


  1. sounds and letters (phonemic awareness)
  2. word reading & spelling (orthographic awareness)
  3. word parts (morphological awareness)
  4. vocabulary (semantic awareness)
  5. sentences (syntactic awareness)
  6. listening & reading (comprehension)
  7. speaking & writing (expression)



In normal literacy acquisition, also, there is growing evidence of the independent contributions of phonological awareness, orthographic processing and morphological awareness on early word reading. For example, see Berninger, et al. (2010), Deacon (2012) and Kim, et al. (2013).

Further, Berninger & Abbott (2010) described both the inter-relatedness and the unique nature of four language systems:

  1.   listening comprehension
  2.   oral expression
  3.   reading comprehension
  4.   written expression 

Their research also reveals that 25% to 30% of individuals have significant strengths or weaknesses (±1 SD) across these four systems.

Current science supports a multi-linguistic factors approach to intervention for children with language processing disorders and learning disabilities.


If you are a professional and want to learn how to use a multi-linguistic, structured literacy approach to service delivery (also sometimes referred to as the Orton-Gillingham)  Lexercise offers online professional education courses



  1. Berninger, V.W. and Abbott, R. D. (2010). Listening comprehension, oral expression, reading comprehension, and written expression: Related yet unique language systems in grades 1, 3, 5, and 7. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 102(3), 635-651.
  2. Berninger, V.W., Abbott, R. D., Nagy, W. and Carlisle, J. (2010). Growth in phonological, orthographic, and morphological awareness in grades 1 to 6. J Psycholinguist Res. Vol. 39(2), 141-63.
  3. Birsh, J. R. (2011). Multisensory teaching of basic language skills (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

  4. Deacon, S. H. (2012).  Sounds, letters and meanings: the independent influences of phonological, morphological and orthographic skills on early word reading accuracy. Journal of Research in Reading, Vol 35 (4).
  5. International Dyslexia Association. (2010). Knowledge and practice standards for teachers of reading. Baltimore, MD.
  6. Kim, Y., Apel, K. and Al Otaiba, S. (2013). The relation of linguistic awareness and vocabulary to word reading and spelling for first-grade students participating in response to intervention. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. Vol. 44 (4), 337-47.
  7. Moats, L.C. , Dakin, K.E. and Joshi, R. M. (2012). Expert Perspectives on Intervention for Reading: A Collection of Best-Practice Articles from the International Dyslexia Association.  Baltimore: The International Dyslexia Association.
  8. Paul, Annie Murphy (May 15, 2014). Brilliant Blog: Reading Experience May Change the Brains of Dyslexic Students. The New York Times.
  9. Richards, T.L. and Berninger, V.W. (2013). Chapter 5. Functional Brain Mapping and the Endeavor to Understand the Working Brain, book edited by Signorelli F.  and Chirchiglia, D. Retrieved from InTech-Open Science Open Minds.


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