About the speaker: Dorothy Bishop is Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology and a Wellcome Principal Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford and Adjunct Professor at The University of Western Australia, Perth. She is a leading expert on dyslexia and developmental langauge disorders.
Further information about this Talk
To download the full powerpoint presentation from Professor Bishop's website please click here.
Key Points Covered in This Talk:
- Conventional approaches to dyslexia: These tend to rely on the fact that we've now got a lot of evidence that most children with dyslexia have problems in phonological awareness. They don't necessarily hear all the different sounds in speech and therefore have difficulties in relating them to letters when they are trying to read. Most of the mainstream interventions focus on trying to train children to identify sounds in words and relate them to letters. This sort of intervention has been shown to be effective and there have been a number of large scale studies. Nevertheless it has to be fairly prolonged for some children and for others reading remains an effort and these methods don't work for all children. Some children remain very hard to treat. It is for this reason that parents get very concerned about whether there is something else they should be doing if they are finding that their child is either not getting intervention or that the intervention doesn't seem to be working very well. There are numerous alternatives available and the problem for parents is distinguishing something that might work from people who are out to make money.
- Warning signs to look out for: If the intervention was developed by someone who has no academic track record (no experience of doing research or hasn't published anything in this field) and it hasn't been endorsed by people in the mainstream dyslexia field that should sound a note of caution. Mainstream people aren't always right but if something is developed outside of the mainstream then you would expect mainstream academics to pick it up pretty quickly as people in the mainstream are keen to find things that will work. It is important to look at whether someone is asking for a lot of money for something that hasn't been proven. Another worrying sign is if the person promoting a treatment is relying heavily on testimonials (from individuals who claim to have been cured) rather than having any proper scientific evaluation. Human beings can be persuaded by testimonials but in the context of these interventions this can be quite dangerous. When somebody gives a testimonial that is just one person and the people you don't hear from are those who tried it and it didn't work. Testimonials can often be at odds with more scientific evaluations.
- Evaluating an approach that claims to have science evidence behind it: While this can be difficult even for the scientists to ascertain there are some general rules of thumb that you can go by for telling if a treatment is likely to be effective. Professor Bishop uses the Dore Programme as an example of a non-mainstream treatment that isn't widely accepted by the experts and yet it does claim that there is some scientific evidence to support it. This has led the scientists to look at it quite critically and carefully. The Dore method illustrates a case where there is disagreement as to whether the evidence is showing that it's effective or not. Professor Bishop explains why it is the case that despite this published evidence most of the experts are not impressed with the efficacy of the Dore treatment. The general points made would apply to any other treatment that is out there where there is evidence being produced.