Spin around in a circle 10 times, then do it in reverse and sit on a big medicine ball. Is this difficult? Feeling sick? If the answers are yes it could be that your cerebellum isn't functioning as it should and as a result you may have problems reading this sentence.
The connection between a part of the brain thought to be primarily responsible for motor control and language processing is not a new one, but businessman Wynford Dore has made the most of it with the establishment of over 30 clinics around the world, including Taiwan, that treat dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger's syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Dore's book, Dyslexia — The Miracle Cure, is a reasonably straightforward account of those suffering from these problems, why they have them and what can be done about it. It is far from being an academic research paper, however, as there are also sections on the author's conversion to the cause of remedial educational and glowing testimonials from sports and show business personalities about the efficacy of Dore's patented treatments.
If we are to believe what Dore says, many of the world's problems can be cleared up by performing two sets of 10-minute exercises a day, like taichi-lite. Not only do children and adults with learning difficulties benefit, but also criminals remarkably become musicians, pass exams without revision and swear off crime forever. Social offenders become model citizens, even drug addicts can be saved.
Dore sensibly starts at the beginning. He says he did not do well at school but nevertheless made a fortune in flame-retardant paint and was looking forward to early retirement on his yacht in Spain. This idyll was shattered by the attempted suicide of his daughter, who was depressed because of learning difficulties. As a result he applied his formidable energy, assets and business methods to a solution.
The book, co-written with David Brookes, then sketches Dore's journey in search of a holy grail for the educationally challenged. To cut the story short, Dore's conclusion is "all learning difficulties are the result of the same neurological problem in the brain — caused by a delay in the development of the cerebellum," which he calls Cerebellar Developmental Delay (CDD).
He then develops a non-drug based "cure" for CDD with various professors and doctors. This involves testing the subject on a range of machines and computer programs to create a personalized training regime. Examples of the exercises include throwing a beanbag from hand to hand; hopping on one leg in a circle on one leg; and sitting upright on a chair, turning the head from side to side, while focusing on a chosen point. Progress is monitored every six weeks and the program takes around one year to 18 months to complete.
Dore claims a success rate as high as 90 percent, says there is 500 percent progress in comprehension, 300 percent reading progress, as well as benefits to the subject's social skills and self-confidence. He also insists the effects are long term. A miracle? At some point the relentless optimism is reminiscent of a fundamentalist convert, as Dore touts his method as a panacea for the world's ills. He is an unabashed salesman and preacher. His detractors add that he is actually a huckster selling snake oil and the evidence he provides is pseudo-scientific.
Dore is defensive when he talks about this inevitable backlash to his ideas. He is particularly irritated by accusations that he is profiting from this, though his centers are businesses and not charitable institutions. It sounds disingenuous when he claims that he has spent his millions on research but has not taken a salary in return. An initial assessment at the Dore Achievement Center in Taiwan is NT$15,000 and the entire program costs around NT$96,000, according to Dore franchise director Dan Tattersfield. Like Dore, "I don't expect this to ever be a money-making operation," he adds in a telephone interview when asked about the commercial aspect of the operation.
Toward the end of the book the pace slows as Dore gets bogged down in an account of his struggles with the world of science and "The Establishment." He is dismissive of peer reviews despite accepting the premise they are necessary. He is convinced by his own arguments and finds it difficult to accept anyone else's. When government ministers, educators and scientists rebuff him they are fools. When they accept what he says they have seen the light and are lauded. He talks about a paradigm shift as if it was a simple matter for everyone to believe what he says and compares anyone who doubts his word as members of the Flat-Earth Society.
The chapter "How This Program Might Make You into a Better Sportsman" is like the adverts in comics that promise, "A bigger body! A new you, in 30 days, or your money back!" Dore even provides a formula that calculates the number of "repetitions needed to learn a given skill if the area of the cerebellum responsible for learning that skill is not completely developed." He also reprises the benefits of his program in case we missed the point the first or second time round. Nothing is gained by these repetitions and the constant banging of his own drum becomes monotonous after a while.
Even so, Dyslexia — The Miracle Cure is an easy 275 pages to read and the testimonials can be flipped through, as they are formulaic. On a positive note this is a unique book in many ways because it is not just empty words. Dore is a man of action who has established clinics around the world, tried to convince education authorities to adopt his methods and help those who need it. He deserves applause for his efforts but scientific review and facts should ultimately be the arbiter of what he has achieved.
The Dore Achievement Center in Taiwan opened two years ago and has 500 graduates. See www.dore.com.tw for further details.
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