Current Affairs

Leanne Walker lost all her memory at the age of 21 due to Encephalitis, a virus which can inflame the lining of the brain. Now two years later, through hard work and determination, she has just got a 2.1 degree from the University of Lancaster. After losing her memory she worked with cognitive psychologist Dr Peter Walker to help build a new set of memories. The full story from the Indepentdent can be found here.
This remarkable tale demonstrates an important aspect of the brain. That a good or bad memory is not something innate but the remembering things is a skill that learnt. Dyslexics have problems remembering things because they are overwhelmed by to many confusing signals. Use of memory techniques such as Tony Buzan’s Mind Mapping may help.

Current Affairs, Science

If anyone requires proof that the brain is an amazing organ and that the secret to a long life is an active brain then look no further than the Reverend Edgar Dowse. The retired vicar is 93 and has earned himself a doctorate by the London School of Theology in Northwood, Middlesex. In doing so he has become the world’s oldest PhD graduate.

Coverage in the Education Guardian. Information on Ageing and the brain: general, the ‘Nun Study’ , memory and aging

Autism, Current Affairs, Science

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), also know as the ‘Children of the 90s study’, have announced that they will be looking into the causes of autistic disorders. The ALSPAC study follows 14,000 children born between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992 and has so far led to the publication of 160 scientific papers.

The environmental research, led by Professor Jean Golding at the University of Bristol will investigate the association of ASD with immunisations, problems with delivery, maternal and infant infections, fetal exposure to toxins, and maternal diet. Whether other conditions, such as coeliac disease or digestive problems, play a role in the development of ASD will also be considered. The £400K study will be one of the largest investigations of environmental risk factors in ASD.

Links: ALSPAC Press Release, coverage on the BBC.

Current Affairs, Dore Achievement Centres, Television

The Dore Achievement Centres / DDAT proudly display on their web site the logos for the BBC and that of the ITVshow “This Morning”. These are not DDAT’s only appearance on TV. They have appeared on Channel 4‘s Richard & Judy show and they have run their own TV adverts. However both the TV advert and the spot on the Richard & Judy show have raised complaints from viewers that were upheld by the ITC / OfCom.

On the 1st May 2003 they appeared on Channel 4‘s Richard & Judy show. A viewer complained about DDAT’s claim that it was “a long-awaited and remarkable breakthrough” and that DDAT had “pioneered” the theoretical basis of the treatment. The ITC upheld the complaint but makes clear in its report that “the ITC does not express, nor does it seek to express, any view whatsoever on DDAT as an organisation or the relative efficacy of its treatment for dyslexia, neither of which was the subject of this finding.” This is almost an exact repeat of the complaints and judgment that the ITV show “Tonight with Trevor McDonald” receive in 2002 when covering DDAT. (Incidentally, it was the spot on the Tonight show where I first found out about the DDAT treatment which led to the successful treatment of my dyslexia).

The TV adverts that ran earlier this year ran foul of the the UK’s notoriously complicated advertising rules. Specifically “Rules .. (Evidence) and .. (Assessment of medical claims) … Rule .. (Impressions of professional advice and support). Doctors and other medical professionals are not permitted to appear in advertisements giving the impression of professional advice or recommendations.”. The full report is to be found on page 5 of this OfCom Bullitin [PDF]. UPDATE: The link is broken. See the second item down in this report.

UPDATE: DDAT have had similar problems in the USA where the treatment was featured on CBS’s news magazine program “60 Minutes II” (October 22nd, 2003). This generated a pointed response from the International Dyslexia Association

Balance & Coordination, Current Affairs, Dore Achievement Centres

Private Eye magazine has a short piece in its ‘Street of Shame’ column about the Daily Telegraph‘s reporting on DDAT. As Private Eye doesn’t provide online access to its non-humor content I’ve reproduced in full below.

“SCHOOLCHILDREN suffering from dyslexia have seen dramatic improvements in their development thanks to a physical exercise programme designed to stimulate the brain… run by the Dore Achievement Centre in Kenilworth, called DDAT”, reported Nick Britten in the Daily Telegraph on 21 May.
“At the end of the study they were found to be free of dyslexia symptoms, no longer needed help in class, and could join mainstream lessons.”
Impressive. But perhaps Britten had himself had difficulty reading the words of the Telegraph’s education editor John Clare in his own paper just six days earlier, when Clare advised a parent to “waste no money on DDAT… Dore’s claim to have ‘found the answer to dyslexia and other learning difficulties’ is absurd.”

The two articles referred to are online: Nick Britten’s; John Clare’s. [Free registration required].

Given my history I disagree with John Clare’s advice and I encourage any parent of a dyslexic to investigate DDAT. It doesn’t work for everybody but for the many people it works for it profoundly changes their lives.