If you’ve spent any time reading up on interventions for learning differences then you have probably come across the term multi-sensory learning. The phrase pops up fairly often in descriptions of dyslexia therapies, for example. But what exactly is multi-sensory learning, other than a buzzword? Read on to find out.

We absorb information in many different ways. Sometimes we learn by seeing, such as when we read a text. Or we may learn by hearing, as when a teacher explains a lesson to us.

For some children learning by one particular sense may pose a challenge. Dyslexics have difficulty matching what they hear (spoken language) with what they see (written language).

Multi-sensory learning presents information using more than one sense and so opens up new channels for the brain to learn.

Multi-sensory learning presents information using more than one sense and so opens up new channels for the brain to learn. This makes it easier for children to learn in ways that come naturally to them and helps them develop new skills and better retain information.

Let’s take dyslexia as an example again. As we said before, associating letters with just a visual depiction and spoken sound is very difficult for someone with dyslexia. So many intervention programs use multi-sensory learning to associate letters with colours, movement, shapes, touch, and music.

Some well-known teaching methods that use multi-sensory learning to teach reading and writing include the Orton-Gillingham Approach, the Barton Reading System, and the Lexia-Hermann Method. Teachers use movement, colours, and other associations to teach the basics of reading and writing in a one-on-one or classroom setting.

Dybuster Orthograph associates letters with colour, shape, and sound.

Other methods use technology to give students access to multi-sensory learning. Dybuster software for dyslexia and dyscalculia uses learning games that associate letters and numbers with shapes, colours, and musical tones to allow students to improve reading and spelling skills.

For further reading on multi-sensory learning have a look at these articles:

Multisensory Instruction: What You Need to KnowUnderstood.org

What is Multisensory Teaching Techniques? Lexicon Reading Center

Reading and spelling programs (the list includes some multi-sensory instruction) – Dyslexia Help, University of Michigan