Dyslexia cure

There's been a recent flurry of activity on the Australian Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy (DDOLL) email network about the above article in a local newspaper, entitled "New word order for dyslectics" (sic).

This article promotes a new local business offering the "David Dyslexia Correction program", which it says gets people with reading difficulties to visualise words and build associations with each one, and aims to cure dyslexia.

The DDOLL Network includes lots of Professors and people with PhDs in language and literacy, I am about the most ornery person on it, so usually keep quiet. Today they were first wondering whether this "dyslexia cure" is actually the Davis "Gift of Dyslexia" program, made up by a person called Ron Davis. Davis claims to have overcome dyslexia as well as autism, and his program reportedly involves, among other things, modelling letters and other symbols in clay, hopping on a balance beam and throwing a Nerf ball.

Once it had been established that these were one and the same program, there were some witty remarks about journalist literacy levels, modelling with clay, and making letters out of dough (but chocolate dough? spelt "chocrit"?) to be fed with Alphabetti Spaghetti to the grandchildren, thus inoculating them against dyslexia (even academics need a laugh now and then).

Shared intel on the Davis Dyslexia Correction program

Then someone circulated an account of a student who had been on the Davis program for three years and still couldn't read, but managed to start reading using the program Corrective Reading, which teaches sounding out of words, something the Davis program actively discouraged.

Someone else circulated a link to some testimonials (often the first indication that there's no proper evidence for a program's effectiveness) which include the extraordinary statement, "After the Davis Dyslexia Program I didn't need my walking stick any more" (it's a miracle cure for everything!).

Then came some links to skeptical blog posts about the Davis "dyslexia cure". Don't spend any money on it without reading them:

Anyway the gist of the conversation was that nobody thought this method was very credible.

Intel on other supposed dyslexia cures

I had a look through the MUSEC Briefings for the Davis Dyslexia Correction program, but it's not listed there.

However, lots of other programs, many with questionable supporting evidence are listed, in case you hear of another supposed dyslexia cure.

Sorry, there's no single dyslexia cure

The final contribution to the dyslexia cure conversation for today was a reminder not to confuse correlation with causation, or rule out visual difficulties as one of multiple possible contributing factors to one or more subtypes of dyslexia, on the basis of one study.

Plus a reminder that there is no such thing as a single dyslexia cure (despite what people with expensive programs to sell might tell you).

Who really needed to overhear this "dyslexia cure" conversation?

I was about to turn off my computer tonight when it occurred to me that the people who really need to know about today's interesting DDOLL network conversation are parents of struggling readers who might be considering spending a whole lot of money and time on the Davis program.

So I thought I'd leak the conversation, just in summary form. Any participants who want credit for their comments, up to and including the stuff about the chocolate dough, just let me know and I will amend as appropriate.

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5 thoughts on “Dyslexia cure

  1. Shelley McMeeken

    Neither The Davis Dyslexia Assn, nor Ms Buchauer professes to 'cure' dyslexia – that is something the reporter has written.  We do not view dyslexia as an illness and therefore do not see that it needs a cure. We provide a correction program for the negative aspects of dyslexia which include tools and techniques which help a visual learner make sense of the 2 D aspects of language.

    One thing that you will definitely NOT receive in a Davis program, is the people who are claiming to help you, laughing at your 'mistakes.'  Interesting that you consider ridiculing someone's spelling ability (there are several indicators of dyslexia in that article – or careless mistakes – however, I wouldn't be so quick to judge) as being 'witty remarks.'

    Where you have been able to pull up some blogs written mostly by critics and some rather old and tired, there are many, many articles written on the success of the Davis program.  I, for one, am just so very grateful to Ron and his work – his program worked where all others had failed with our child, who unable to read at age 14 has now graduated University and leading a successful professional life.  There is now quite a body of research into Ron's work, which can be seen at: http://www.dyslexia.com/science/  His work was, in fact, groundbreaking and much current research is now catching up to what Ron Davis was saying 30 + years ago. 

    I am also interested in a research study that shows that phonics is the answer… not that there is a phonological deficit, we all know that – but that phonics training actually works.  Because in my 10 years of working with Ron's programme, I am yet to work with a dyslexic person who has not told me, that phonics made no sense to them at all.  I think you and your esteemed academic friends will find that the leap has been made from proving the  phonological deficit to recommending phonics to bridge that gap.  Just doing something over and over (drilling) does not work in nearly any task. It is a recommendation only.  

    Perhaps, you and your academic friends would find this video of value:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPhV9SyVmwA#at=1423

    Look at that – interviewing dyslexic people for their opinions,  

    Shelley McMeeken

    Director; Davis Dyslexia Association – Pacific


    1. alisonalison Post author

      Dear Shelley, Thanks so much for your comment, I think we owe it to clients to have public discussions about methodologies.

      Perhaps you can’t read the text in the newspaper article at the top of this post but it says “A Kew woman has started up a business aimed at curing a condition that affects people of all ages”. So perhaps Ms Buchaer didn’t make herself entirely clear, or perhaps this was journalistic licence, but in any case the people reading this newspaper were led to believe that the Davis Dyslexia method cures dyslexia. If you look at the subject-verb relationships in my blog you’ll see that it says this is the claim of the article, not the claim of the centre.

      I’m not sure what you mean by your second paragraph, I do tend to use a fairly informal style in my blog, and that includes using words like “ornery”. The journalist misspelled “dyslexics” in the headline, and the subeditor didn’t pick it up, and since newspapers are in the business of professional writing, I think that’s funny and so did my colleagues.

      As I said in the blog, a lot of methodologically poor research gets published, and I am not aware of any randomised controlled design research which shows that the Davis Dyslexia method works. If you are, please tell me and everyone else about it. I am always at a personal level interested in the opinions of people with dyslexia but as a clinician I have to base my work on the scientific evidence, and I do find that people with a dyslexia diagnosis make good progress using a systematic synthetic phonics approach. Best wishes, Alison C


  2. Coralie Leong

    Just a comment on your (sic) above:
    I suppose you are too young to have come across the term “dyslectic,” which is still in the Oxford dictionary, labelled “adj.” MacDonald Critchley used the term, as in the phrase “dyslectic father.”
    I don’t know whether or not you have come across Critchley’s book: “Dyslexia Defined.” (1978). It’s a fascinating read, full of interesting historical facts. He was a recognised authority in the days before fMRI and other inventions/research yielded us more “scientific” information.

    1. alisonalison Post author

      Hello Coralie, I’m not that young, I have come across “dyslectic” I just think of it as a variant of “dyslexic” but maybe that’s wrong. Haven’t read “dyslexia defined”, I must add it to my list. Are you the Coralie who used to be at Fitzroy Uniting Church? Your name rings a bell and I can’t work out why. All the best, Alison C

  3. Coralie Leong

    Just checked on “dyslectic:” it was once used as an adj. (a dyslectic pupil) or a noun (She’s a dyslectic).
    Re Fitzroy Uniting Church: Not me; I lived in Malaysia 1967 – 2012, and haven’t joined any church since I returned. However, one of my friends named her daughter after me. That same daughter actually worked as a missionary, so that Fitzroy church connection is possible.

    I enjoy reading your writings! Cheers,


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