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MIRACLE CURE OR WASTE OF MONEY?; Parents question value of pounds 1,500 dyslexia course as millionaire boss insists it works.

Byline: TOM WELLS

IT has been heralded as a miracle cure for dyslexic children. The Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment Centre (DDAT) claims 97% of kids see significant improvement after completing its courses, which can cost up to pounds 1,500.

The Midland company suggests that the condition can be beaten by simple balancing exercises - like catching bean-bags, walking downstairs backwards or standing on a wobble-board.

But one mum who splashed out nearly pounds 1,000 for a year-long course for her child says it was a waste of money.

And now academic experts are raising doubts about the effectiveness of the controversial treatment.

The multi-millionaire founder of DDAT, business boss Wynford Dore, has rubbished the criticism and says he has thousands of satisfied customers.

Mr Dore, who made his fortune selling fire-resistant paint, set up DDAT three years ago in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, after his dyslexic daughter became exasperated at the lack of help she was getting from conventional treatments.

His firm mushroomed following rave reviews and it claims to have received over a MILLION phone calls after being featured on ITV's Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

The company, which boasts of having 10,000 clients on its books, now has eight different branches in the UK and one each in America and Australia.

The treatment offered by DDAT is purely exercise-based and centres on the cerebellum - the part of the brain which controls co-ordination.

The company claims that stimulating the cerebellum and the nerve endings surrounding it helps to improve learning skills, enabling children to catch up with their schooling.

Kids are told to do a series of exercises twice a day for 10 minutes.

Each exercise programme is tailored to the individual and, on aver-age, there are six follow-up appointments during the course. The treatment normally takes between six and 18 months to complete and the DDAT website states 'virtually everyone seems to benefit to a significant degree'.

Joanna Oakley read about DDAT in a newspaper story and signed up 12 year-old daughter Olivia for an introductory session shortly afterwards.

But despite Olivia sticking to her exercise programme for 12 months, her mum says there was no improvement at all.

Mrs Oakley, 46, of Harborne, Birmingham, said: 'We spent a lot of money on the treatment and it did absolutely nothing whatsoever for Olivia.

'She did the exercises consistently and whenever we went back to the Kenilworth centre, we were told that she was making good progress. But we knew that wasn't the case.

'The centre itself did not really inspire a great deal of confidence. It was staffed by a lot of very young girls who looked like gap-year students and I wasn't particularly convinced.'

Experts have also raised doubts about some of DDAT's claims.

Dr Lindsay Peer CBE, of the British Dyslexia Association, warned: 'It is too soon for anyone to make claims that this type of treatment will benefit patients in the long-term.

'DDAT has gone to press far too quickly about their findings. What it is not saying is howmany children are failing and dropping out.

'I have also heard that several Local Education Authorities have shown an interest in DDAT's programme.

'What worries me is that LEAs may well sign up to something which is cheaper than the tried and tested current treatments but which is ultimately still very much unproven.'

Peter Blythe, of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP), said: 'It annoys me greatly that this company has passed this exercise therapy theory off as its own. It was first used by an American doctor in the late 1960s.

'I find the claim that they are making significant improvements in 97% of cases frankly ridiculous. That is far too high a figure.

'Most experts in that field would regard 75% to 80% as a more realistic target.'

Our reporter phoned DDAT's customer service line, claiming to be a father with a mildly dyslexic daughter who wanted more information about the treatment programme.

A rep told us that the only children who failed to benefit from the course were those 'who did not put in the effort'.

She went on to criticise other long-established and proven dyslexia organisations, such as the Dyslexia Institute.

'Obviously we get negative feedback from the Dyslexia Institute all the time because we are treading on their toes,' she said.

'They are charging pounds 40 an hour for a lesson and maybe three lessons aweek, which is quite a lot of money.

'The thing is we are actually dealing with the principle of the problem.

'We are actually solving the problem whereas they are dealing with teaching people how to cope with it. So they are not actually helping that person long-term.'

The rep accused the Dyslexia Institute of 'jealousy' and said academics who expressed reservations were full of 'hot air'.

The Dyslexia Institute declined to comment on the rep's claims.

But Mr Dore, 51, is adamant that his dyslexia revolution IS working.

Speaking while dining at a restaurant in Sydney, Australia, he said: 'I actually think we have a higher proportion of satisfied clients than any other organisation on earth.

'We care passionately about every patient that comes through.

'I deal personally with everyone who says they're not getting satisfactory results. Olivia is a very, very untypical case and it would be cruelly unfair just to look at her.

'If any aspect of this is not working then I want to deal with it personally.'

DDAT put us in touch with two of its satisfied clients.

Sue Davies, whose daughter Rebecca went through the programme, said: 'It made a huge difference to Rebecca and her dyslexia is much improved. She did a 21-month course which cost pounds 3,000 but was worth it.

'DDAT gives you a lot a hope and it certainly changed her life.'

Gemma Spittle, whose aunt works at the DDAT Kenilworth centre, is equally full of praise.

Gemma, 17, of Coleshill, Birmingham, said: 'I think the people who fail to improve are the ones who are failing to exercise. The scheme gave me a lot of confidence and I would recommend it to anyone.'

Mr Dore accused academic critics of 'professional jealousy'.

He added: 'All the professors who have come to us, looked at our results and studied what we are doing, have been impressed.

'We will prevail because the evidence is there and the science is there.'

HAVE you or your child tried the DDAT course? What were the results? Write to DDAT Letters, Sunday Mercury, Weaman Street, Birmingham B4 6AY, ring 0121 234 5567 or email SundayMercury@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

NO PROGRESS... young Olivia Oakley Picture: SAM BAGNALL; CONFIDENT... DDAT founder Wynford Dore says the evidence is there to back his claims
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2003
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