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orton gillingham earobics and fast forword

Earobics, Orton-Gillingham & Gemm

Which one is right for your child?

While Orton-Gillingham (O-G) and Earobics are two very different options, they remain the two most common alternatives to Fast ForWord for reading difficulties, including dyslexia. Gemm Learning provides the Fast ForWord program.
Here is a brief summary of each program:

  • Orton-Gillingham. O-G is a one on one therapy that uses a multi-sensory approach to build phonemic awareness and reading skills, sometimes described as intensive phonics. Students typically require 2-3 sessions a week for an hour, over 12-24 months.
  • Earobics. This one size fits all software CD helps younger children practice phonological awareness, using a levels-based approach. Step 1, their more well known program, is for ages 4-7, while Step 2 is for ages 7-11. Children work at home unassisted.
  • Gemm Learning. Fast ForWord is series of 50+ powerful, adaptive exercises that build processing, memory, language and reading skills in sequence over a period of 3-6 months, 30 minutes day. The research-based software is supported by certified educators who coach, mentor and manage individualized protocols for students at home.

Our Bottom Line
All three programs have their place:

Earobics competes directly with Fast ForWord. Being a single CD that is used without assessment or protocol customization, and being levels based, it lacks the intensity needed to change learning. It is however helpful for young learners, 3 and 4 year olds, to introduce phonological awareness exercise, and as an on-ramp for moving to Fast ForWord, which is suitable for 5 years and older.

Orton-Gillingham is a complimentary program that picks up where the cognitive programs end. While many of our students move to our reading series — which covers much of the same material as O-G — students with more severe reading disabilities, and the time and money, may want to seek out an Orton-Gillingham instructor to complete the reading intervention.

What Is Orton-Gillingham?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on a technique of studying and teaching language, understanding the nature of human language, the mechanisms involved in learning, and the language-learning processes in individuals.

Orton-Gillingham teaching sessions are action-oriented and involve constant interaction between the teacher and the student. Using auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements, all language skills taught are reinforced by having the student listen, speak, read and write. For example, a dyslexic learner is taught to see the letter A, say its name and sound and write it in the air – all at the same time. The approach requires intense instruction with ample practice. The use of multiple input channels is thought to enhance memory storage and retrieval by providing multiple “triggers” for memory.

The Orton-Gillingham teacher introduces the elements of the language systematically. Sound-symbol associations along with linguistic rules and generalizations are introduced in a linguistically logical, understandable order, starting with reading and writing sounds in isolation moving through to advanced structural elements such as syllable types, roots, and affixes. The teacher addresses vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative manner.

The Research

While Orton-Gillingham has been around since the 1930’s and a number of reading systems and special education schools have incorporated Orton-Gillingham into their school curriculum, there really is not a lot of research to support its efficacy. Part of this issue is likely related to the length of the full protocol, 24 months, over which time it there are so many other influences and development changes that it is difficult to attribute gains.

When Is Orton-Gillingham Recommended?

This is a heavy-duty, phonics-based intervention. It is expensive — one-on-one sessions with a trained instructor — and a grind for students as the material is not in the slightest entertaining. However, it remains the gold standard in reading interventions for children with severe, language based reading disabilities. We sometimes recommend Orton-Gillingham after our program, as our cognitive software opens up new neural pathways, making the student much more receptive to this intense phonics training, often resulting in a much shorter treatment period and accelerated results.

More on how Orton-Gillingham fits with Gemm Learning here

What Is Earobics?

Earobics for families at home is a software program that focuses on phonological awareness and auditory processing skills. It uses six interactive games with escalating levels of difficulty. Step 1 is recommended for ages 4-7.

Building on the foundation of phonological awareness delivered by Earobics Step 1, Earobics Step 2 also teaches language comprehension skills that are critical for extracting meaning from spoken language and written text. Earobics Step 2 features five interactive games with 593 levels that teach the essential skills required for learning how to read and spell. Recommended for ages 7-11.

The Research

While there has been some research on Earobics, it has occurred in a school setting, where the supplemental materials — music, audio cassettes, picture/word cards, letter-sound decks, and leveled reader books for reading independently or in groups — are used by trained teachers in conjunction with the software CD. This is a very different learning experience to what is available to families at home.

While there are a couple of approved studies that show positive outcomes, this was not the case in the most recent two year Nevada Department of Education study that researched 24 reading programs. In this study, where Fast ForWord was ranked the most effective program, Earobics was one of five programs that showed “no gain.”

When Is Earobics Recommended?

Earobics uses auditory processing drills that are neither adaptive nor slowed, limiting it’s potential to interact with each student at their point of need. It can be helpful for younger children, 3 and 4 year olds, but does not provide the intensity to promote real change in learning for older children. As an at-home software without supervision, it is also suffers from all the compliance and user-error issues common in unsupervised, home-based programs.

Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord software at home to build essential language processing and pre-reading skills, and then reading comprehension.