ABOUT

SYMBOLS

HELPING KIDS WITH READING, WRITING AND MATH

1-to-1 lessons using the multisensory Orton-Gillingham approach.

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What We Do

We offer 1-to-1 tutoring in language arts and math. All lessons are multisensory, individualized to the student, and based on the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach.

Areas of focus include:

  • reading
  • writing
  • phonological awareness
  • phonics
  • spelling
  • penmanship
  • comprehension
  • grammar
  • level-appropriate math

Read more about our tutoring program, or specifically about our language tutoring or our math tutoring.

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Who We Help

Our flexible, multisensory approach is highly effective in teaching any child to read, write or improve in math. We specialize in helping kids with learning differences (or learning disabilities), such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, and profiles that may also include ADHD, processing difficulties, output challenges, autism, and speech difficulties.  Most of our students are in elementary school, but we work with pre-K up to Grade 12.

Although we specialize in helping children with learning differences, not all students come to us with a diagnosed learning difference.  Some have been assessed for learning differences by a psyochologist, whereas others may have minor struggles with reading, writing or math.  Parents may seek our help independently or through the recommendation of their child's teacher, resource teacher, doctor or friend.

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Our Story

Symbols was founded in 2006 by husband-and-wife team Rob and Kimberley Wahl. Since opening its original location in Vancouver, Symbols has opened locations in Coquitlam and Richmond, and plans to continue expanding.  As of 2022, Symbols has helped over 1500 children in its 16-year history.

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic created an urgency for Symbols to offer online lessons for the safety of its students and tutors.  Within the first couple of weeks of the initial lockdowns, Symbols trained its tutors to provide excellent multisensory, 1-to-1 lessons online and supplied 100s of custom multisensory learn-at-home kits (many home-delivered) to its students.  Within a few short months of the pandemic, its tutors achieved the remarkable milestone of a cumulative 10,000 hours of online lessons.  Symbols further refined and perfected its online lesson offering throughout this experience and will continue to offer the option of online lessons to families indefinitely.

The Symbols Story Timeline

1992 - Kimberley and Rob Meet

Rob's family moves on to the same street as Kimberley's family in North Vancouver, three houses down.  Kimberley is a successful competitive rhythmic gymnast, attending a high school program for athletes that limits academic hours to support training time.  She requires some extra support in math; Rob tutors her in math in exchange for a steady supply of her mom's famous cookies.

December 1999 - Kimberley and Rob Begin Dating

After several failed attempts on Rob's part, he finally succeeds in convincing Kimberley to go for dinner with him.

Mid-2003 - Kimberley becomes OG Certified

Kimberley is about to complete her undergraduate degree at UBC.  She has been supporting herself by working as a nanny for a wonderful family with three boys.  The children are reaching an age that they no longer need a nanny, but the eldest has been determined to be dyslexic.  The family offers to pay for Kimberley to take an Orton-Gillingham tutoring course if she agrees to tutor their son.

Kimberley earns her Orton-Gillingham certification after completing her coursework and practicum through CATT.  Soon after, she completes her undergrad and graduates with a Bachelor of Arts from UBC.

2003-2006 - Kimberley's Private OG Tutoring Business

Kimberley is working as a private, independent OG tutor, working in a home office in her parents' house, traveling to students' homes, and working within schools throughout Greater Vancouver.  Her waitlist grows, and she is so busy with students that she puts over 80,000 kilometers on her little Toyota Echo in two years, driving from student to student!

January 2004 - Rob Starts his MBA

Rob starts his MBA program at UBC.  Early in the MBA, Rob takes an entrepreneurship class.  The class involves a group project in which the group is to write and present a business plan for a new venture.  The night before the idea for the business plan is due, Rob's group meets to pitch each other ideas, and ultimately pick the best one for the project.  Rob's idea is healthy fast food.  Everyone hates it.  In fact, nobody likes anybody's initial idea.  So the group starts to brainstorm.  Rob tells the group about Kimberley's private tutoring business, and suggests it could be operated similarly to other bricks-and-mortar learning centers, except specifically in the niche of offering 1-to-1 Orton-Gillingham-based tutoring for children with learning differences.  The group loves the idea, and with that, the seed of what will later grow into Symbols is planted.

Rob later completes his MBA in 2006.

September 2006 - Rob and Kimberley get married.

Rob and Kimberley get married in downtown Vancouver.  Within days they are off to Paris for their honeymoon.

October 2006 - Symbols is Born

The lease is signed; Symbols is incorporated; the logo is designed; the furniture is purchased.  Kimberley and Rob move into their first Symbols location at West Broadway and Balaclava in Vancouver.  

2008 - Symbols Develops its In-House OG Training Program

Struggling to find excellent, qualified OG tutors to hire, Rob and Kimberley realize that in order to continue to grow Symbols, they would need to instead begin hiring the best people they can find, and then train them in the OG approach in-house.  Kimberley works very closely with the former head OG trainer and director of CATT to ensure the Symbols OG training program is comprehensive and lives up to the highest possible standards.  The first round of Symbols OG training takes place later that year.

2008 - First Baby!

Kimberley and Rob welcome their beautiful redheaded baby girl, Grace, into this world.

2011 - Second Baby!

Kimberley and Rob welcome another beautiful redheaded baby girl, Valerie, into this world.

2012 - Symbols Expands and Opens its Second Location in Coquitlam

Symbols opens the doors to its new Coquitlam location at Ridgeway and Marmont.

2015 - Symbols Expands Again and Opens its Third Location in Richmond

Symbols opens the doors to its new Richmond location on Alexandra Road near Lansdowne Centre.

2016 - Symbols Vancouver Moves

The building in which Symbols' original center is located is being redeveloped.  Symbols moves several blocks east to a building near West Broadway and Burrard.

2017 - Third Baby!

Kimberley and Rob welcome another beautiful redheaded baby girl, Madeleine, into this world.  Kimberley and Rob come to understand they are capable of one, and only one, recipe:  redheaded girls.

March 2020 - Pandemic Forces Symbols Online

The COVID-19 Pandemic causes lockdowns and presents very serious health risks associated with continuing 1-to-1 in-person tutoring.  Symbols decides to close all of its learning centers for in-person tutoring and rapidly shifts to on-line lessons.  The shift takes place seamlessly, with Symbols having closed its learning centers at the start of Spring Break, and tutors and students ready to begin online tutoring the Monday after Spring Break.  Over Spring Break, Kimberley develops and distributes online training for all Symbols tutors in how to effectively conduct multisensory, OG-based tutoring over Zoom.  Symbols designs, assembles and distributes hundreds of custom home multisensory learning kits for all students and tutors to use during online lessons. 

Within a few short months, Symbols reaches the remarkable milestone of having completed 10,000 hours of 1-to-1 online lessons.

January 2021 - Symbols Launches Online Tutor Training

After 13 years of conducting Symbols in-house OG tutor training, with several rounds of training each year, and dozens of outstanding tutors having completed the course, the training has been improved and refined to the highest standard.  However, with multiple rounds of training each year, each being conducted in-person by Kimberley and consuming upwards of 40 hours of her time each round, the model is unsustainable for growth.  The solution?  A digital online training course.  After many months and countless hours of hard work, Kimberley and Rob complete the development of a full digital online Symbols OG training course using the Trainual corporate training platform.  The course includes digital copy, dozens of videos, images, a discussion forum and unit tests.

The results are better than anticipated.  The built-in unit testing helps ensure that trainees are fully understanding all concepts.  And the fact that tutors retain access to the course throughout their employment with Symbols ensures that any concepts or units can be revisited easily at any time, something that is not possible with in-person content delivery (without a time machine).  Within a few short months, three rounds of new trainees have completed the course, and are demonstrating a deeper and more complete understanding of concepts, and are requiring less mentoring support, than graduates of the prior in-person training program.

March 2022 - Symbols Goes National

Thanks to the success of Symbols online 1-to-1 tutoring over the past two years, and the development of the Online Tutor Training Course which supports expansion, Symbols opens its doors to new online students from across Canada and beyond.

Years of Experience (founded in 2006)

Students Helped

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Online Lesson Hours During Pandemic

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Orton-Gillingham Tutoring

Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers uses the well-known, highly effective Orton-Gillingham (OG) tutoring approach. This methodology was developed by neuroscientist and pathologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton, and psychologist and educator Anna Gillingham in the 1930s.  OG focuses on remediating reading, math and other language-based learning difficulties.  With over 70 years of experience and success behind it, OG is a time-tested and proven approach.

OG is multi-faceted.  It is individualized, multisensory, sequential, cumulative, and flexible, yet structured. We all learn in different ways, and therefore the individualized approach of Orton-Gillingham tutoring means your child will receive the learning model that serves their needs most, instead of what may work best for the other 30 students in their classroom. Orton-Gillingham tutoring is appropriate for anyone who needs extra help in reading, writing, or any area of language arts or math, from early childhood all the way through high school.

Our Tutors

Our well-trained Orton-Gillingham tutors in our VancouverCoquitlam and Richmond locations create and tailor a neurologically diverse, multi-modality experience for each lesson component by connecting sight, sound, touch and motion.  This ensures that those with difficulties can experience, recognize, understand and master the material in their own unique way to their fullest potential. Using the student’s unique combination of what works for them promotes ease of learning and recall, and encourages confidence.

Lesson plans are always based on the student’s response and progress. This means our time is both diagnostic and prescriptive. Our instructors are always monitoring how the student is responding to each task and planning based on that information, making lesson plans flexible to each individual’s unique rate of progress and profile. With our tutor's help, your child will quickly see progress, and this will in turn increase their confidence.  This is our passion and this our goal.

Ready to get your child started?