Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie

Masons Take on dyslexia


April 20, 2018

"The stigmatization is the worst part, it's just so embarrassing!" says 33-year-old Michelle. Despite having an IQ of 120 (100 is considered average), Michelle has struggled with dyslexia her entire life dropping out of school in jr. high. While her classmates excelled, Michelle remembers how it felt being that kid who just didn't get it, "I kinda knew that I was pretty smart, well not retarded anyway...but for some reason reading, writing and comprehension was something that I struggled with." Twenty percent of students with learning disabilities drop out of school according to New York Times (Annie Murphy Paul, Feb.5,2012). Michelle is an artist now living in Albuquerque. She believes that dyslexia has defined her in many ways, "I've spent my life trying to hide it, trying to deal with it, I manage to muddle through, but I'll never have children...I couldn't help them learn the way a parent should."

For the last eight years, the San Juan Masonic Lodge #25 in Aztec has been quietly sponsoring the "Take Flight" (TF) reading program to assist local students struggling with language/learning challenges, including dyslexia. The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Southern Jurisdiction began developing the TF program back in the 1950's and according to a recent lodge press release; Today's Aztec-based reading clinic is the result of, "sixty years of research, development and experience." The Mason's mission is to; provide academic support, structure and multi-sensory instruction to assist students who have been unable to learn to read using conventional methods.

The Mason's goal is to serve as a resource center for students, parents, teachers, administration and the community. Students meet with certified instructors at the lodge (1020 NE Aztec Blvd, Aztec) 3-4 hours a week for intensive reading therapy study. The Take Flight program is totally free of charge to parents.

The TF program currently employs two instructors with twenty-five years of experience in the public school system. Instructors receive additional specialized training that requires approximately 7,000 hours or two years for certification. With an annual price tag of over $20,000 the Aztec Take Flight program is entirely funded by the Masonic Lodge and their benevolent donors and by the Walker Foundation; founded by Duane and Mary Ann Walker.

Take Flight instructor Dana Reed is a retired Aztec school teacher. TALON caught up with Reed as she prepared for a flight to Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday. "I want to clarify that people with dyslexia are not necessarily non-readers, but they struggle, and are often two years below grade level," this contributes to a negative school experience which (studies show) can lead to all sorts of difficulties later in life. Research suggests that early identification is key to academic success. Reed argues "Early detection is somewhat difficult." Reed explains, "The ideal time to start working with children is in the 3rd grade. Sometimes (early) reading issues iron themselves out with good instruction and when parents faithfully read to and with their children, so that is the reason for delayment." Also, Reed said that younger children may find the intensive program too challenging. Reed said that dyslexia is often times accompanied by "dysgraphia" or difficulty rhyming, a possible early indicator of dyslexia. Reed discussed the daunting challenges students struggling with dyslexia typically face on a daily basis, "Dyslexic children often have a poor self-concept because they cannot read well, and that changes when they begin to be successful."

According to Reed the program combines a number of research-based strategies that have proven very successful. "We have 132 lessons in all, stretched out in seven books. Each lesson takes about to two hours (1.5-2 sessions)." The entire program takes on average two years to complete.

"When our children finish the program, they not only are reading better, but they know more about reading instruction (our parents as well)than I ever knew as a classroom teacher. When the program is completed and if parents continue to reinforce what their children have learned, I would say we have all been successful."

According to the American Dyslexia Foundation (ADF) one-in-ten Americans and twenty percent of U.S. school age children struggle with some degree of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language-based learning-disorder that effects written word recognition, word decoding, oral fluency, and spelling. Dyslexia effects people of all races, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds.

ADF Research has determined that dyslexia has nothing to do with IQ, in fact Albert Einstein, whose IQ is estimated to have been 160, was believed to have been dyslexic. Dyslexia has nothing to do with mental retardation or 'not trying hard enough' being 'stupid' or 'lazy' but assumptions like these have led to mis-conceptions about the condition that has stigmatized countless bewildered and frustrated children and adults.

In recent years public awareness about dyslexia has grown and opinions about the disorder have started to shift, due in part to public discourse by many high-profile people who have personally struggled with the condition including director, Steven Spielberg, actors Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom to name a few. While dyslexia does affect a person's ability to read, write and comprehend the written word, dyslexics can/do excel in music, arts, electronics, math, mechanics, sales, sports and physics. Reportedly, over 50 percent of NASA employees are dyslexic, and they were deliberately sought out because of "superb problem solving skills and excellent spatial and three dimensional awareness" (dyslexia-aware.com).

In 1887 German ophthalmologist Rudolf Berlin first used the word Dyslexia to describe, "word blindness." According to the Beating Dyslexia website there are three kinds of dyslexia: Perceptual or P-Type, where a person reads slowly, sound by sound, they are stuck in the early stages of reading and are unable to develop speed. Linguistic or L-Type where readers read quickly but make many errors. Finally there is M-type or Mixed where those affected read slowly and make many errors. The cause of dyslexia is under debate with some research strongly indicating hereditary indicators. Other researchers point to physiological reasons, a third theory even suggests poor posture and spinal weakness may play a role.

For many people the Freemason's represent a powerful but very mysterious 'secret society' that can/has shaped the foundation of our nation. According to Wikipedia founding father Benjamin Franklin, fourteen U.S. Presidents including George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and numerous supreme court justices were Freemasons.

A source inside Lodge #25 argues that, contrary to what they say on the Discovery channel, there is nothing nefarious about Freemasonry and lodge members adhere to a simple credo: Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance and Justice. The source also reports that numbers of people willing to join the group have dwindled over the years blaming, television and the web, "Used to be people wanted something to do in the evening, now of course, they have plenty of distractions to occupy their time." Unfortunately, lower attendance for the lodge means less money generated for philanthropic causes like the Take Flight program. The Masons have found themselves increasingly dependant on the generosity of the community-at-large to meet their charitable goals. Anyone interested in helping support the Take Flight program contact the Masonic Lodge.

If your child is experiencing language/learning problems at school, don't hesitate to contact the Aztec Masonic Lodge at (505)334-6392 or email http://www.sanjuanmasoniclodge25.com. The Masonic lodge is there to help.


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