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 Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia Treatment, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

With the financial collapse of Dore in Australia, it is inevitable that questions will be because its ask about the long-term future of cerebellum training. The financial problems are Dore will cast a shadow over this approach to dyslexia and ADHD but I don’t believe it will kill it. Why? Partly because it works for some people but mostly because Dore is irrelevant to the future.

One of Dore’s key selling points was a personalised program based on the six weekly check-ups using their hi-tech balance machine. However that advantage has gone or will be gone in the next few months. The worldwide release of the Wii Fit Balance Board put a hi-tect balance machine in people’s living rooms for £69.99.

The balance board is not any use without some software and the Wii Fit software that comes with it, whilst good for general balance training, is nowhere near a replacement for Dore. Unfortunately developing software for a console like the Wii is expensive because of licensing issues and the special tools need to write the software. So its unlikely any company involved in cerebellum training will have enough money to pull it off.

However, the Wii Fit balance board can also be made work with PC’s and Macs. At the moment the software is a hack, a quick & dirty solution, but over the next few months these will stabilize and become easier to work with. Now, any one with a bit of programming skills and a good knowledge of cerebellum training could create a great dyslexia / ADHD orientated training program. One that personalises the training plan every time it is used, not once every six weeks.

Of course, the any training program would need to be tested and validated. Once again, technology can allow the little guy to do this on a budget. Anyone using the training system can sign-up to be part of the trial. Via the internet they can automatically log their usage and fill out regular questionnaires on symptoms or take online reading tests. All this data can then be anonymised and placed online so that anyone, pro or anti cerebellum, can analyse that data. Such a study would have many problems, not least the self-reporting aspect of it, but if the training works there should be a strong signal in the data to warrant more detailed studies.

ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dore Sport, Dyslexia Treatment, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

One of the short comings of the Dore program and all movement based treatments is the low level of feedback you get when doing the exercises. Without someone watching you and checking the instructions for an exercise, its very hard to tell if you are doing them correctly. This is a major problem for people who cannot tell left hand from right and could easy spend ten minutes doing an exercise without noticing they are doing it completely wrong. Of course having someone to help is ideal but for adults doing the course that isn’t always possible and for children, it demands a great deal of time from other members of the family.

Its partly because of this problem that I’m interested in how technology can help deliver training programs like Dore. Computers or games consoles are the perfect way to monitor the exercises and provide feedback so that the exercisers knows they are doing it correctly. This reduces wasted time, improves the rate of progress and most importantly, reduces the demand on the rest of the family. This all adds up to a more effective treatment with a lower drop-out rate.

One technological development that has a lot promise is the slowly emerging 3D cameras. These are not strictly speaking 3D cameras, instead they use a variety of methods to identify depth and distance. This information is then passed back to the computer which can use it to workout if objects are moving towards it or away from it. Something that is very hard to do with a traditional camera.

The best demonstration of this technology I can find is this Second Life demonstration. Second Life (SL) is a virtual reality world shared by many thousands of people. Using a mouse and keyboard the players moves their avatar through the world but in this demo, a 3D camera is used to track the players movements.

It is not hard to make the leap from this demonstration to a computer program that tracks how well the person does does an exercise. We are already seeing this sort of approach in Wii Fit. More demonstrations of the technology are available from the makers of the camera. Here, an on-screen avatar mimics the movement of a real person and in this one, the player is throwing and catching a virtual ball. More are available from 3DVSystems.

Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

The text below was originally posted as a comment to a completely unrelated post. In effect it is spam and I have deleted it. However I thought the issue is worth wider discussion so I’m posting it here.

Dear Friends,

I am connected with an organisation called The Learning People, who have launched a UK petition on the Downing Street website to reclassify dyslexia as a thinking style rather than a disability.

You can access further information about the campaign, and sign up for newsletter updates, on our blogsite at http://www.dyslexia-gift.org.uk

If you are a UK resident or ex-pat British citizen, you can sign the petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk

Please help us publicise the campaign by telling everyone you know, and by passing the word around any other relevant networking groups you subscribe to.

Our sincerest thanks,

Tatjana Lavrova
tatjana.lavrova@gmail.com

I am totally against this. The Learning People are a group of practitioners of the Ron “Gift of Dyslexia” Davis Dyslexia Programme. I quite like the programme’s style that mixes mental exercises with Montessori style multi-sensory techniques but the idea that dyslexia is a gift really annoys me. If dyslexia is such a gift why is Ron Davis making so much money selling a programme to fix the problem?

Calling dyslexia a gift is like saying someone in a wheelchair is gifted because they can roll down hill.

Dyslexia is a disability. It condemns sufferers to lifetime of underachievement unless they get high quality intervention. Unfortunately most don’t which is why so many dyslexics end up in prison, on the streets or with mental health problems.

For more on this subject, read Is Dyslexia a Gift? Sink or Swim.

UPDATE: In the last few days, this message has been posted three times to Myomancy, each time on completely irrelevant posts. Two of them have been after I posted this article. Clearly the Learning People have pay no attention to the blogs they spam. Don’t buy from The Learning People. They are spammers who use shoddy marketing techniques to promote their products without regard for the damage they do to dyslexics everywhere.

Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

It’s ironic that dislexic (sorry, dyslexic) is such a hard word to spell and this could impact on the type of advice someone gets about the problem. A quarter of the people searching on the word ‘dyslexic’ in Google end up searching for the misspelt version. Personally I never had a problem with spelling the dyslexia even before my successful treatment. It breaks down into three strong, distinctive sounds Dis-lex-ia and as long as you remember it is ‘dy’ rather than ‘di’, its easy.

Along with many dislexics dyslexics, I could spell a reasonable number of apparently difficult words for the same reason. A distinctive pattern of strong sounds (phonemes) gave me a structure, a shape in my head that I could base the spelling on. The phonemes themselves had to be ‘easy’ phonemes, that is the phonemes and the letters used to represent them are consistent. So words with ‘p’ or ‘b’ are easier because the ‘p’ sounds is normally represented by the letter p (e.g. pen, spin, tip). Unlike the ‘k’ sound which can be represented by lots of different spellings, e.g. cat, kill, skin, queen, unique, thick.

However the sounds that were real killers to my spelling were the phonemes for ‘th’, ‘f’, ‘v’ and ‘ph’ or words with significant vowel sounds, such as ‘enough’. No mater how I tried I could not learn how to spell those words. For years I consistently spelt ‘manager’ as ‘manger’ which was always embarrassing as the word cropped up often in my line of work. Words such as those never seemed to have a shape, were slippery like an eel and I could not grasp how to spell them. Compared to spelling these words, there was never any danger of me spelling ‘dyslexic’ as ‘dislexic’.

This disconnection between the sounds and spelling is typical of dyslexics and has given rise to the phonetics movement. Up in the York University centre for dyslexia, Professor Snowling and her colleagues has researched little else. They have found that early intervention with phonetics program does help reading skills. Similarly, fMRI studies have shown there are neurological differences in the relevant language areas of the brain between dyslexics and non-dyslexics. This seems to have convince the Professor and her colleagues (judging by her appearance on The Myth of Dyslexia) that teaching a dyslexic child to read solves the problem despite the fact it does nothing to help other symptoms of dyslexia such as problems with short-term memory, coordination and hand-writing. Knowing I was dyslexic and not dislexic did not make my life any easier.

One of the interesting things I noticed as my spelling improved after the Dore treatment was that I could grasp the shape of those words with subtler sounds. My suspicion is that my improved cerebellum was better at slicing the word in to its phonemes than before. This turned words that had just been an amorphous mess into something manageable. With improved ability to control of my eyes so I could see the written word more consistently and a better short-term memory, the proportion of my vocabulary that I can spell has increased. However I don’t think my ability to actually differentiate the sound has improved that much leading me to suspect those areas of my brain are still weak. This is logical as during their critical years of development they were handicapped by a poor cerebellum. This leaves me with, what I suspect, is a lower than normal level of spelling for someone of my IQ and educational background. This is still pretty good and at least as good as the average school leaver but I do find myself occasionally falling back on the same coping strategies that help me know it was dyslexic and not dislexic.

Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Science

Myself and a reader going under the name of Tom, are having a discussion on the Dore Treatment. Tom is very much against Dore and has described it as a “con”. He has also accused me of promoting Dore for money and that I am lying about my treatment and subsequent improvement. You can read all this on iPhone Plays Guitar or via the Myomancy Forum.

One of the interesting points that has arisen out of this discussion is the idea that any improvement in my dyslexia has been caused by the placebo effect.

The placebo effect is defined as “…occur[ing] when a patient’s symptoms are altered in some way (i.e., alleviated or exacerbated) by an otherwise inert treatment, due to the individual expecting or believing that it will work. “. The two important elements are that the patient receives a totally inert treatment and that the patient’s symptoms really change.

The placebo effect is normally found in relation to physical medical problems ranging from common colds to cancer. Alternative medical treatments such as homeopathy and faith healing rely on the placebo effect for most of their benefits. It is also common practice in drug trials to give half the patients the real drug to be tested and the other half a sugar pill placebo. It is then possible to compare the results from the real drug to the placebo and work out how much more effective the real drug is. These drug trails regularly show 20%-30% of people on the placebo show an improvement of symptoms. In some cases, such as drugs designed to control pain, up to 75% of people on the placebo reported less pain. The placebo effect is very real and may be far more important to how effective drugs are than the big pharmaceutical companies would like you to know.

It is important to note that there is no evidence that the placebo effect actually cures anything. They can make you feel better by reducing pain or other symptoms and this can have a knock-on effect. A patient with less pain may be more positive and more active and this can help the bodies natural healing process. Another vital aspect of the placebo effect is that it wears off. A placebo only works because the patient believes it is going to work. After they have been taking a placebo for sometime the patient will begin to question why their illness hasn’t been cured. Once this loss of faith occurs the placebo loses its symptom reducing effects.

To apply this to dyslexia we have to identify the ‘disease’ and the ‘symptoms’. If the Dore Treatment is a placebo, the symptoms should reduces in intensity for a while but then return because the underlying problem or ‘disease’ still remains. Most dyslexia experts believe that dyslexia, the ‘disease’, is caused by a fundamental difference in the brain that cannot be changed. The ‘symptoms’ of this disease are reading problems, poor spelling, poor handwriting and poor short-term memory. Because the ‘disease’ is an unchangeable flaw, these symptoms can only be ameliorated. If a placebo works on dyslexia then we would expect one or more of those symptoms to show improvement and then return to its previous levels once the effect is lost.

A patient receiving a dyslexia treatment placebo might well do better in a spelling test than before because they believe they are being cured. This success would boast their confidence, helping them to learn new words and to make further progress in the next test. But if dyslexia is a lifelong condition that can only be ameliorated then this cycle of progress can only continue until the limits on the patient’s ability, placed on them by the underlying ‘disease’, are reached. Once this limit is reached the patient would lose faith in the placebo, the placebo effect would stop working, levels of confidence would drop and most of the improvements seen would disappear.

This does not appear to be the case. My own, other people’s anecdotal evidence, and research by Dore shows that the improvements gained whilst on the treatment remain and further improvements are seen after the treatment has stopped. Though the treatment has certainly not worked for some, no one has reported seeing significant improvements and then losing them once treatment stops.

This persistence of improvement is the clear sign that the Dore treatment is not working through a placebo effect but is making a permanent change in the brain.

None of this proves the underlying hypothesis of the Dore treatment that dyslexia is caused by an under-developed cerebellum or that the Dore treatment does anything but boast the patient’s confidence. But because the effects of the treatment are permanent it cannot be described as a placebo effect.

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

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Digital Fitness, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Music, Nintendo Wii

Doing the post on the Wii Drums remindered me of a book I wanted to write about. Its 4-Way Coordination: A Method Book for the Development of Complete Independence on the Drum Set . I forget how I found it but it immediately got my attention as a way of learning cross-lateral and limb-independent movements. Drummers need to be able to use each of their four limbs independently from each other and this takes a lot of time to learn. Education problems such as dyslexia and ADHD are linked to a poorly developed cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls the limbs, and retained primitive reflexes which restrict limb movements. Training regimes such as the Dore Programme teach children (and adults like myself) how to use their bodies. If this book has a good training method for limb independence that doesn’t focus on drumming it could be and effective resource of parents.

Here is what one of its reviews says:

You don’t need a drumset to work it — all you need are hands and feet to
get better. the “score” is set out in various patterns of LH,RH, LF, RF
(left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot). So if you can’t get
enough of drumming, take this on the road with you for vacations, work
trips, whatever and work on breaking the mold. The floor, your knees
and any flat surface in front of you will do for practice.

This is one of the few drum books you can literally practice from
anywhere at anytime with nothing but the book and you.

I’ve ordered a copy and will be reviewing it soon.

ADD / ADHD, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

In the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, Professor Dorothy Bishop of the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University has written an article questioning the validity of research done on the Dore Program.

Abstract: Dore Achievement Centres are springing up world-wide with a mission to cure cerebellar developmental delay, thought to be the cause of dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and Asperger’s syndrome. Remarkable success is claimed for an exercise-based treatment that is designed to accelerate cerebellar development. Unfortunately, the published studies are seriously flawed. On measures where control data are available, there is no credible evidence of significant gains in literacy associated with this intervention. There are no published studies on efficacy with the clinical groups for whom the programme is advocated. It is important that family practitioners and paediatricians are aware that the claims made for this expensive treatment are misleading.

This isn’t the first time the research has been questioned and most recently it lead to five people resigning from the Dyslexia Journal’s editorial board. Though there are questions about why only those five, out of twenty plus board members, resigned.

Professor Bishop has a long and notable history of research into dyslexia, ADHD and autism. This includes research relating to motor control, timing and language problems that did find that a genetic problem could cause both language and motor problems.

A timed peg-moving task was used to assess motor skill. Children with combined speech and language impairments obtained poorer peg-moving scores than unaffected children. Bivariate DeFries-Fulker analysis found significant shared genetic variance for impairments on peg-moving and on a test of nonword repetition. It is concluded that genes that put the child at risk for communicative problems also affect motor development, with the association being most evident when speech production is affected.

Without access to the full text of Professor Bishop’s article its impossible to say how fair her criticism of the Dore research is. There are certainly problems with the research relating to control groups and how the children’s progress was measured but all research has issue, especially when dealing with children and a treatment that takes 12 months to complete. Check out this recent research that showed that many medical research papers have miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis to gauge the difficulties in producing research that cannot be criticised. As ever we need more research before we can find the truth.

Sources:
Curing dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder by training motor co-ordination: Miracle or myth?Motor immaturity and specific speech and language impairment: Evidence for a common genetic basis

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