Evaluation of an exercise-based treatment for children with reading difficulties



An evaluation is reported of an exercise-based approach to remediation of dyslexia-related disorders. Pupils in three years of a Warwickshire junior school were screened for risk of literacy difficulty using the Dyslexia Screening Test (DST). The 35 children scoring 0.4 or over on the DST were divided randomly into two groups matched for age and DST score. One quarter of the participants had an existing diagnosis of dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD. Both groups received the same treatment at school but the intervention group used the DDAT exercise programme daily at home. Performance on the DST and specialist cerebellar/vestibular and eye movement tests were assessed initially and after six months. Cerebellar/vestibular signs were substantially alleviated following the exercise treatment whereas there were no significant changes for the control group. Even after allowing for the passage of time, there were significant improvements for the intervention group in postural stability, dexterity, phonological skill, and (one-tailed) for naming fluency and semantic fluency. Reading fluency showed a highly significant improvement for the intervention group, and nonsense passage reading was also improved significantly. Significantly greater improvements for the intervention group than the control group occurred for dexterity, reading, verbal fluency and semantic fluency. Substantial and significant improvements (compared with those in the previous year) also occurred for the exercise group on national standardized tests of reading, writing and comprehension. It is concluded that, in addition to its direct effects on balance, dexterity and eye movement control, the benefits of the DDAT exercise treatment transferred significantly to cognitive skills underlying literacy, to the reading process, and to standardized national literacy attainment tests. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.