Dore Achievement Centres, Web/Tech

Useful Background Article on DDAT

This article by Paul R Whiting, PhD is provides some interesting comments and background on the science behind DDAT. It is from an Australian web site and references the two DDAT / Dore centres on that continent.

5 Comments

  1. Diane Hammond

    I tried to read the article by Paul R. Whiting on DDAT, but the link seems dead. Also, how do I register with your site?

    Thanks

  2. The link seems to be working again but clearly is a bit problematic. Posted below is the full text of the article. Copyright Paul Whiting. Used without permission.

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    These comments on the DDAT program for dyslexics are based on the DDAT website (http://www.ddat.co.uk), much of the research that they rely on, and one visit to their centre for discussion with the proprietor, Wynford Dore from UK and Barbara Finley-Golder and Dr Jeff Golder, the Sydney proprietors of the DDAT Clinic, which is in Chatswood. I have also spoken by telephone with Professor Rod Nicolson of Sheffield University, whose work they rely on to a large extent. The following comments will perhaps assist your thinking about this program.

    The initial work came from Dr Harold Levinson from USA who has used anti-motion sickness drugs with dyslexic patients and others for many years. He claims that there is sufficient evidence of the involvement of the vestibular system in the disorientation experienced by some dyslexics to justify this approach. (Ronald Davies has observed similar effect in himself and in many other dyslexics and recorded his treatments in The Gift of Dyslexia (1995). Professor Reuven Feuerstein has also provided a treatment regime known as Instrumental Enrichment which I have seen operating successfully in some US institutions. It originates in Israel.).

    Professor Nicolson has worked in association with Dr Angela Fawcett on defining dyslexia, and they have made interesting discoveries about the relationship of motor development to dyslexia. In particular, they note that many dyslexics have difficulties with motor tasks, especially when they are not able to give their full attention to those tasks. This has led them to consider that the cerebellum (in the brain) might be involved in these difficulties, since lesions to the cerebellum typically result in such difficulties. Cerebellar research lends some support to this theory, but at the present time there is no direct evidence for this. For example, Adele Diamond (Close interrelation of motor development and cognitive development and of the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex, Child Development, 77,1, pp.44-56, Jan/Feb 2000) states that 50% of children with ADHD could be classified as having developmental coordination disorder, while the reverse also true. Children who are autistic also are reported to have movement disorders. On the other hand, not all studies have found movement disorders or cerebellar abnormalities in autistic children. The cerebellum is closely linked to the prefrontal cortex via the basal ganglia and in particular the caudate body, so all these parts of the brain are also involved. The question is whether the cerebellum is the site of the difficulties observed in many dyslexics, and further, whether one can develop the cerebellum through exercises. Further, if one can in fact develop the cerebellum, will this impact reading in a beneficial way? It would be expected that it would benefit movement control, performance on speeded tasks, and direction of attention, of course.

    The DDAT centre proposes to “kickstart the cerebellum’ through a gross motor program, including visual-motor training. The exercises are prescribed at the first visit and carried out at home. Progress is reviewed every 6 weeks for 6 months. It is claimed that most people are cured after 6 months, but some require more, some less. The improvements are said to be ongoing after that, without further attention, and to be maintained. There is no evidence for these claims about further development and sustainability, as far as I know, although of course, they could be correct.

    The research that has been provided from England so far shows that there are generalised effects for most students in the program. These are to be expected. A motor program should develop better physical coordination. This will lead to greater confidence when moving (something we do all the time and in many tasks) and therefore most likely to greater self-esteem and better social relations. This will flow over into greater effort at academic tasks, and at least some improvement in those areas. Small-muscle control may also be improved, and this could be expected to assist visual perceptual performance in some ways.

    Professor David Reynolds of the University of Exeter provided these research results. He notes “Improvements were largely seen in the DST [Dyslexia Screening Test] subtests measuring skills [my italics] for learning rather than in literacy attainment, with progress in backwards digit span, phonic segmentation, rapid naming, and verbal an semantic fluency being well above the expected progress for the 6 month period.” It should be noted that these are all speeded tests, and a motor program should result in some improvements in these is a test for screening people for likely at risk for dyslexia. There is only one form of the test and all subtests are short. It is an excellent test for its purpose, but the research is limited by the fact that this test was used repeatedly, a way in which I believe it was not intended to be used, and which would invalidate the final results.

    The DDAT Centre is currently assessing people on posture (using rather precise computerised measurements), and on eye movements also using computerised measurements. These tests are repeated on each visit and progress is noted. They were not testing reading when I visited them.

    Motor programs have been used for many years in attempts to assist dyslexics and others. They are very effective with brain-injured people, and have also been used effectively with profoundly intellectually disabled people. Rob Lefroy in WA published a record of his success in Improving Literacy Through Motor Development (1990). This was preceded by a publication with Margaret White and Deirdre Weston called Treating Reading Disabilities (San Rafael, Calif. Academic Therapy, 1975). More recently, Barbara Pheloung has published a book about using such programs in schools: Help your class to learn: Perceptual movement programs for your classroom. (1997). All these programs have achieved some success. Unpublished programs are run by occupational therapists and paediatric physiotherapists also with some success. A refined neuropsychological approach has been reported as having some success with continuing improvement after treatment by Jean Robertson from UK (based on the work of Dirk Bakker from the Netherlands) in Dyslexia and Reading: A neuropsychological approach. London, Whurr. (2000).

    The DDAT program is therefore likely to achieve some success. However, it records progress in terms of motor development of various kinds, rather than in literacy, and it is costly (mainly, I understand because of the need to amortise the cost of the equipment used). In Australia it costs $3000 for the 6 visits. I consider that, at this stage of our knowledge, it is useful to have such a program for some dyslexics, as part of well-structured and monitored program. However, such programs have been effectively initiated and moderated by Occupational Therapists or Physiotherapists for many years. These professionals have ways of measuring progress in motor skills that are sufficiently sensitive for the purpose, and that are relatively very cheap.

    No-one in the field of dyslexia research today believes that there is one cure for all dyslexics. We all may be wrong, but that is yet to be shown. There are effective alternative treatments for sub-populations of the dyslexic label: sound therapy and speech pathology for central auditory processing deficits, Irlen filters for visual perceptual deficits, behavioural optometry for deficits in visual function, effalex and other dietary interventions for attention difficulties, where such difficulties are present. Most of these interventions need good remedial teaching as well.

    Jean Ayres was a pioneer in developing motor programs for learning disabilities. But she was also a great teacher, and always taught the students a lesson following their exercise regime. Marianne Frostig was another insightful teacher, with her Move, Grow, Learn program, but as my old boss said, “She did all the right things for all the wrong reasons!”

    I emphasise that a program such as DDAT offers will not harm anyone, and will certainly do some good, but principally for those whose coordination is impaired. As Professor Nicolson wrote to me, “It is a difficult but essentially positive development, I hope” (26 Apr., 2002). But there are other treatments that have been proved over the years that will assist properly screened people more directly at this stage of our knowledge. I would like to be hopeful that the kind of program DDAT has used (apparently with great success from anecdotal evidence with some people) will before long be available at low cost to individuals for whom it seems indicated through local paramedics and even teachers, who would be well able to implement it. Before that can happen however, we need to know more about identifying such people and the exercise regime appropriate to their individual needs.

    I want to add, for the benefit of our members, that I am not conducting an evaluation of the DDAT program, although some people inferred this from the 60 Minutes program.

    Paul R Whiting, PhD

  3. Marge Lalich

    I would appreciate more information on the types of exercises used, and program content. Are these center in the USA ? Where? How can we learn more about what is actually being done ?

    Thank you,

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