ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Medication, Memory, Music, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was interested in creating a cerebellum training program that was quicker, more effective than Dore. Myomancy was my notebook of interesting technology and relevant science. Over the years I’ve examined many different approaches to the treatment of dyslexia and ADHD. Some were simply nonsense, others had promise but were lacking the scientific, technological or business resources to make them viable. Some lacked the ethical honesty necessary when selling products to parents desperately worried about their children.

Slowly overtime I refined my ideas about how cerebellum training should work and how a independent company without much in the way financial resources could develop and sell such a product in an ethical manner. One main stumbling block has been the cost and availability of the technology necessary to track a user’s limb movements and balance. So I’ve been watching the progress of the Wii and latterly the Wii Fit with interest. The technology needed for cerebellum training was finally cheaply and readily available. What’s more many people already own it.

Originally I intended to make an announcement after slowly develop a proof of concept over the next few months but with the collapse of Dore and the shadow that will cast over the cerebellum training field, I’ve decided to move my plans forward. So I’m pleased to announced the creation of WyyMi, a project to create a free, open-source, open-science cerebellum training program.

What is WyyMi?
WyyMi is a project to develop a cerebellum training program to help people with dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and similar educational problems.

Project Goals
To develop a system that cost nothing (or as close to nothing as possible) to use; to do it using open-source software; and to make freely available as much scientific evidence on its effectiveness as possible.

How Will It Work?
The idea is to use cheap and easily available computer hardware that can monitor and assess gross motor movements and balance. At the moment the Wii Remote and Wii Fit Balance Board seem the best candidates but they need to be adapted to work on PCs and Macs because the Wii console itself is difficult to develop for.

Using this hardware and software on the website, users will be perform a series of exercises. The amount of time spent training and the accuracy of the user’s movement will be logged on the server so that the user can track their progress and so the server can inform the user which exercises to do next. This data will also be aggregated, made anonymous and published so that it can be analyzed by any interested 3rd party. Ideally, symptom specific measures (e.g. spelling tests) will also be included so that the training programs effectiveness in treating educational problems can be measured.

Other than a broad statement of goals and the planned route for achieving them, there is nothing else on site at the moment. Progress is likely to slow, not least because I am working on another project at the moment as well maintaining my existing portfolio of web sites. If you wish to help in anyway, please see the announcement for ways you can contribute, not matter what your skills are.

Myomancy will be continuing to report on anything and everything I think is relevant to dyslexia, ADHD and autism. Obviously as I am planning to create my own training program, that might create a conflict of interest when discussing other people’s approach. I will try and be as unbiased as possible and make my conflict of interest clear.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Music, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

The Corpus Callosum is a large structure in the brain that connects the two hemispheres. Its roll is to pass information from the left hemisphere to the right and vice versa. This is a vital as the two hemispheres perform different tasks and need to communicate efficiently. The Corpus Callosum has been linked by scientists to dyslexia and ADHD for a long time. They theorize that the problems in these conditions may be caused by insufficient information passing between the two halves of the brain.

Plenty of research has been done on the size of the Corpus Callosum in dyslexics and in children with ADHD and the results have generally found a correlation. Its seems that the anterior region of the Corpus Callosum was significantly smaller in the dyslexic children. However the results are not clear cut with at least one study has found no difference in dyslexic versus non-dyslexic children and another study on adult, male dyslexics found areas of the Corpus Callosum were larger that normal.

These variation in results may have several causes. How the study defines dyslexia when selecting there sample population may make an impact. The sophistication of the equipment used is important. Some of these studies date back to the early 1990’s when fMRI technology was still new so the ability to accurately measure the Corpus Callosum may of been poorer. Our knowledge of the brains structure has also improved and later studies have tended to focus on specific areas of the Corpus Callosum, partially areas linked to the processing of sounds. However, with a lot of maybes and provisos it does look like the Corpus Callosum in dyslexic and ADHD children is subtly different.

Being able to efficiently pass information from one half of the brain to the other is vital. Much like a road between to busy cities. The better the road, the more information, wealth and trade will flow between the cities. So in dyslexic and ADHD children this road may be poor and restricting vital traffic. But there is hope that this roadway can be improved.

Its has been found that the Corpus Callosum was larger in professional musicians than in non-musicians. Playing instruments involves a lot of cross hemisphere processing to keep both hand’s movements in time with each other. This suggest that by regular practice the Corpus Callosum can be strengthen. The Dore Program, Interactive Metronome and primitive reflex based treatments such as INPP all involve cross-lateral movements designed to train this area of the brain. Other activities may also help. Such as computer games like Wii Drums and some aspects of Wii Fit may also help.

If you would like to try out your Corpus Callosum, have a look at this test on Mind Hacks. You will need a friend to help you but otherwise it is an extremely simple demonstration of what the Corpus Callosum does.

Studies

Dyslexia and corpus callosum morphology
Magnetic resonance imaging of the corpus callosum in developmental dyslexia
Corpus callosum morphology, as measured with MRI, in dyslexic men
Developmental Dyslexia: Re-Evaluation of the Corpus callosum in Male Adults
Less developed corpus callosum in dyslexic subjects—a structural MRI study
Increased corpus callosum size in musicians

Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment

The latest work from the University of Washington is science-by-press-release but the results look very interesting.

Using new software developed to investigate how the brains of dyslexic children are organized, University of Washington researchers have found that key areas for language and working memory involved in reading are connected differently in dyslexics than in children who are good readers and spellers.

However, once the children with dyslexia received a three-week instructional program, their patterns of functional brain connectivity normalized and were similar to those of good readers when deciding if sounds went with groups of letters in words.

Original Press Release: Having right timing ‘connections’ in brain is key to overcoming dyslexia

Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis

The sad fact is that most children are only diagnosed with dyslexia after several years of struggling at school. The symptoms of dyslexia are often missed in busy classrooms. But learning to read, write and spell are skills not related to intelligence so any child in a mainstream school who is behind their peers at language skills, whether they be verbal or written, should be considered for dyslexia testing.

Less obvious dyslexia symptoms can identify those in need of help. A dyslexic child will often have problems with their five senses, especially vision and hearing. Dyslexics may find it difficult to hear exactly what is being said so they become isolate as they are unable to keep up with their classmates’ conversations. Sometimes their hearing will be over sensitive and they choose to spend a lot of time alone to avoid the shouts and boisterous behavior of other children.

Other problems with their senses may be sensitivity to bright light, particular smells and the feel of certain fabrics. Other dyslexia symptoms and signs can show themselves in general clumsiness, under achievement in sports and a tendency to motion sickness. These indicate an under-developed cerebellum or weak vestibular balance system.

More generally, a child who gets confused easily may be exhibiting symptoms of dyslexia. This may take the form of mixing up left and right. It can also exhibit itself whenever a sequence is involved. Such as remembering directions or a list of instructions. This can also show itself in unusual sentence construction or by mixing up two similar words.

Handwriting and other fine motor-skills are also generally poor in dyslexics. One dyslexia symptom that is a strong indicator of some level of problem is how the child grips the pencil. Adopting a normal pencil grip requires the child to be able to correctly observe how the teacher is doing it and be able to mimic it. This is harder than it seems as they will get confused over the positions of the teacher’s fingers and also have trouble moving their own figures into position.

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms or you are generally worried about their school performance then have them tested for dyslexia. It may not be the cause of the problems but with all development problems the sooner they are diagnosed and the sooner treatment begins, the more successful the child will be in school.

Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment

Dyslexia Action are the single largest dyslexia related organisation in the UK and actively lobby the government about dyslexia and educational issues.

So what you may ask?

Dyslexia Action are strongly in favour of phonetic approaches to dyslexia and many of the most vocal critics of Dore Achievement Centres either work for them or play a significant role in the organisation. For example, this criticism on Dore’s latest result [ MS Word Doc ] that was published in the journal Dyslexia, was written by Dr John Rack, the
Head of Assessment and Evaluation at Dyslexia Action, and Professor Snowling , the only Honorary Fellow of the Dyslexia Guild (run by Dyslexia Action) along with Professor Hulme, who has done much work with Professor Snowling. The MS Word document I’ve linked to above is hosted by Dyslexia Action.

Dyslexia Action proudly proclaim to be a charity on their website but they also have a commercial side. They sell dyslexia coaching (based on phonetics) and through a wholly owned company called Dyslexia Institute Limited, many related products. What is not made obvious on the web site is how large the commercial aspect is. As their 2006 annual report [ PDF ] reveals £1.3 million was received in donations compared to £6.3 million through the sale of services plus almost £500,000 in sales from its limited company.

With its income from commercial activities over five times larger than what it receives in donations, it is hard to see Dyslexia Action as a charity in the commonly accepted sense. There is no suggestion of impropriety here. The charity’s board of trustees receive no payment or benefit for work, either directly or indirectly. To gain any benefit is illegal for a trustee. However popular perception of a charity is one that raises most of its money from donations and uses the money to provide services either for free or at a discounted rate.

The commercial nature of the charity is further reinforced by the fact it files exactly the same annual report to the Charities Commission as it does for its accounts to Company’s House (legal requirements for UK charities and companies respectively). The highly commercial nature of Dyslexia Action make it a major player in the business of education. Few companies providing out of school education come near the £8.3 million turnover of the chariety.

To my mind, the Dyslexia Action fails the duck test. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then its a duck. Dyslexia Action looks like, sounds like and acts like a commercial company.

Why is this important? Because Dyslexia Action portray themselves as an independent body whose advice concerned parents can rely on. When in fact they are effectively a business with a natural desire to protect their own interests. This makes the criticism of Dore from those highly connected with the charity an attack by one company on the product of a competitor.

The debate and battle between phonetics and cerebellum treatments is a vital one to the future of dyslexia. But it is a battle that must be held in open, with everyone knowing who the sides are and who is genuinely independent. Without all parties being clear about what they represent, parents cannot make informed choices about their children’s future.

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Over the last few weeks this website has been attracting comments from various members and ex-members of staff of the Dore Achievement Centres. This has come to the attention of the CEO of UK branch, Bob Clarke, who has posted comments on Myomancy and also to Wynford Dore himself who has phoned me. Conversations with Wynford are always enjoyable but challenging because Wynford believes so passionately about what he does. So when Myomancy runs a negative story about the Dore Program he tends to forget all the places on Myomancy where I’ve said the Dore Program works and that it changes lives.

In light of all this I thought it wise to make a clear statement to all my readers about why I devote a considerable amount of time and money to running Myomancy.

  • The goal of Myomancy is to provide independent information on treatments for dyslexia, ADHD and autism so that parents and sufferers can make an informed choice about what is the best approach for them.
  • Myomancy is a blog, a personal web site. It represents my views and my views alone on all things connected with ADHD, dyslexia and Autism.
  • These views are researched and expressed on Myomancy to the best of my abilities but I am not a scientist, teacher or a professional writer. I am just someone who’s life was changed by the Dore Program and felt a need to express myself.
  • I believe in free speech which is why I allow anyone to post comments on the articles regardless of whether they are for or against my views. Only post that are illegal or purely offensive are removed.
  • Myomancy generates a small amount of income for advertising. I would like it to be more so that I can afford to spend more time on Myomancy. It is up to the reader to decide what, if any, impact that has on the independence of Myomancy.

With reference to the above I have removed one comment from the website that is highly critical of the Dore Program and, based on additional evidence I have at my disposal, is completely false.

Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment

For thirty years a strong correlation between the cerebellum, poor movement skills and educational problems has been shown over and over again. Now two recent study show further evidence.

In Impaired balancing ability in dyslexic children 16 dyslexic children tested with a simple balance test along side 19 children of normal reading ability.

Incidence analysis showed that 50% of the dyslexic group fell into the ‘impaired’ category on the eyes-open balancing tasks; when the mean balancing scores and the foot drops were considered, only three of our [16] dyslexic children showed no evidence of balancing difficulties. There were strong correlations between reading and spelling scores and the mean eyes-open balancing score (r=0.52 and 0.44, respectively). Thus, while not all children with developmental dyslexia show impaired balancing skills, low-level motor dysfunction may be associated with impaired literacy development. This could be due to several factors, including the involvement of the cerebellum, the magnocellular system, or more general developmental immaturity.

Implicit motor learning deficits in dyslexic adults looked at motor control skills in dyslexia adults. It found.

…there was a significant difference between good and poor readers on the degree of learning during the task (p = 0.015). This suggests that some dyslexics may suffer from an implicit motor learning deficit, which could generalize to non-motor learning.

Neither study proves any sort of connection of a link between balance, motor skills and dyslexia but they provide additional circumstantial that there is a link and that treatments such the Dore Program may help.

Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis

I was asked the other day by friend ‘How do you test if someone has dyslexia?’. My first answer was to send them to an educational psychologist. After my friend explained they wanted to know what actually happened in the test I was forced to think hard. I’ve been tested for dyslexia at least three times but I could remember very little of what actually took place. So I struggled to give a straight answer. Now, having looked into it, I’m still not sure I can give a straight answer.

The first problem is that dyslexia has no formal definition. Unlike ADHD, there is no definition in the DSM-IV, the psychologist diagnostic bible. Amongst academics it is generally accept to mean a problem with reading and writing that has no obvious cause, e.g. bad eyesight. Outside academia, dyslexia is seen as a wider problem, involving poor short-term memory and motor skills (clumsiness).

When talking about dyslexia tests we must separate dyslexia screening tests from dyslexia diagnostic tests. A screening tests is designed to quick and easy to administer. Its purpose is to weed out people who aren’t dyslexic. Anyone the screening test identifies as a potentially dyslexic can then go on to full diagnostic test. This prevents time and money being wasted on full tests for people who are clearly not dyslexic. All dyslexia tests on the internet or automated tests like the Lucid Dyslexia Screening Test will only screen out people who are not dyslexic.

A full test to diagnose dyslexia requires an educational psychologist or similar to administer it. These are expensive, often several hundred pounds, though organisation such as the British Dyslexia Association can help with the cost.

Not surprisingly a reading test is an integral part of a dyslexia diagnosis. In the early days of dyslexia it was believed that reading difficulties were related to intelligence. So an IQ test would be administered followed by a reading test. If the individual’s reading level was significantly below that expect for their intelligence, then the person was dyslexic. Our current understanding is that intelligence has very little to do with reading ability. Educationally sub-normal people can learn the mechanic of reading just as well as people with normal levels of IQ.

Memory tests are often used in dyslexia diagnosis. This often takes the form of a Reverse Auditory Digit Span. In this the tester will read out between a string of digits, such as Four Six Two, and testee has to repeat the digits backwards, e.g. Two Six Four. An average adult should be able to cope with five or six digits before making mistakes where as a dyslexic might only manage two digits.

Spelling and handwriting will often be assessed by asking the participant to write a short essay. How much the student writes in the time allowed as well the level of spelling mistakes will be noted. Dyslexics are normally slower writers than children of the same age.

There is no single dyslexia test and details will vary between education psychologists, schools and countries. If you are parent thinking of having your child testing for dyslexia make sure you know what is being tested and you understand what the results mean. A good test will not tell you whether they are dyslexic or not but also what their current level of abilities are. This gives you a base line against that you can measure future progress against.

Sources: Defining Dyslexia: A Modern Dilemma; The National Academy for Child Development (NACD)