Millions of people with dyslexia have been given hope by a set of simple exercises that experts say can cure the disorder.
A new study found the revolutionary treatment transformed the reading and writing skills of children with dyslexia.
They improved so much in national literacy tests they even beat classmates who had no learning difficulties.
• The girl struggling in class who’s now passed her 11-plus
The non-drug treatment also dramatically improved the behaviour of dyslexic children who suffered from attention problems and hyperactivity.
Many of them currently have their behaviour ‘controlled’ by drugs. But it appears that the exercises, originally designed for astronauts, could be far more effective – and without any chemical side-effects.
One of the teachers in the study said the approach had such a massive impact on the children that it had ‘cured them of their learning and attention difficulties.’
The findings will give hope to the two million British children and adults who suffer from dyslexia.
Many of them are never properly diagnosed as having the condition – which literally translates into ‘difficulty with words’ – and so struggle with reading and literacy problems all their lives.
Once diagnosed a child is usually helped through support from specialist assistants at school, extra tuition and more time to complete written exams.
A significant proportion of youngsters with dyslexia also have Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) so may be given drugs such as ritalin to improve their concentration.
Last year, a total of 359,100 prescriptions were written out for Ritalin-type drugs, at a cost to the NHS of £12.5million – with 90 per cent of them going to under 18s.
The revolutionary treatment Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Attention Disorder (DDAT) programme is based on the idea that dyslexia is caused by lack of co-ordination.
It aims to stimulate the brain with a series of exercises, which were adapted by the father of a dyslexic child from moves used by astronauts.
They include walking downstairs backwards with your eyes closed, throwing a bean bag from one hand to another and standing on a wobble board or ball.
Professor David Reynolds of Exeter University, a leading Government adviser on education, and Professor Rod Nicholson of Sheffield University carried out the three-year study to test its effectiveness.
Prof Reynolds said ‘Before the treatment began, independent school reading tests showed that the children with learning difficulties were making only seven months progress in 12 months. And they were falling further and further behind their peers.
‘In the 12 months of treatment the children made 20 months improvement in reading progress and caught up with their peers.
After the treatment the children maintained their progress – in other words the treatment provided a permanent solution to the problem.’
The study, published today in the academic journal Dyslexia, tested 269 children aged between eight and 11 years attending Balsall Common Junior School, near Solihull (Midlands) and identified 35 children with dyslexia.
They were given a series of 10-minute exercises to do at home twice a day morning and night.
Every six months they completed a range of tests checking their progress, and they were assessed annually for their reading scores and national SATs test scores in maths, writing and comprehension.
The study shows:
- Following the treatment, the children’s test scores showed they were no longer dyslexic
- The more severe the dyslexia, the more the children gained from treatment
- The beneficial effects persist more than a year
- Before treatment the children were falling six months behind their classmates – afterwards they made 18 months improvement in 12 months – catching up with their peers.
- National SATs results showed children treated for dyslexia did better than their classmates
- Originally half the children had Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms, but this dropped to eight per cent after treatment
Prof Nicholson, an international authority on dyslexia, said ‘The treatment’s effect on those children with ADHD symptoms was particularly striking.
‘Before the intervention 12 of the children were diagnosed as ADHD. After the treatment only two had symptoms of ADHD and that position has remained one year after the course was finished.
‘The treatment is eliminating the inattention problems in the vast majority of children.’
Trevor Davis, headteacher of the Balsall Common School, where the study took place, was delighted by the results.
He said ‘I have been a head for 25 years and I have seen a lot of children with learning and attention difficulties getting nowhere.
‘In my entire career I have never been involved with an initiative that has had such a massive impact on children’s learning and their lives
‘In my opinion this programme has cured these children of their learning and attention difficulties.’
Professor Reynolds said: ‘Medical specialists and scientists avoid using the word cure in this situation because the debate it causes about whether dyslexia and ADHD have disease status or not.
‘But I have no doubt that the layman watching the effects of the treatment in more than 80 per cent of children who complete this programme, would agree it is a cure.’
The DDAT programme was developed by Coventry businessman Wyndford Dore.
He discovered the technique in his search to find a cure for his daughter Susie, now 33, who suffered from dyslexia that was so severe she tried to commit suicide three times.
Technology that was originally designed for astronauts, who suffer a form of temporary dyslexia in space, was used to develop the exercises.
Dore’s methods work using individually prescribed eye, balance and sensory exercises designed to stimulate an area of the brain called the cerebellum – a tangerine sized organ at the back of the head that is now understood to be involved in learning new skills such as reading and controlling attention.
Studies by Harvard Medical School, New York University and the University of California, have all confirmed the link between the cerebellum and learning and attention difficulties.
But the new British research is the first long-term study to be published in a journal that has been reviewed by experts in the field.
Wynford Dore said ‘Experts have argued for 50 years about whether dyslexia exists or not, they have argued about what causes it, how to define it, how to diagnose it and how to treat it.
‘We didn’t have time for any more argument. My daughter Susie attempted to take her own life while the so-called experts argued among themselves.
‘We focused on solving the problem rather than arguing about its existence. Is this a cure? This independent research, backed by a peer review, confirms we can now take away the problems in more than 80 per cent of cases. It is drug free and thus risk free, no other can say that.’
There are 11 Dore centres in the UK offering treatment costing around £2,000 for an 18-month course. Children in the study were treated free.
A spokesman for the British Dyslexia Association said ‘The BDA has not yet seen the research, and is not in a position to evaluate research.
‘Any new research has to be well evaluated by professionals in the field before the BDA can comment.