|Charlotte and the DDAT Programme for Dyslexia - Jackie Bonella|
Three years ago this spring, I saw ‘Tonight with Trevor McDonald’ which featured a revolutionary ‘cure’ for dyslexia. There is actually no ‘cure’ for dyslexia, which can be seen as a gift as the brain works in a special way. But the programme can dramatically improve the ability of the dyslexic in reading and writing and fitting in with an ordinary lifestyle, especially at school.
The programme was designed by the DDAT Centre, now called the Dore Foundation, which planned its national expansion around the publicity generated by the TV programme. After watching the show, I duly called the number, and was advised that they had received over a million calls – no surprise there!
My daughter, Charlotte, had her first visit to the DDAT centre in Fulham (our nearest) in June at the age of 9. She underwent tests on a ‘balance machine’ (a bit like a computerised wobble board) had eye-tracking tests and saw a doctor. We were advised that she would probably be on the programme for 12 to 18 months.
The programme involves two separate exercises twice a day in a particular format. The exercises are colour coded and need to be performed in the required order on specific days. The colour codes correspond to eye exercises, balance exercises and motor control exercises, and the number and type are tailored according to each patient’s needs. Each exercise takes no more than 5 to 10 minutes.
The lazy cerebellum
Unlearning the coping mechanisms
Surprisingly difficult exercises
We persevered with the programme, doing all the exercises daily and revisiting the DDAT centre every eight to nine weeks, when Charlotte was re-measured on the balance and eye-tracking machines. We also reported on progress at each visit so that the next part of the programme could be tailored to suit us. The only gaps we had were when Charlotte spent more than a certain number of hours a day in her boat (which involves balance) or when skiing.
As we progressed through the programme various things became easier. The physical things first. One day Charlotte said to me that ‘walking is easy’ and I said ‘of course it is’ because I had never found it hard. I realised that for a dyslexic who even finds putting one foot in front of the other difficult, getting through the day must be exhausting. I realised that her cerebellum was starting to take on some of the normal repetitive actions (like walking) so that her thinking brain was freed up from doing these repetitive tasks.
Soon after this, swimming became easier; Charlotte could now swim fast by clicking in her thinking brain, but also for a long time without getting tired because the cerebellum was also working. The same became true of running.
Gradually other small things became much, much easier, including, one day, copying from a list. Previously she had to start at the top of the list and work down to her place every time she looked up. Suddenly she could look up and go straight back to the place she had just left! This made school work a lot easier.
Before this threshold was passed, each time we had visited the centre, Charlotte fell over on the balance machine. (For this reason, everyone wears a harness, so that they don’t hurt themselves.) Now she doesn’t fall over at all, and her balance has continued to improve until she is well into the realms of normal balance, while the variation range for each exercise on the machine is very small.
At the start of the programme Charlotte had used her muscles and ankles to balance, not her ears or eyes. This difference had been very noticeable whilst skiing with poor visibility in a snow storm. I was severely affected and had trouble seeing the bumps etc whilst it made no difference to Charlotte at all.
Once the balance was ‘fixed’ we moved on to continue to improve her eye tracking. At the outset her tracking once tired was extremely poor and explained why reading was so difficult. However continuing with the programme improved this tremendously.
The results for Charlotte
Charlotte is now a different child. She has good balance, plays netball, hockey and rounders to a good standard for the school. She swims and runs very well. Since she completed the programme we have put her onto Efalex, essential fatty acid supplements, which strengthen the nerve pathways in the brain now it has effectively been rewired. This helps to improve memory and concentration.
My daughter is now a very pleasant child to live with. She is no longer so frustrated by life. She comes home from school and sits down and gets on with her homework without much fuss. She still has the special ‘qualities’ that being dyslexic has given her (she is quite ambitious and has good auditory skills) but she can now fit into what the rest of us consider a ‘normal’ environment. She can read well, although this will NEVER be her favourite pastime and keeps up at school. Indeed, the more her brain works at school, the more she will continue to improve. It is like starting at base level once more. Best of all is the improvement in her self-esteem. This has gone from almost negative and self-destructing, with an unwillingness to try anything for fear of failure, to being positive, willing, helpful and believing in herself.
I would thoroughly recommend the DDAT centre. They claim to deal with many forms of dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit disorder. If your child has food allergies or intolerances then the chances of suffering from one of these is also higher. The centre is used to dealing with these disorders and doesn’t expect the kids to sit still for too long.
The DDAT team are also continually refining and improving their system and programme, based on the feedback of their ‘patients’. For us it has been a great success and there are no regrets in having spent two years improving Charlotte’s quality of life, which in turn has improved life for the rest of her family.
To find out more about the DDAT centres call 0870 880 6060 or check out www.ddat.co.uk
Click here for more articles on dyslexia/dyspraxia