Multisensory Approaches to Intervention

Learning challenged students need a different approach to learning from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language, the sounds and the letters which represent them and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for the conscious organization and retention of their learning.

As has been shown by research on the etiology of learning disabilities, children with learning disabilities require multisensory learning. This is vital because it stimulates the learning disabled children’s learning processes through all the senses. Since all the pathways to the brain are involved, the stronger areas of the brain are used while the weaker areas are exercised. By using the visual, auditory, oral and kinesthetic pathways simultaneously, memory can be strengthened.
In multisensory approaches it is not primarily a matter of developing the senses further but of using all the senses to support the visual and auditory modalities. In better-known multisensory approaches, the assumption is that they are used along with the auditory to support or strengthen the visual channel such as, feeling the shape of the letters. It is important to understand the principle of utilising sensory modalities to assist in the development of normal perception of other modalities.

There is a growing body of evidence supporting multisensory teaching. Young children in structured, sequential, multisensory intervention programs, who were also trained in phonemic awareness, make significant gains in decoding skills. These multisensory approaches used direct, explicit teaching of letter-sound relationships, syllable patterns, and meaning of word parts. Studies in clinical settings show similar results for a wide range of ages and abilities.

Augur (1985), defined multisensory learning as “learning by the simultaneous use of the eyes, ears, speech organs, fingers and muscles.” According to Hickey (1977), multisensory learning enables the individuals to use their own approach to the tasks through utilizing their strong areas and at the same time exercising their faulty ones. They use their visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic and oral-kinesthetic perceptual systems to make learning secure.