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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Researchers hail exercise 'cure'
Balsall Common Primary School pupils doing some of the exercises
More than 400 pupils were screened for dyslexia at the school
A controversial exercise-based treatment claimed to help children with dyslexia has been hailed a success by parents and teachers at a school.

The scheme includes balancing, catching and throwing activities and is designed to stimulate the brain.

More than 40 pupils with learning problems associated with dyslexia at Balsall Common School in Solihull took part in the two-year study.

But the Dyslexia Association wants more research into the costly treatment.

The school says those who received the treatment showed huge improvements.

Headteacher Trevor Davies said: "On the basis of this study we are very, very excited about the dramatic results.

"Where it hasn't worked I personally feel it is down to commitment. They have to do activities every day, it is a real commitment, but this research is groundbreaking."

The experiment was started after one pupil with serious dyslexia completed the Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Attention Disorder Treatment (DDAT) at the Dore Achievement Centre in Warwickshire.

Balsall Common Primary School pupil on a wobbly board
The exercises are designed to be simple and fun

Participants do simple exercises such as balancing on a wobbly board or throwing and catching a bean bag twice a day to stimulate the cerebellum part of the brain.

The boy's symptoms improved after just weeks on the scheme which costs around 1,500 for 12 months.

Experts at the University of Exeter asked the school to take part in a study to test the programme in 2001.

Only half of the pupils in the study did the exercises and teachers were unaware which children were being treated.

The study suggests improvements were soon seen in the exercise group's reading, writing, maths and self confidence and after six months the other 20 pupils were introduced.

The children were re-examined after the treatment and all were found to be free of dyslexic symptoms and no longer needed extra help from staff.

David Reynolds, report author from the University of Exeter, said: "The kids actually get more and gain more over time than their age peers who aren't learning disabled, they don't catch them up completely but they go a long way to catching up their age peers who haven't their problems.

"It is a pretty remarkable treatment."

Tim Hood and his son who took part in the scheme
He's doing things that we would have never really believed we would be seeing him doing a couple of years ago
Tim Hood, parent

Parent Tim Hood, whose son was included in the scheme, said he had noticed improvements at home.

"He's doing things that we would have never really believed we would be seeing him doing a couple of years ago, he's even learning the electric guitar," he said.

Now 20 other schools want to take part in further research and headteachers from South Africa, America and Australia have shown interest in visiting Balsall.

But Professor Susan Tresman, from the British Dyslexia Association, is warning people not to expect unrealistic results.

She said: "We'd want to approach the results of this with some caution but we welcome and support research based programmes, new programmes of intervention that help students reach their potential.

"It is a commercial operation and there are considerable costs involved and we need to protect parents who are vulnerable and their children.

"We would like to work with the DDAT programme and others to find out why this success which is very encouraging in this case but doesn't work in every case, we need to learn more."

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