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 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 11:48 GMT
Bright lights hope for dyslexics
Dyslexics have problems recognising words
Flashing lights are being used in a computer-based programme designed to help dyslexics improve their reading and writing skills.

The makers say trials have shown a dramatic improvement in both adults and children with dyslexia.

They claim children who went through the six-week programme advanced their reading age by 11 months.

Under the programme, a person's heart is monitored and they are shown flashing lights and colours.

Brain stimulation

The makers of the technology - called Brightstar - say watching the lights trains structures in the brain to work more efficiently and so helps word recognition.

The company behind Brightstar is Advanced Learning Science. Chief Executive Jim Hinds says the results of trials have been very impressive.

"With children, it is very exciting. We have seen dramatic improvements in just six weeks," he said.

He explained the thinking behind the use of heart monitors.

"For certain specific tasks, the brain is most receptive to visual stimuli at certain points of the heartbeat cycle.

"So the programme tailors the lights and moving colours to the individual."

pupil's hand writing
Dyslexic children experience difficulties reading and writing
The company says about 200 people - both adults and children - have tested the computer programme.

It says children's ability to recognise single words improved dramatically, by the equivalent of 19 months.

The company's trials on adults were independently checked by Professor Stephen Jackson of the University of Nottingham.

He checked the reading ability of 35 of the adult sample, before and after they took part in the programme.

"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 placebo group," he said.

"In my experience this is a quite exceptional finding."

But some dyslexia experts are more cautious about talk of a breakthrough.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the Dyslexia Institute said: "It is interesting, but in terms of science it's a big leap.

"I would like to see more research on this.

"It might help some people. In dyslexia, there is not a one-size fits all."

Michele Huettner, who lives in London, has two children with dyslexia and she said they benefited from the programme.

"They did the programme in the autumn and at first I was quite sceptical, but it has helped them," she said.

"I have had very positive feedback from their schools and the children both have a new ease with reading, they want to pick up books, something they did not like to do before."

See also:

28 Oct 02 | Education
06 Sep 02 | Education
07 Jan 02 | Health
17 Dec 00 | Education
26 Jun 00 | Education
10 Jul 00 | Education
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