Addressing Reading Issues: Multisensory Structured Language Basics

At a glance

Dyslexia can be successfully addressed using a Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) approach • There are a number of MSL programs, but all use a systematic approach that relies on all the senses to enhance learning


Student and teacher at schoolA reading disability (dyslexia) necessitates direct intervention by a trained professional in the form of a specific curriculum tailored to the child’s strengths and weaknesses. While there is no single program that meets the needs of all students, research shows that a Mulitsensory Structured Language (MSL) approach works well for many children with language-learning disabilities.

MSL programs vary according to a student’s grade level and whether the teaching will take place in an individual or small group setting. Although most programs are delivered in a resource room, some well-trained teachers incorporate MSL principles into their mainstream language arts instruction.

The time to ensure that your child receives MSL instruction is when her Individual Education Program is being developed.

Regardless of where instruction takes place, MSL programs provide the student with explicit training using a systematic and sequential approach to learning the structure of language. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are taught together, using all the senses to enhance the student’s memory and learning. More specifically these programs teach:

  • Phonemic awareness (breaking words into individual speech sounds and putting them back together)
  • The sound system of the English language (sound-symbol associations)
  • Syllable instruction (six or seven syllable ‘types’ with unique vowel patterns)
  • Meaningful word parts (root words, prefixes, suffixes)
  • Grammar and syntax
  • Word meaning
MSL Programs
  1. Orton-Gillingham (O-G): The prototype of all MSL programs, it is designed for one-on-one tutoring
  2. Alphabetic Phonics: An organized expansion of O-G
  3. Slingerland: An adaptation of O-G designed for use with whole classes of at-risk beginning readers
  4. Project Read: Designed for the classroom teacher of students grades 1 to 6; it also includes components for reading comprehension and written expression
  5. Wilson Reading System: For teens and adults with reading disabilities, it retrains students in both reading and writing
  6. Lindamood Phonemic Sequencing Program for Reading, Spelling and Speech (LiPS): Emphasizes explicit multisensory teaching of the sound system.

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