The Benefits of Multisensory Reading Instruction for Dyslexic Children: A Proven Approach

As awareness surrounding dyslexia grows, educators and parents alike have searched for effective strategies to help children face this challenge. One particularly beneficial approach is multisensory reading instruction. Through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways, multisensory learning allows students to fully engage with written language, enhancing memory and learning potential.

Children with dyslexia often struggle with traditional reading instruction methods, as these techniques may not focus on the decoding skills required for success in reading. Educators can provide students with the tools to overcome these obstacles by incorporating multisensory teaching strategies into the classroom. Simultaneously stimulating multiple senses improves recall and retention and can make learning more enjoyable and reduce stress, providing an inclusive learning environment for all.

With the proper implementation of multisensory reading instruction, students with dyslexia can thrive and reach their full potential. This powerful approach to learning can transform the educational landscape for individual children and the broader dyslexic community, ensuring a brighter future for all.

Understanding Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability affecting a person’s writing language processing ability. Individuals with dyslexia face challenges in reading, spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. They often struggle with processing and understanding written text as the brain’s neural pathways for language processing function differently for them.

Research has shown that dyslexic individuals can significantly benefit from multisensory teaching approaches. This method provides instruction using multiple sensory pathways, such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile, allowing the learner to engage their senses simultaneously. This enhances memory retention and strengthens the learning of written language.

Effective multisensory teaching for dyslexic students comprises several key components, including systematic, explicit, and diagnostic instruction. These elements help build a strong foundation in reading and language skills. By tailoring instruction to a student’s specific needs, multisensory learning can provide personalized support to help them overcome their challenges.

Various reading instruction programs are available specifically designed to help dyslexic students develop their skills through multisensory approaches. Schools can provide additional support such as extra time on tests, quiet workspaces, and alternative options for completing tasks, like listening instead of reading or typing instead of handwriting.

Defining Multisensory Reading Instruction

Multisensory reading instruction is an educational approach that engages more than one sense at a time, such as sight, hearing, movement, and touch. This method helps students, particularly those with dyslexia, connect and understand concepts more effectively. Multisensory techniques aim at providing a variety of ways for learners to access, engage, and retain knowledge.

Teachers might integrate visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile activities in a multisensory classroom to enhance learning and memory. Examples of these strategies include:

  • Using colored overlays or background colors to reduce visual stress while reading
  • Listening to audio recordings or verbal instructions to support auditory learning
  • Tracing letters in sand or on textured surfaces to engage tactile senses
  • Incorporating body movement and gestures to enhance kinesthetic learning

These techniques are especially valuable for dyslexic children, as dyslexia often affects how learners process visual and auditory information. By providing opportunities to access information through different sensory channels, multisensory instruction helps dyslexic students build stronger connections between sounds, symbols, and meanings in reading and writing

The Benefits of Multisensory Reading Instruction

Improved Reading Skills

One of the significant benefits of multisensory reading instruction for dyslexic children is the improvement in their reading skills. By involving multiple senses, like sight, hearing, touch, and movement, multisensory techniques provide a comprehensive approach to teaching reading that can be more effective than traditional methods. Dyslexic children, who often struggle with phonics and decoding words, can benefit significantly from the reinforcement provided by multisensory instruction.

Increased Engagement and Motivation

Another advantage of multisensory reading instruction is that it can help increase engagement and motivation for dyslexic children. Lessons that involve multiple senses are often more appealing and enjoyable, making it more likely that these young readers will actively participate in the learning process. This increased interest and involvement can lead to better overall reading progress and performance.

Enhanced Memory Retention

Memory retention is crucial for reading development, and multisensory instruction has been shown to enhance information retention. By engaging multiple senses simultaneously, the brain forms more robust connections and associations, allowing students to remember better and recall what they have learned. Dyslexic children, who may struggle with working memory, can significantly benefit from this enhanced retention, leading to improved reading skills.

Better Comprehension

Lastly, multisensory reading instruction can lead to better comprehension for dyslexic children. Combining sight-based activities with auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile elements helps students better grasp and understand the material. This holistic approach supports the development of crucial reading comprehension skills, leading to a more meaningful and successful reading experience for dyslexic students.

Multisensory Techniques

Multisensory reading instruction engages multiple senses simultaneously to enhance learning and memory for children with dyslexia. This section discusses four primary techniques used in multisensory reading instruction: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile.


Visual techniques involve the use of images and text to stimulate a child’s sense of sight. This can include the use of flashcards, pictures, diagrams, and colored markers or pens to highlight important information. Visual aids help children with dyslexia to process information more efficiently and support their memory retention.


Auditory techniques involve using sounds and speech to stimulate a child’s hearing. This includes listening to text recordings, repeating sounds and words out loud, and engaging in interactive discussions about the material being taught. Auditory strategies help children with dyslexia to recognize and differentiate between various sounds, improving their phonological awareness and reading skills.


Kinesthetic techniques make use of movement and physical activity to engage a child’s body during learning. This can include activities like tracing letters and words in the air or on a surface, using hand gestures to represent different sounds, or even acting out scenes from a story. Kinesthetic strategies help children with dyslexia to actively participate in their learning, improve their motor skills, and create a stronger connection between their bodies and the learning process.


Tactile techniques involve the use of touch to stimulate a child’s sensory system. This can include activities like manipulating letter tiles or blocks, writing on textured surfaces, or using sandpaper letters to trace and form words. Tactile methods help children with dyslexia to develop a better understanding of letter formation, spelling patterns, and word recognition, contributing to better reading fluency and comprehension.

Incorporating these multisensory techniques in reading instruction can make a significant difference for dyslexic children, as it allows them to connect with the material through various senses and pathways, resulting in better learning outcomes.

Implementing Multisensory Reading Instruction

When teaching dyslexic children, taking a multisensory approach can greatly improve their reading skills. This section will introduce several effective methods for implementing multisensory reading instruction: Structured Literacy, The Reading Ranch Method, Orton-Gillingham Approach, and Wilson Reading System.

Structured Literacy

Structured Literacy is an approach that focuses on systematic and explicit instruction in various language components. This approach helps dyslexic students by engaging them in activities that encompass visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile modalities. For instance, a teacher may have a student trace letter shapes while saying the corresponding sounds, helping to strengthen the connection between the visual representation and auditory cues.

The Reading Ranch Method

The Reading Ranch Method is a multisensory interactive reading program that incorporates different senses and engaging activities in a fun and comfortable environment. The method uses direct explicit systematic phonics instruction and other research-based principles.  Students with dyslexia benefit from this program by participating in activities that involve sight, sound, movement, and touch. This method is designed to increase reading fluency, decoding, comprehension, and spelling abilities, which can greatly improve the overall reading experience for dyslexic children.

Orton-Gillingham Approach

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a time-tested method for addressing the needs of dyslexic students. This instructional approach involves teaching phonics using multisensory techniques, such as tracing letters with fingers, making letter shapes with objects, or associating sounds with specific body movements. Combining these sensory forms of learning helps students build stronger connections between letters and sounds, leading to improved decoding and reading abilities.

Wilson Reading System

The Wilson Reading System is a structured literacy program designed specifically for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. By employing multisensory techniques, this system focuses on phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Lessons within the Wilson Reading System provide direct, explicit instruction through engaging, hands-on activities that cater to various learning modalities. This helps to create a more memorable and effective learning experience for dyslexic students.

Research Findings

Research has consistently shown the positive effects of multisensory instruction on the reading skills of dyslexic students. One study highlighted the impact of multisensory structured literacy instruction on promoting word recognition in elementary schools. This study demonstrated that using multisensory techniques significantly improved the reading abilities of children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

Another study focused on the value of a multisensory approach in phonics instruction. This research found that incorporating manipulatives, gestures, and auditory cues in teaching techniques helped dyslexic students better understand the sequence of letters in printed words, consequently improving their phonics skills.

Moreover, multisensory structured language (MSL) instruction has been recognized as a key factor in supporting students with dyslexia. MSL instruction involves explicit, direct, cumulative, and intensive teaching methods that focus on the structure of language, while simultaneously engaging visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways.


Incorporating multisensory learning strategies in the instruction of dyslexic children offers numerous advantages. Research has shown that this teaching approach has a positive influence on literacy development, strengthening the reading skills of students with dyslexia.

Multisensory teaching methods, such as phonological intervention and cognitive training, have been proven effective in promoting word mastery, alphabet recognition, and overall language comprehension. This approach ensures that information is presented in a manner that accommodates various learning styles and supports the diverse needs of dyslexic children.

By implementing diagnostic teaching methodologies and focusing on the structure of language, educators can provide dyslexic students with the necessary tools for academic success. As further research continues to reveal the benefits of multisensory instruction, schools and educators should embrace this method to make learning more accessible and effective for students with dyslexia.

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