Combatting Dyslexia, The "Hidden Hardship"
Teacher Training The Scottish Rite Way
Howard R. Stewart, M.D., 33
Chairman, The Scottish Rite Learning Center of West Texas
The Scottish Rite Learning Center of West Texas,
Lubbock, Texas, Summer 1996
The 1996 school year of the Scottish Rite Learning Center of West Texas began by enrolling 44 apprehensive but hopeful children with dyslexia in a two-year, multi-structured program designed to teach them to read, spell, and write properly. Sixteen other dyslexic children who applied for admission were not enrolled. A shame? Not really -- not anymore.
Since 1984, the center has offered graduate level training for teachers in a comprehensive two-year program with successful completion leading to certification as Alphabetic Phonics Therapists. These teacher/therapists then return to their respective schools to teach dyslexic students. To date, 300 teachers have been trained who are presently teaching approximately 3,000 dyslexics in their own school environment. Happily, the 16 children mentioned in the first paragraph are among this group. They were evaluated at the Learning Center and placed under the tutelage of a certified teacher near their homes, thereby preventing them from slipping through the cracks of school systems not yet equipped to handle their special needs.
The teacher training provides an opportunity to learn a curriculum and techniques that are recognized as effective for teaching basic language skills to students with dyslexia and related disorders. Course content and techniques are based on the original Orton-Gillingham model with additions and refinements developed in the Language Laboratory (now the Childhood Development Division) of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC) in Dallas.
This includes demonstrations of teaching competency, on-site observations, and academic instruction. At the present time, several colleges and universities offer six semester hours of graduate level credit to those completing the program who are working toward a Master of Education degree.
Of the 14 centers in Texas offering the Alphabetic Phonics curriculum, six are, or soon will be, training teachers. Two of these are Scottish Rite facilities -- the center in Lubbock and TSRHC in Dallas.
The future looks bright indeed for those with dyslexia. Recent laws enacted by the Texas Legislature mandate the training of children with dyslexia and related disorders, and to supplement these laws, the Texas State Board of Education has adopted solutions stating that a program for the early identification, intervention, and support for students with dyslexia and related disorders must be available at each public school campus in Texas by the end of the 1996-1997 school year and that each school in Texas must provide access to the services of a teacher trained in instructional strategies which utilize individualized, intensive, multisensory, phonetic methods and a variety of writing and spelling components. Hopefully, other states will follow suit.
The steps taken by the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education were welcomed by the officials and staff members of the Scottish Rite Learning Center of West Texas who have long felt that the only way to reach significant numbers of children with language differences is through the training of teachers.
As expected, applications for teacher training by individual teachers and school systems have increased as a result of the new laws. Two large school districts have contracted with the Lubbock Center for the training of one teacher for each of their campuses, one contract involving 52 teachers, the other 48. Other districts have also inquired, prompting a cry for "HELP!" from the Lubbock center staff. And, help from other Texas learning centers is on the way. The "hidden handicap" has been exposed and shown to be correctable.