Visitors to the May Center for Learning’s early childhood facility, in a former preschool at the St. John’s United Methodist Church, are greeted with a tower of blocks that reaches halfway to the ceiling.
Classrooms are filled with bins of brightly colored objects — tiles with rough-textured letters that children can trace with their fingers, silk butterflies, wooden puzzles. These are key educational tools for the school’s young students, who have dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Tactile objects help them learn to decode the strings of letters that make up words and sentences.
On a recent morning at the school, when its five-week summer program was in session, preschoolers in one room were busy working with such tools, practicing letter sounds and tackling three-figure math problems.
In another room, a handful of 7- and 8-year-olds who had fallen behind their peers in school — likely the result of learning disabilities that had gone unnoticed for too long — were working to catch up, reading a series of three-letter words: gap, lap, cap, map.
A recent report by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, a nonprofit advocacy group, found that New Mexico’s public education system has one of the poorest records in the nation when it comes to serving students with learning and attention disorders. This is something the May Center’s founders have known for years.
The state, which consistently ranks near the bottom in student achievement, is “way behind the curve” in providing support and resources to students with “learning differences,” said Amy Miller, a co-founder and executive director. She and Karen Lindeen, both experienced educators, launched the May Center, a 5-year-old private school and nonprofit outreach center, to help address the shortcomings.
The center began with a summer…