Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

Reading Recovery, a reading programme aimed at the bottom 20% of readers, is widely used in America and in New Zealand. Here on Myomancy we don’t normally cover reading based programmes and instead we focus on the more alternative treatments. However it is supporters of mainstream programmes such as Reading Recovery that most often criticizes the claims of alternative treatments.

So a study taking a critical look at the claims of Reading Recovery interested me. It is strongly critical of the methodology used in the studies used to justify Reading Recovery and the cost of the treatment. From the summary:

  • The Reading Recovery data reporting system is flawed.
  • The standard for successful completion of Reading Recovery is not equitable.
  • Reading Recovery does not raise overall school achievement levels.
  • Far fewer students than claimed actually benefit from Reading Recovery.
  • Children who are not expected to be successful are removed from the program and from the calculation of the success rate.
  • Reading Recovery does not reduce the need for other compensatory reading services.
  • Research-based alternative interventions are more effective than Reading Recovery.
  • Reading Recovery is extremely expensive and does not save other costs.
  • ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Food and Drink

    Omega 3 fatty acids are seen as a natural remedy for ADHD and dyslexia but can you get your Omega 3 and Omega 6 through a normal diet?

    There are plenty of Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplements on the market, costing about £20 ($30) for a month’s supply. Not everyone can afford this so I’m going to attempt to identify what and how much you need to eat to get them naturally. As a basis I’m going to set as my target the same amount of omega 3 and 6 as the EyeQ supplements. These were used in a large scale trial in Durham, UK, that had significant results. In this trial children received 558 mg of EPA and 174 mg DHA (omega 3 oils) and 60 mg of LA (omega 6). [For more on the difference between EPA, DHA and LA see ALA to DHA: The Fish Oil Alphabet].

    Getting Your LA

    LA is Linoleic Acid, named after the Greek for the plant Flax, more commonly known as Linseed. Its name is not a coincidence because LA is prevalent in most vegetable oils. To get 60 mg of LA in your diet you would need to eat any of the following:

    Food Grams Required LA grams per 100 grams of food
    Butter 6.3 0.95
    Walnuts 0.15 39.29
    Chedder Cheese 19.3 0.31
    Fruit Yogurt 20 0.03

    As you can see it is very easy to get LA into your diet. In fact the problem is that we have too much LA in our diet generally because LA interferes with our ability to process omega 3 fatty acids. A ratio of 2:1 omega 6 to omega 3 is recommend by some experts. Studies have shown that the average western diet can have between a 10:1 and a 18:1 ratios. The foods identified above also contain omega 3 ALA but have a relatively low, 4:1 or less, ratio.

    There Is Something Fishy About EPA

    EPA is an omega 3 fatty acid. The body can convert it from Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA, the omega 3 equivalent of LA) but the process has only a 5% – 10% efficiency, so at least 5.58 grams of ALA are need generate 558 milligrams of EPA. To get that much ALA you would need to eat about 10 kg of spinach a day, a feat best left to Popeye.

    To avoid a diet fit only for a rabbit, we need to get our EPAs direct from our food:

    Food Grams Required EPA grams per 100 grams of food
    Tuna 1000 0.06
    Mackerel 78 0.71
    Crab 118 0.47
    Beef 5580 0.01

    As you can see fish are the most practical way of getting your EPA with obvious advantages over eating 5.58 kg of beef or 10 kg of spinach a day. However there is a problem with heavy metals in fish. There is a certain irony that the food stuffs we most need to develop our brains are the ones most likely to be full of brain destroying heavy metals. Mackerel contains about 55 parts per billion (ppb) of mercury and tuna 118 ppb. The US FDA sets a safety level of 1000 ppb so a can of tuna is safe. A problem arises because mercury can accumulate in the body so a regular diet of tuna or mackerel may lead to dangerously high levels of mercury. The FDA guidance is no more than 2 meals of tuna a week for pregnant women and children.

    End of the Line for DHA

    The end result of our bodies processing of ALA is DHA and it is between 2% to 5% efficient. So 100 milligrams of ALA become 2 to 5 milligrams of DHA. Like EPA, DHA is common in fish:

    Food Grams Required DHA grams per 100 grams of food
    Tuna 64 0.27
    Mackerel 15 1.10
    Crab 60 0.45
    Beef 0

    Making a Meal Of It

    Getting the balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in your diet without poisoning yourself with heavy metals is very difficult. It must also be noted that the amounts and ratios of omega 3 and 6 used by the Durham trial are educated guesses. Research on the best combinations has been very limited.

    Ultimately the advice is the same as all nutritional advice. Eat a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts. Have sensible sized portions of fish two or three time a week and avoid fatty, processed foods.

    Previously on Myomancy:
    ALA to DHA: The Fish Oil Alphabet
    ADHD and Omega Fish Oils

    The LCP Solution
    What can high-omega-3 foods do for you?
    Vegetarian Society: Omega 3 Fats
    The Essential Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty acids in Food [ PDF ]
    Mercury and Fatty Acids in Canned Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel [ PDF ]
    Alpha-linolenic acid in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease [ PDF ]
    What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

    ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Autism, Autism Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

    Looking for something completely different I came across Sensory Edge , an online toy-shop featuring stimulating products for small children. I was particularly impressed by their balance and movement section. These toys are great for developing the cerebellum and vestibular systems, areas of the brain that are weak in children with ADHD, dyslexia and autism.

    Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Memory, Music

    Talking about curing dyslexia can get a lot of people upset. Most professionals and most sufferers think dyslexia is incurable but is this right?

    As always with dyslexia the starting point is what we mean when we say someone is dyslexic. If you define dyslexia as just a problem with reading then when a dyslexic learns to read they must be ‘cured’ because they no long fit the description of dyslexia. The reality is that dyslexia is a syndrome, a collection of symptoms where the sufferer needs to have several, but not necessarily all symptoms, to be diagnosed. These symptoms include reading, spelling and writing problems plus poor short-term memory, poor phonological abilities and poor motor skills (clumsiness). This definition of dyslexia as a syndrome makes discussion of a cure even harder. How many symptoms of dyslexia have to disappear or be reduced before the person is cured?

    As there is no clear definition of dyslexia or what counts as a cure I’ve come with my own.

    Dyslexia is cured when a person who has previously been diagnosed as dyslexic can perform a routine tasks such as school work, playing sports or social activities in the same length of time, with the same level of effort and with the same level of success as an average person.

    Now we have a definition, is a cure possible?


    Various studies using fMRI and other brain scanning techniques have shown that when a dyslexic reads, they use their brain differently from non-dyslexics. These same studies also found that when treated over a number of month with a phonic based reading program, the dyslexic’s brain changes to be more like a non-dyslexics.

    If the brain can change when dealing with reading then the brain can change in relationship with the other symptoms of dyslexia. By combining multiple different types of training to tackle the multiple different symptoms then dyslexia can be cured.

    Tackling each symptom one at a time is a long and slow process but by treating them in a sensible order so that the conquering of one problem makes it easier to deal with the next, some time and effort can be saved. Reading, writing and spelling are learnt by an average child after they have learnt about moving their body and how to hear. So it makes sense that a dyslexia cure would tackle the symptoms in the same order.

    There are several approaches to treating poor coordination. The most famous is the Dore Achievement Programme. This is the programme I used and it was very effective but other approaches exist. Such as Learning Breakthrough and INPP.

    The symptom of poor phonological skills is harder to treat. There are various phonic teaching systems but these are designed to teach reading. What is required is a way of developing the ear’s ability to differentiate between any sounds not just the sounds needs for reading. This is where learning to sing can help because you need to be able to hear the differences in the notes. It also has the added benefit of improving the sense of rhythm and is a good at building self-confidence.

    Once the motor and phonological problems have been tackled it is very likely that no special training will be required to tackle the remaining symptoms of poor reading, spelling and short-term memory. Now the brain has mastered the basics of movement and hearing as well as average child it will learn academic skill with the same ease as an average child. If further work is necessary then phonic and multi-sensory reading programmes are recommend. There are also numerous approaches to improving memory skills.

    Curing dyslexia is possible but it certainly is not easy. To tackle even one symptom will take months of hard work, day in and day out. To tackle all of them is a task measured in years.

    Previously on Myomancy: Dyslexia and fMRI, Singing Cavemen and Amusia

    On the Myomancy Treatment Database: Balance, Coordination

    Research: Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral remediation: Evidence from functional MRI, Examining Rhythm and Melody Processing in Young Children Using fMRI [ PDF ].

    ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Autism, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia

    The Scotsman newspaper has an article on Sarah Marshal, an INPP trained therapist, who operates out of a GP surgery.

    Using a programme based on evidence that dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficiency disorder and under-achievement are linked to a glitch in young children’s reflex development skills, psychologist Sarah Marshall uses a series of simple, repetitive exercises to help her patients learn vital movement skills they should have developed while still in their pram.

    Easy does it in quest to conquer dyslexia

    ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Autism, Autism Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Science, Visual

    Light therapy for ADHD, dyslexia and autism is a contentious area. How could spending twenty minutes sitting in front of a flashing light help children learn to read or control themselves? I was highly skeptical until I tried it myself (see Light Therapy Follow Up). Even having tried it I could only speculate on why it had the effect it did. Now some researchers have shown that light can effect your memory.

    By exposing participants to a flashing light for one second, researchers in Oxford found that participants were better able to recall a list of trigrams (semi-random groups of three letters). Most importantly the improvements only happened when the lights were flashed at frequencies on or around 10.2 Hz. A frequency related to the brain’s alpha waves and believed to be relevant to memory functions.
    Alpha waves normally span the 8 to 12 Hz range but this study was looking at older people with a mean age of 78. As the brain gets older its brain waves shift slightly and 10.2 Hz is the peak frequency for those aged 80 or above. The researchers tested flicker frequencies of 9.0 Hz, 9.5 Hz, 10.0 Hz, 10.2 Hz, 10.5 Hz, 11.0 Hz, 11.5 Hz and 500 Hz. Only those frequencies in the 9.5 – 10.5 Hz range improved participants recall.
    This well designed study shows a clear link between flickering visual stimulus (sometimes called photic driving) and memory performance with strong evidence that the mechanism relates to brain wave activity. However this was a test of short exposure to flicker very quickly followed by the memory test. It provides no evidence as to what happens if the exposure to the flicker is longer or to how long the effects last. Both of these points are vital to understand what, if any, effect light therapy can have on people with learning disorders


    Here we move into the field of speculation. It is clear that brain wave patterns do relate to cognitive abilities and behaviour. It also changes as we age, notably during childhood. Is it possible that children with learning problems that are related to poor short-term memory are stuck with the alpha wave patterns of a young child? If this is the case, could repeated exposure to photic driving train the brain to have strong, more consistent alpha waves? It is possible but much more research is needed.

    10 Hz flicker improves recognition memory in older people [ PDF ]. Originally spotted on the excellent Developing Intelligence who have their own informative write-up.

    ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

    Infinity Walk is a treatment for learning difficulties such as dyslexia. It apparently involves walking around in a figure of eight pattern in time to music. I can’t tell you any more than that because the website has almost no information on it. A bit more information can be found on the web site for Infinity Walk’s creator Dr. Sunbeck. Include in the site is a PDF of chapter one from her book. From the brief information included in the free chapter the concept of the ‘figure of eight’ walking is well thought out and consistent with ideas regularly discussed on Myomacy. e.g. the Asymmetric Neck Tonic Reflex, rhythm, balance and movement.