Claim Dyslexia can be Treated in a Flash
from The Western Mail - The National Newspaper of Wales,
January 6, 2003
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A treatment for the symptoms of dyslexia that uses flashing
lights to stimulate the brain can help sufferers improve their
spelling and reading skills, its backers claimed yesterday.
People who undergo the Bright-Star Dyslexia Programme developed
by British firm Advanced Learning Science watch flashing lights
generated by monitors tracking their heart rate to make their
brains work more efficiently.
BrightStar's supporters, including Olympic swimming gold
medal-list Duncan Goodhew, said it has a "profound effect" but
the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) warned it was too early
to be making such claims.
Under the programme, users sit in a private computer room with a
heart rate monitor similar to the ones commonly found in gyms
strapped to their chest.
Special software converts their heart pulses into flashing
lights which are projected on to a screen.
The client has to follow them and the idea is that watching them
in a series of sessions over a six week period stimulates the
parts of the brain involved in reading and other tasks that
dyslexics find particularly difficult.
A study by Nottingham University showed 94% of adults who took
part improved their reading fluency after just two weeks.
It showed that after six weeks of treatment at its centre in
Waterloo, central London, sufferers saw their average spelling
age improve by nine months, reading comprehension by a year and
one month, reading accuracy by 11 months and word recognition by
a year and eight months.
Nottingham's Professor Stephen Jackson said, "The magnitude of
the improvement observed in the study is extremely large on the
timed single word-reading task, the improvement shown by the
treatment group was almost 300% greater than that shown by the
"In my experience, this is quite an exceptional finding."
Mr Goodhew, an Olympic gold medallist in 1980 said that having
been through the six-week course, which costs £900, he now
wanted his son and daughter, both of whom are dyslexic to
undergo it as well.
He is vice-president of the Dyslexia Institute but stressed he
was speaking in a personal capacity.
"Unless you have driven in fog, you don't know what fog is like.
Dyslexia is a bit like fog - you can't read well because you
can't see it quickly enough and you can't respond to what you
are seeing because you can't see it quickly enough.
"With that comes a great deal of anxiety."
By the end of the course, he was able to read with more clarity
and felt a lot better as a result, he said.
"I've had a massive improvement and I feel very comfortable from
that point of view."
Mother-of-two Michele Huettner from Fulham in south west London
agreed, saying the teachers of her two dyslexic children had
noticed "dramatic" improvements over the last term since they
underwent the treatment.
She said she was "a little bit sceptical at first" but after her
son won a prize for some written work he did, she wished that
everybody who suffered from dyslexia could take advantage of the
ALS chief executive officer Jim Hinds stressed the company was
not touting the treatment as a miracle cure for all dyslexics.
"We believe we've got an answer, not the answer."
But BDA deputy chief executive officer and education director Dr
Lindsay Peer warned, "It's too early, in my opinion, to be
making such claims." The Nottingham University trial was "very
limited" and more independent research was needed to test the
company's claims, as some of those who felt it helped may
actually have experienced the "placebo effect".
Dyslexia took more than one form and affected different people
in different ways, she said.
"I personally find it difficult to believe there could be one
particular answer for all those groups.
"It may be that some people will benefit more than others. The
association's concern is that it is reviewed properly so we
don't have a situation where parents' and children's
expectations are raised and then disappointed."