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Dyslexia Services: Getting the Biggest Bang for your Buck

By: Rachael Crawford M.Ed, CALT-T


It can be very overwhelming to find out that your child has dyslexia and figuring out the next steps you should take. A lot of people will suggest using an Orton Gillingham (OG) program to help, but what is OG? If you follow any OG Facebook groups, you will see there are many OG programs and personnel offering services for students with dyslexia, many with a pretty price tag attached. Before you go spending your money on the first thing that sounds helpful, it is crucial that you are educated on what your money is going towards.

What is OG?

First of all, OG is not a program, but a methodology that incorporates multi-sensory learning in an explicit and structured approach. It has been found to be very beneficial for aiding in reading, writing, spelling, and grammar for students with dyslexia. According to the National Reading Panel of 2000 (NPR Report) and the research following it, evidence points to teaching that uses explicit, systematic, cumulative, and diagnostic instruction. This method of teaching follows the Orton Gillingham approach, otherwise known as OG. Many programs will certify teachers in OG methodologies, but only at the tutor (or teacher) level. Other programs such as Alphabetic Phonics, Take Flight, MTA, and Basic Language Skills who are accredited through IMSLEC (The International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council), utilize an OG approach and require extensive training at a CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist) or CALP (Certified Academic Language Practitioner) level.

Tutors VS CALTs

When exploring your options for OG interventions, it is possible that you may run across people advertising themselves as a CALT (therapist level) or as a tutor, and yes, there is a big difference between the two.


Tutors are generally classroom certified teachers, special education teachers, or individuals who have very little teaching experience or training. They cannot run a private dyslexia therapy practice at the therapeutic level and generally receive only minimal basic training in structured language (40hrs or less). They often follow programs that may not even be accredited through IDA (The International Dyslexia Association) or IMSLEC, or have not trained to a level high enough with the necessary supervised practicum to reach the same certification level as a therapist. While tutoring can be a helpful intervention for students with dyslexia, it lacks the intensity and fidelity of a therapy session. Many times, tutoring sessions aim at improving an academic need rather than building a comprehensive foundation that a student with dyslexia needs to be successful lifelong.


A CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist) is a highly qualified individual who has the minimum of a 4-year Bachelor's degree, an additional 2-year Master's degree, plus a 2-year Master's level Therapy training course with over 700 hours of supervised practicum experience. Once certified, a CALT can become licensed and own a private dyslexia therapy practice. CALTs follow programs that are accredited and researched and have the knowledge and experience to modify those programs to best fit the need of every student they work with, making them diagnostic and therapeutic. Therapy sessions are explicit, structured, diagnostic, prescriptive and work on creating a strong foundation that students can build upon. A primary goal is for students to work towards a high degree of mastery and independence.

What Goes Into Private Therapy?

Private therapy can only be correctly implemented by a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT), therefore the degree of training is at the highest level. It includes four major components: planning, teaching, family engagement and assessing.


  • Curriculum - designing a curriculum plan that covers all aspects of Multisensory Structured Learning Education adhering with fidelity to the Orton-Gillingham Approach

  • Scheduling - maintain a schedule that accommodates students from various locations and school settings

  • Student files - prepare student files for record keeping purposes

  • Lesson plans - prepare daily, weekly, monthly plans for every individual student using defined protocols to strengthen reading and spelling skills

  • Prescriptive and diagnostic- constantly evaluate student abilities and modify plans and provide accommodations for each student that targets individual needs

  • Creative activities - designing many activities that will keep the student engaged beyond the daily lesson plan to include comprehension, grammar, and social communication


  • Learning environment - setting up a productive learning environment for each student that is free from distraction and is comfortable to learn in.

  • Relationships - establishing a trusting relationship between student and teacher

  • Explicit - students are taught exactly what they need to know through modeling of skills and guidance through independent practice.

  • Modifications - Lessons are modified on the spot based on the needs students are displaying.

  • Pacing - go as fast as one can, but as slow as one must through the program. Emphasis is put on mastery of skills, rather than the time it takes to complete a program.

Family Engagement

  • Consultations - preliminary conference to discuss needs of student, as well as structure of program

  • Conferences - discuss the progress of a student and next steps.

  • Goal setting - students create goals to reach.

  • Celebrations - celebration of all the feats, whether small or large, to help build confidence in every student.

  • Constant communication - therapists are always readily available by phone or email

  • Parent involvement - not only is the goal to teach the child, but also the parent so that they may be able to assist outside of therapy sessions.


  • Baseline assessment - material gathering, printing, giving the baseline assessment(s), recording results, conferencing with parents and planning

  • Progress monitoring - material gathering, printing, giving the baseline assessment(s), recording results, conferencing with parents and planning

  • Anecdotes- weekly notes of students’ effort during sessions.

  • Reports - providing reports for schools as needed

While receiving some form of OG intervention for students is helpful, it is important to know your options, as well as the qualifications of the person working with your child. You might just find that you can have a more qualified person at an equal or better price.

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