Vertical Skills Academy was founded in response to a growing need for intensified intervention for students with dyslexia. Our two co-founders, Kara Osberg and Audra Chapleski, were members of the Evergreen, CO community who identified this need and wanted to find a way to meet it. Kara was a parent of two dyslexic children. She watched as her children struggled through school with little to no tools or support for their disability and became certified as an Orton-Gillingham tutor so that she could help her children succeed. Audra was a teacher in the community who also noticed many struggling readers going through the school system unnoticed, undiagnosed, and unhelped. The two women wanted a place where these kids could become confident in themselves and their ability to learn, while still being academically stimulated and challenged in a safe and nurturing environment. Together, with Kara’s passion for helping children and families impacted with dyslexia and Audra’s extensive teaching background, they decided to open a new school. In this school, severely impacted students with dyslexia could receive specialized instruction in reading and writing that was direct and individualized as well as integrated throughout their day in every subject. With the help of passionate, dedicated teachers and parents, VSA was opened in the fall of 2014 with just 6 students. Today, the school stays true to the founders’ vision and continues to provide individualized instruction to students with dyslexia in an environment in which they are simultaneously challenged and supported to be the best they can be.
According to the Institute for Multisensory Education (IMSE), “Orton-Gillingham is a highly structured approach that breaks reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, and then builds on these skills over time.” Developed by Samuel T. Orton and Anna Gillingham in the 1930’s, the Orton-Gillingham (OG) Approach was the “first teaching approach designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds.” The aim of OG is to teach the “how” and “why” behind spelling, reading, and writing, so as to give students better tools for decoding words. OG is usually used in one-on-one tutor sessions, but can also be a great way to teach reading, writing, and spelling to small groups or even larger classrooms. The emphasis on multisensory teaching is one of the most important components of the Orton-Gillingham Approach, and why it is so successful for dyslexic students. Instead of just memorizing a word by sight, students will see, say, write, and manipulate the word with fine and gross motor activities such as playing word games, writing in shaving cream, or writing with chalk on a sidewalk. The sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive nature of the OG approach makes it adaptable to each student’s individual needs.
Where can I go to learn more about the Orton-Gillingham Approach?