Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic and Tactile Teaching Adds Nothing to Teaching Reading


    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    The following was provided by Charles Hughes, acknowledgment below. It relates to the widespread and widely recommended multi-sensory teaching techniques. There is no evidence these methods work. Still, they are used and recommended. Curious.

The following excerpt is from the International Dyslexia Association’s current "Fact Sheet" found on their website.  The IDA used to be called the Orton Society.  In this excerpt, and at a recent annual conference, the IDA is for the first time in their history, explicitly saying there is little or no research that supports the contribution of VAKT in their reading program.  While this is somewhat disturbing after stating for decades that the multisensory component of the OG method is a major contributor to its success, I also applaud them for "fessing up."


    VAKT refers to Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic and Tactile teaching methods used simultaneously–the so called multisensory approach.

Cut and pasted from the "Fact Sheet"

Is there solid evidence that multisensory teaching is effective for students with dyslexia?

Current research, much of it supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), has demonstrated the value of explicit, structured language teaching for all students, especially those with dyslexia.

Programs that work differ in their techniques but have many principles in common. The multisensory principle that is so valued by experienced clinicians has not yet been isolated in controlled, comparison studies of reading instruction, but most programs that work do include multisensory practice for symbol learning. Instructional approaches that are effective use direct, explicit teaching of letter sound relationships, syllable patterns, and meaningful word parts, and provide a great deal of successful practice of skills that have been taught. Fluency-building exercises, vocabulary instruction, language comprehension and writing are also included in comprehensive programs of instruction and intervention. Word recognition and spelling skills are applied in meaningful reading and writing of sentences and text passages, and students receive immediate feedback if they make mistakes.

    Since there is little published evidence that the O-G programs are effective, an alternative response may be to enquire why multisensory is a  recommended component in a program for any particular child, and what  evidence the clinician has for increased effectiveness when multisensory elements are added to a systematic explicit phonics program such as Reading Mastery.

    Is it important that instruction is multisensory? The question has not been answered by research as yet, and for evidence-based practitioners this  constitutes a red flag until the answer arrives.

    Apart from multisensory making sense intuitively, and often being attached to the term systematic, synthetic phonics, there is a lack of studies that confirm any value in adding kinaesthetic or tactile cues to the obviously necessary auditory and visual components of VAKT (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, tactile).

    Multisensory methods are most associated with the original Orton-Gillingham   method, though they go back further to Fernald and Keller who wrote in 1921  " … lip and hand kinaesthetic elements seem to be the essential link  between the visual cue and the various associations which give it word   meaning. … Even the associations between the spoken and printed word seem not to be fixed without the kinaesthetic links" (p.376). There have been  many variations on the approach developed by Orton-Gillingham. Some of the   modified Orton-Gillingham multisensory methods written by former Orton     students are The Slingerland Method, The Spalding Method, Project Read, Alphabetic Phonics, The Herman Method, and The Wilson Method.

    Advocates for multisensory teaching believe that sending a message via several modalities increases learning more than is achieved by engaging  fewer modalities. For example, a student finger taps the sounds while  saying the sounds, and then spells them. Also air-writing is used to teach  non-phonetic words. The student air writes and while saying the letter  names. Then, the student writes and says letter names while writing. If a  student is learning blending, the student touches blocks inscribed with  each relevant letter, says the sounds, and then blends them.  Birsch  (2005)  notes the absence of research studies of the efficacy of multisensory  teaching. Her view is that there are sufficient practitioners endorsing the value of the multisensory component for it to be retained at present. Others may be more firmly wedded to evidence-based practice, and elect for     scepticism until sufficient supportive evidence is available.

    Birsh, J. R. (Ed.). 2005. Multisensory teaching of basic language skills (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Charles Hughes
Professor of Special Education
Penn State University


    No evidence for it, but widely used. That’s education in a nutshell.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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