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:
- Davis goes on tour (link no longer available as of 2020) by US learning disabilities expert Dr John Wills Lloyd.
- Visual differences are a consequence, not a cause of dyslexia (2018 update: link no longer available), also by John Wills Lloyd about new research evidence that some struggling readers’ visual systems behave atypically because they haven’t learnt to read (not vice versa). There is a fairly technical but interesting video about this research here.
- A civilised disagreement on the efficacy of the Davis Dyslexia method, by US blogger Liz Ditz, who has an interest in exposing fads in education and treatments that aren’t based on good evidence.
- The Gift of Dyslexia (a critique) by the Tenessee Center for Dyslexia (Dec 2013 update: unfortunately this article seems to be no longer available).
Anyway the gist of the conversation was that nobody thought this method was very credible.
Intel on other supposed dyslexia cures
You can find a MUSEC Briefing for the Davis Dyslexia Correction program here.
Lots of other programs, many with questionable supporting evidence, are also listed in the MUSEC Briefings, 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.