These are the basic steps of language development in the young mind. Yet, there are otherwise normal, healthy children, rich and poor alike, who are shut off from communication, even with their own parents.
These children’s hearing, speech, language, or learning problems could arise from a variety of reasons. Research continues on the causes of poor speech and language development, as well as associated learning disabilities in children. In Tennessee, Scottish Rite Mason support a Research Institute for these communication disorders. Because there is a wide age range for children to begin talking, parents may not at first recognize these communication disorders. As they wait expectantly for the first intelligible word uttered by their child, they may gradually become concerned that something is amiss. Speech-language disorders affect approximately six million children in the United States. However, many of these childhood problems do not mean mental deficiency or emotional disturbance. Often, these children have at least average or even superior intelligence. What they lack is the ability to exercise this intelligence through normal speech and language channels. Today, at RiteCare clinics, centers, and programs in every Orient (state) of the Southern Jurisdiction, many children with communication disorders can be helped to hear, to speak, to understand.
The Miracle of RiteCare Clinics, Centers, and Programs
In the early 1950s in Colorado, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States initiated a program to help children with speech and language disorders. The results obtained from this program led to the establishment of RiteCare clinics to provide diagnostic evaluation and treatment of speech and language disorders, as well as learning
Today there are 161 RiteCare clinics, centers, and special programs for children and therapists located throughout the United States. Each facility is staffed by speech-language pathologists or other trained personnel. Through the support of Scottish Rite members, these clinics, centers, and programs continue to increase. The value of this philanthropy has long been apparent. Tens of thousands of youngsters across the United States have been helped significantly. With the good work of dedicated clinicians and parents, the Scottish Rite has achieved successes that could only be imagined a few years back. Children who might have remained educationally handicapped for a lifetime can now talk, read, and lead useful lives.
Results That Touch the Heart
A child so frustrated that he was hyperactive became a productive learner.
A child who was alienated and depressed because of a language impairment and who was devastating his house-hold became friendly and responded in a happy manner to gentle, sustained treatment. A little girl who was thought retarded reached out and spoke the names of her parents. A boy who had a seemingly hopeless speech problem is today a successful lawyer.
How to Identify Speech and Language Disorders and Associated Learning Disabilities
Children who have these problems are sometimes hard to detect. As noted before, there is a wide age range for children to begin talking. Parents may become concerned later than desirable, may not recognize, or may misinterpret the symptoms. These children are often slow in developing a vocabulary or are difficult to understand, using incomplete or incorrect sentences or gibberish.
They may have difficulties with attention, memory, or word retrieval. They may be slow in processing auditory information. There are many technical diagnostic terms for these problems, and some of them can sound terrifying to parents. However, parents must remember that many of these dysfunctions do not mean mental deficiency or emotional disturbance.
The Importance of Early Evaluation and Treatment
In the past few years, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of evaluating and treating childhood problems at the earliest possible stage. The chances of a child with a communication disorder attaining his or her peer group level are much greater if the child receives help at an early age.
What to Do if a Parent Suspects a Child Needs Help
A parent with concerns about a child’s language or learning ability should call a RiteCare Clinic, Center, or Program for guidance or contact appropriate municipal or state organizations. The first step is a complete evaluation of the child’s condition by professionals. In most instances, a child identified as having a communication disorder can be helped by the Scottish Rite. However, a child who demonstrates overall developmental delays or severe handicapping conditions may require other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy or a full-time special education program. Any of the trained speech-language pathologists at the RiteCare clinics and centers can recommend programs specializing in advanced treatment. These facilities generally are located in or adjacent to a Scottish Rite Temple, and the clinics may be associated with major hospitals or universities in the area. All are clearly identified in the telephone book and are known to health-care and education professionals in the areas in which they are located. The main thing parents should remember is to seek help as soon as possible if there s any indication that the child has a problem.
As a rule, the RiteCare Clinics accept preschool children who have difficulty speaking or understanding the spoken word or school-age children who have difficulty learning to read. Some centers also offer literacy training for adults.
Inquiries on age groups and program offerings in specific areas should be addressed to the director of the local Scottish Rite facility. Equally important, all services are available regardless of race, creed, or the family’s inability to pay.
The cooperation of each child’s parents is essential. The whole family, as well as the child, is trained by skilled clinicians so that, in addition to treatment, parents are able to continue at home the clinic’s recommended therapy.
The influence of the RiteCare Program goes far beyond the walls of the clinics and centers. In many instances, it is not unusual for staff members to go into the community and visit schools or other institutions. In some instances, the Scottish Rite trains young people interested in the field of speech pathology.
There is a contribution in human terms in solving these problems for the well-being and happiness of children and their parents. There is also a very significant contribution to the economic health of our country by providing the means for these children to become productive adults, able to contribute to their own lives and to the betterment of society.
Education and concern for children have always been among the fundamental tenets of the Masonic Fraternity. Helping children with speech and language disorders and learning disabilities is a particular mission of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA.
Each and every member will want to help to fulfill this mission. At some clinics and centers, fellow Masons, their wives, and teenagers can participate in activities as volunteer assistants.
They can help the children, assemble arts and crafts materials, and perform secretarial or maintenance tasks. In some cases, they also provide transportation to children and parents who would otherwise be unable to participate.
How You Can Help Eliminate Language and Learning Problems in Children
Thanks to the generosity of Scottish Rite members through their national and local foundations, which provide financial support for our RiteCare Clinics, Centers, and Programs, thousands of children have been evaluated and successfully treated in a nurturing environment. Miracles can happen, and with skillful evaluation and treatment, miracles are happening in RiteCare facilities all over America.
However, more clinics, centers, and programs are needed to help all of the children with these problems. Also, Scottish Rite clinics already in existence continue to need donations for additional therapists, instructional materials, special equipment, and improved facilities.
In addition to our membership support, the Scottish Rite encourages all concerned citizens to assist in this worthy humanitarian effort. One way to assist is through estate planning. A bequest to either the local Scottish Rite foundation or the national foundation can be designated for support of our children’s charity. Gifts, of course, are tax deductible as provided by law.
Children are tomorrow’s citizens and the hope for our world. To help America’s children overcome their challenges is a major contribution to our future.