“At Riverside, I learned that
education was not a hurdle for someone with dyslexia, but rather an achievable
objective. Riverside gave me the tools at a young age to learn that hard work
and determination can overcome any academic challenge.” – Alumnus
Learning differences like dyslexia affect 20% of the student population. These students struggle to gain grade-level literacy and often fall behind in traditional academic settings. Nationwide, only 68% of students with learning disabilities graduate on time with a regular diploma (National Center for Learning Disabilities).
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin, and is characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, poor spelling and decoding abilities. Research shows that a hands-on, multisensory, individualized approach to reading instruction is critical to help put these bright students who learn differently on a path to success.
For over 40 years, Riverside School has provided an approach and learning environment specifically designed to meet the unique learning needs of students with dyslexia and similar language-based learning differences.
Recent Accomplishments: Riverside is the only school in VA accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators as both an educational facility and a certified teacher training program. Over 90% of students showed improvement on math and reading assessments from the previous year. The average length of stay is 3 years before students transition back to mainstream education or to specialized schools at higher grade levels.
Goals: Riverside hopes to continue to expand our Annual Fund to over $225,000 and provide increased financial aid to our students. In addition, we plan to expand our teacher training program, improve our assessment program to best meet each child’s unique learning needs, renovate the School’s outdoor play space, and increase community outreach and education about dyslexia.
Financial Aid: Children with learning differences and their families face enormous difficulties as they work to overcome educational challenges and rebuild self-esteem. The ability to afford the intervention they need should not be one of them. Financial Aid support enables Riverside to provide our program to a more diverse group of students that need a hands-on, multisensory approach to learning.
Faculty Support: Our highly trained and dedicated teachers are critical to the success of our students. All instructors receive extensive training in the Orton-Gillingham Approach and continuous professional development. In addition, Riverside provides a certified Teacher Training Course in the Orton-Gillingham Approach that is open to all area public and private school teachers.
Technology: Riverside School hopes to increase cross-curricular use of technology such as laptops, SmartBoard, iPads, and educational applications in each classroom to engage young learners and improve our multisensory instruction. Enrichment Programs: For children with learning differences, art can be an unparalleled, dynamic tool for learning. We have expanded our arts program to include instruction for music as well as studio arts.
Riverside School has a long tradition
of academic excellence in educating students with dyslexia. In 1974, Patricia
W. DeOrio saw a need. Smart students were falling through the cracks. They were
labeled as lazy and told that they just needed to try harder. Pat, or ‘Mrs. D’
as she is affectionately called by the students, was a teacher and mentor who
had risen above dyslexia herself, and understood what it took to unlock the
potential of children with learning differences. In 1978, the late Ruth Harris
joined with Riverside and brought with her our hallmark program of one-on-one
instruction utilizing the Orton-Gillingham Approach.
Since our founding, we have emphasized a multisensory, hands-on reading program, personalized instruction, and a nurturing environment. Riverside School has grown to a multi-building campus including a library, gymnasium, seven classrooms, a language fundamentals department, and administrative offices.
Riverside is the only day school on the East Coast to offer one-on-one language skill instruction to all students and the only school in Virginia accredited by the highly prestigious Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators as both an educational facility and a certified teacher training program.
Riverside School has a broad community impact and
serves a diverse geographic region. Children enrolled in the 2015-2016 school year represent 12 different counties and cities in Central Virginia. Students hail from 45 schools, including 22 public schools, 23 private schools, and 1 homeschool student. Some students come from as far as Williamsburg, Alexandria, and Annapolis.
Gena Farinholt is currently the interim Head of School at
Riverside School in Richmond, VA. Prior to joining Riverside in August of 2015, Gena
had been the Head of School at The Schenck School in Atlanta, GA since 2001.
She is a Fellow with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and
Educators, a past Board member of the Georgia Branch of the International
Dyslexia Association, and a member of the Learning Disabilities Association.
Gena holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Elementary Education from Agnes
Scott College and a Master’s of Education in Learning Disabilities from Georgia
Riverside's Language Fundamentals (LF) Program is the keystone of our transformative approach to education. Our LF Program includes highly-specialized, one-on-one, multisensory instruction that is provided to every student as part of the curriculum. All students receive 45 minutes of one-on-one reading instruction 4 days a week.
Students with dyslexia are bright kids who just learn differently. They need more help in sorting, recognizing, and organizing the raw materials of language. LF uses the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which capitalizes on students’ strengths to help remediate their weaknesses. Each teacher designs specialized teaching strategies for every child based on their abilities, and the program includes direct instruction in elements of language and reading, including phonemic awareness, syllable patterns, sound-symbol relationships, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Our highly skilled teachers receive extensive training in the Orton-Gillingham Approach.
The goal of our LF program is to serve each student and his or her unique learning differences through an individualized curriculum. Students are assessed throughout
the school year using a variety of standardized and/or nationally normed
assessments. Assessments include phonological awareness, reading
fluency, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and spelling, along with
mathematical concepts such as math fluency, calculation, and applied math. Using this testing data, teachers
evaluate the progress of each student to track yearly progress. Over 90% of students showed improvement in reading scores over the course of the year, with over 40% of students demonstrating growth greater than that which might be expected in a single school year
Research shows that the O-G Approach is successful for students with dyslexia. Our mission is to provide remediation of the language skills of each of the at-risk students, so that they can return to mainstream education fully prepared to realize their highest potential. Riverside succeeds at this mission, with 100% of the children matriculating at local high schools or progressing to specialized schools for children with learning differences at higher grade levels, usually within 3 years or less.
Riverside’s Art and Music Programs are unique avenues for self-discovery and self-expression, and help students foster an increased understanding of the world around them. The program includes a studio art class led by an art therapist and the music discovery program. Students have the opportunity to manipulate materials and the environment in the studio, and symbolically explore, organize, and assimilate meaning from a complex world of ideas and experience. The music program introduces students to basic components of music such as rhythm and pitch, and includes instruction on instruments such a Orff instruments and percussion.
Among the many benefits of the art and music programs are: increased social skills; improved ability to communicate effectively, make eye contact and creatively problem-solve; practice with enunciation and articulation; and increased fluency in reading.
In a special education environment, art is a proven tool to assist young people with learning differences learn how to solve problems in new and creative ways. Participation in art has many benefits including helping students with learning differences such as dyslexia comprehend figurative language, remember abstract concepts, and untap thinking potential. Additionally it has many emotional and social benefits that are especially valuable for our students, many of whom are struggling to achieve grade-level literacy and are preparing to transition to mainstream schools.
“The best thing about Riverside is the class size. I pay attention
better here. It’s not so overwhelming.” – Current Riverside Student
Our students thrive in classrooms that offer multisensory instruction and hands-on learning, and our programs are designed to foster self-esteem and self-advocacy. Classes are kept intentionally small at Riverside, with an average of 11 students per classroom. This allows our teachers to provide direct, individualized instruction and allows our students to flourish in a nurturing environment.
Every classroom at Riverside is equipped with SmartBoards and students have access to laptops, iPads, and educational applications designed to support cross-curricular instruction. In addition to core academic content such as math, social studies, and science, Riverside offers physical education, ballroom dance, expressive arts and music, service learning opportunities, and social skills.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, over 90% of students showed improvement in reading assessments and over 95% of students showed improvement in math assessments over the course of the year.
Students often come to Riverside after falling behind in traditional, larger academic settings. Small classes allow teachers to focus on the individual learning needs of each student. Additionally, students thrive in a nurturing environment with teachers and students who understand what it’s like to learn differently. Students transition from Riverside back to other public or private schools in an average of 3 years equipped with the skills they need to succeed.
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