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Orthographic Instruction: Improve Speech Intelligibility and Establish Literacy Skill - January 2009

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Orthographic Instruction: Improve Speech Intelligibility and Establish Literacy Skills Simultaneously

- by Kelly Richmond, MS, CCC-SLP, reprinted with permission from Northern Speech Services

With the implementation of mandated programs such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Response to Intervention", our time as clinicians and educators is more precious than ever. Speech-language pathologists and educators need efficient, quality techniquesthat not only address speech-language goals, but support academic success and enhance literacy skills.

Orthographic Instruction is an effective and functional technique that incorporates printed cues into therapy and classroom activities. Printed cues stimulate the Orthographic processor. The Orthographic processor is the only processor within the brain that activates the reading system. Orthographic Instruction improves articulation and motor-planning skillsand establishes a strong literacy foundation!

If the Orthographic processor has not been activated, the effectiveness of the reading and writing system (Orthographic processor, Phonological processor, Meaning processor and Context processor) is compromised.Activation of the Orthographic processor is overlooked with traditional techniques. The Orthographic processor works closely with the Phonological processor. The Orthographic processor recognizes and processes print. Then, the Orthographic processor and the Phonological processor work together to effectively decode printed words (Adams, 1990). Introducing children to sound-letter correlations early in therapy/educational experiences establishes and strengthens the link between the Orthographic processor and the Phonological processor. Children are better prepared for later reading/writing tasks when the link between the Orthographic processor and the Phonological processor is functioning.

A well-formed early knowledge of letters and sound correlations has been found to be a strong predictor of later reading success. In fact, sound-letter knowledge has been found to be a better predictor of reading success than IQ scores (Stanovich, Cunningham, and Feeman, 1984).

Gillon (2000) explains:

Explicit phoneme awareness and knowledge of grapheme-phoneme relationships may assist children in establishing accurate phonological representations. For example, becoming consciously aware of the number and order of phonemes in a word, and having access to the orthographic cues from the word, may help children realize the breakdown in their communication attempt and provide cues to repair their attempt. (p.138)

Orthographic Instruction utilizes a natural progression of learning steps:
  1. Recognition of alphabetic letter
  2. Correlation of alphabetic letter to target sound
  3. Incorporation of target sound into segmented and blended word(s)
  4. Combination of target words and sight words to create phrases
  5. Combination of target words and sight words to create sentences
  6. Incorporation of target words and sight words into books

Orthographic Instruction applications are versatile. The techniques are effective in therapy sessions, classrooms and natural environments. Preschool through early elementary school children, children with special needs, children with communication disorders, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students benefit from the applications. Orthographic Instruction applications encompass "single" letter-to-sound correlations, digraphs (letter pairs representing single sounds) and vowels.

Orthographic Instruction enhances the following literacy skills:

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Print Awareness
  • Phoneme Isolation
  • Phoneme Identity
  • Phoneme Categorization
  • Phoneme Segmentation
  • Phoneme Blending
  • Decoding
  • Encoding
  • Sight Words
  • Silent Letters

Initiating early intervention with Orthographic Instruction is essential. Research has found that early literacy development programs are more beneficial and supportive of long-term academic skills than remediation programs (Carter, 1984; Juel, 1988; Commission on Reading, National Academy of Education, 1985). Reading remediation programs are costly and time consuming. If children do not receive early intervention, they are likely to be unsuccessful throughout their academic experience. Orthographic Instruction prepares children for academic success versus "closing the gap" with remediation programs.

With early intervention and implementation of Orthographic Instruction, children's speech and literacy skills advance quickly; and, workloads of therapists and educators are lightened!

Orthographic Instructionis a functional technique that may be utilized by both speech-language pathologists and educators to improve speech intelligibility while developing fundamental literacy skills.

Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Carter, L. F. (1984). The sustaining effects study of compensatory and elementary education. Educational Researcher, 4-13.

Commission on Reading, National Academy of Education. (1985). Becoming a nation of readers. Washington, DC: National Institute of Education.

Gillon, G.T. (2000). The efficacy of phonological awareness intervention for children with spoken language impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 126-141.

Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of fifty-four children from first through fourth grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 437-447.

Stanovich, K. E., Cunningham, A. E., & Freeman, D. J. (1984). Intelligence, cognitive skills, and early reading progress. Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 278-303.

This Month's Featured Organization, Northern Speech Services and Literacy Speaks!

Special Thanks to Keli Richmond and Northern Speech Services for allowing us to
republish this month's article.

Keli Richmond, MS, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist specializing in early literacy development. Keli is the author of Literacy Speaks!, a comprehensive orthographic instruction program. The program utilizes a sound-targeted approach
beginning with letter-to-sound correlations and progresses through natural learning steps by incorporating words, sight words, and sentences into books. Keli provides continuing education seminars through Northern Speech Services and works in the school systems providing therapy and promoting literacy skills for preschool through middle school students. Keli is the recipient of the 2008 Indiana Speech-Language-Hearing Association Professional Achievement Award.

Northern Speech services (NSS-NRS) has provided affordable, quality continuing education for SLPs, PTs and OTs for over 25 years. They offer e-courses and seminars as well as offer products and manuals that are functional and easy to use.

Please visit their fine websites: and to learn more about these two fine organizations.

Tags: January 2009 Newsletter SLP Literacy Article