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HEALTH & BEAUTY: A DAILY BATTLE OF WORDS.

Byline: WORDS: KAREN HAMBRIDGE / MAIN PICTURES: MARK RADFORD

RICHARD BRANSON, Robbie Williams, Jamie Oliver, Jodie Kidd and Tom Cruise - it sounds like a perfect celebrity party guest list.

But what these people all have in common is that they are dyslexic.

It's estimated that one in six children are affected by dyslexia - yet it doesn't have to be a barrier to learning or succeeding at work.

And the achievements of students from a centre in Kenilworth, which promotes special physical exercises to combat the condition, is proving just that.

As part of National Dyslexia Week, we look at how the DDAT Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Attention Deficit Centre has helped a family from Balsall Common.

DYSLEXIA, often described as word blindness, affects the underlying skills which are needed for learning to read, write and spell.

The condition can prove incredibly frustrating, especially among children who seem to have no problems with other academic areas.

This was the case with Simon Coleman, now 13, from Balsall Common, near Coventry. A bright lad, he was always a keen school pupil and achieved excellent results in maths and science.

Yet his parents, Janice and Russell, were concerned about the difficulties he was having in English from an early age.

Thinking Simon might be dyslexic, the Colemans arranged for him to be assessed by the Dylsexic Institute.

The assessment showed Simon had a high IQ of 131, which put him in the top two per cent of the population, but his reading, spelling and writing were poor.

Simon received additional support at his school, Balsall Common Primary, and put in an extra two hours a week at the Dyslexic Institute training centre, but after 12 months there was little change.

Then, in November 2000, the Colemans were introduced to the DDAT (Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Attention Deficit) Centre in Kenilworth, which runs a programme on the premise that dyslexia and other learning difficulties are physiological- based problems to do with balance and coordination not educational ones.

DDAT experts believe difficulties happen because the cerebellum is not working properly. This is the part of the brain which deals with coordinating movement, so any defects here could affect eye-tracking and therefore reading and writing.

People at DDAT say that by stimulating the cerebellum with a tailored programme of exercises, new neural pathways can be built and eye and hand coordination improved.

The Colemans agreed to allow Simon to be a "guinea pig" for his school to see how effective the DDAT programme was.

Janice, 45, an English and maths instructor, said: "We were both quite sceptical about the concept of balance therapy to help learning difficulties and were convinced at this stage Simon had no balance problems, because he had always been very sporty."

But checks at the DDAT centre showed Simon had significant balance and eye-tracking problems. A programme of exercises, including balancing on a wobble board and juggling with beanbags was devised.

Janice continued: "Simon had to do these for five to 10 minutes a day, which was quite some commitment, particularly after a few months.

"It was also some commitment for us to believe that it was all going to work."

The family saw some worrying emotional changes after the first few months, but the DDAT centre said it was because Simon was making such rapid progress.

Gradually the emotional turmoil subsided and by June 2001 they saw the first signs that Simon was making improvements in spelling, reading and comprehension.

"His comprehension ability had jumped an outstanding 3 1/2 years, taking him 2 1/2 years above his age," said Janice. "His spelling also improved dramatically."

A few months later and Simon had finished the programme, but the improvements continued. In fact experts at DDAT say it can take up to four years to fully unlock a student's potential after completing the programme, especially with spelling.

The teenager is now a pupil at Solihull School, and while his 11-plus entry exam result was a borderline pass, his exam marks 12 months later included many A grades, impressing all his teachers.

Janice said the change had been amazing.

"It has been more than 18 months now since Simon finished the programme and we do feel his potential has been unlocked.

"His brain, which was initially acting as a sieve, where all the information was flowing out through the holes, is now a bowl where the information can be stored and used.

"Simon has returned to thoroughly enjoying his time at school. The programme truly has changed his life."

Simon's success proved so inspirational for Balsall Common school that a further 40 pupils were enrolled on the DDAT programme.

Now Simon's younger brother Jonathan is on the programme, which has been backed up by recent scientific research, and is progressing steadily.

The DDAT centre, based at Camden House, Warwick Road, Kenilworth, can be contacted on 0870 8808788.

DO YOU THINK YOUR CHILD MAY BE DYSLEXIC?

IF your child has trouble reading and writing, Coventry Dyslexia Institute is offering tests for pounds 10.

As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week, staff from the Institute will be holding a drop-in advice day at Waterstone's bookshop, Cathedral Lanes shopping centre, Coventry, on Saturday from 9am to 5pm.

Helen Boyce, Principal of the Coventry Dyslexia Institute, said: "The theme of this year's awareness week is employability.

"Many dyslexics do very well in a variety of careers. The message we want to get across to employers is that dyslexic individuals have a great deal of potential which should not be overlooked.

"We look forward to answering questions from all sections of the public: parents, college and university students and adults who may have difficulties, along with teachers and learning support staff.

"Waterstone's has chosen the Dyslexia Institute as their charity of the year. I am very grateful to the branch for working with us in raising awareness about dyslexia, which affects one in 25 of the population."

There will be another chance to benefit from Testing for a Tenner - specialist staff will conduct a five-minute reading and spelling test for only pounds 10 at the Coventry Dyslexia Institute in 113 New Union Street, to see if there are literacy difficulties.

This test will not give a diagnosis of dyslexia, but it may highlight the need for a full psychological assessment. Further information and advice will be given.

As there are limited spaces, phone 02476 257 041 to book your appointment as soon as possible.

Copies of the new DIY Readers' Support Pack for Parents are available to buy (pounds 39.99) or on loan from the Coventry Centre.

For more information about dyslexia and the services the Dyslexia Institute offers, phone the Coventry Centre on 02476 257 041 or visit its website at www.dyslexia-inst.org.uk

Dyslexia Awareness Week

FACTFILE

DYSLEXIA Awareness Week (running until Saturday) focuses on problems which dyslexic people face in the workplace.

The British Dyslexic Association has devised an information pack for employers and is running a number of projects looking at skills training for dyslexic workers.

ABOUT four per cent of the British population is severely dyslexic and another six per cent have mild to moderate symptoms.

HAVING dyslexia, derived from the Greek and meaning "difficulty with words", doesn't have to be a barrier to learning.

The celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has dyslexia, revealed on his reality TV documentary Jamie's Kitchen that he records all the recipes for his best-selling books on a dictaphone.

THE British Dyslexia Association has support groups across the country. Phone 0118 966 2677 or e-mail info@dyslexiahelp-bda.demon.co.uk. Its helpline number is 0118 966 8271.

THE Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Attention Deficit Centre (DDAT) in Kenilworth was established by businessman Wynford Dore about three years ago.

He started searching for a cure for dyslexia after his severely dyslexic daughter tried to commit suicide three times.

Costs include pounds 75 booking fee, pounds 285 for initial assessment, consultation and report, pounds 40 equipment loan fee (refundable) and pounds 285 for final assessment. Each progress assessment, appointments are every six to eight weeks, costs pounds 149.

CAPTION(S):

FAMOUS: But tycoon Richard Branson (left), film star Tom Cruise and model Jodie Kidd have dyslexia; SUCCESS: Janice and Russell Coleman with sons Simon, 13, and Jonathan, 10, who have tackled dyslexia with the help of the DDAT Centre in Kenilworth; TV CHEF: Jamie Oliver
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 29, 2003
Words:1393
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