Dyslexia will be eradicated 'by the end of the decade'

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The crippling handicap of dyslexia in young children can be eradicated within the decade using physical exercises developed for astronauts by the US space administration Nasa, British specialists believe.

The crippling handicap of dyslexia in young children can be eradicated within the decade using physical exercises developed for astronauts by the US space administration Nasa, British specialists believe.

Children who spend just three weeks on the exercise programme show astonishing improvements in their reading and writing. Staff at the pioneering treatment centre in Warwickshire claim that 97 per cent of them show "significant" results after three months.

In today's Education Supplement it is revealed that, if success of the clinic is scientifically proven and repeated, treatment could have dramatic consequences for saving money and unlocking human potential.

Jamie Francis, 12, who has severe dyslexia, has spent eight months at the centre. Staff say the improvements he has made would take 18 months using normal techniques. Jamie said: "Before, I could only see parts of the blackboard and now I can see it a lot better. I can write quicker and hold more words in my head to put on paper."

Nasa introduced the exercise techniques as astronauts suffer from a kind of temporary dyslexia - thought to be induced by prolonged weightlessness - which disrupts some synaptic links in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that manages co-ordination.

The exercises and balance measurement machine designed by Nasa remind the brain to listen to the balance mechanisms of the body, and to retrain the eyes to track smoothly.

At the private Dyslexia Dyspraxia and Attention Treatment Centre in Kenilworth, staff have been using one of the £100,000 Nasa machines to screen children with dyslexia - they then prescribe physical exercises.

An easy exercise would be to pass an object behind the back from one hand to the other. A harder exercise could be passing a bean bag from one hand to the other, above eye level, while standing one legged on a cushion reciting a times table. Parents pay £475 for an assessment and exercise package for their child.

The clinic is funded by Wynford Dore, whose daughter suffered from dyslexia. Mr Dore said: "There is no need for children today to go through what my daughter went through. In such a short time we have results no one has dreamt of."

This month a research programme will be launched at the clinic to test out its claims. The project will be overseen by Professor David Reynolds of Exeter University, former chairman of the Government's numeracy task force.

The research will incorporate more children, a control group and on-line tests to measure, more precisely, social and academic development. The first results will be presented in April to a national conference organised by the British Dyslexia Associationwhich has shown great interest in the project.

About 10 per cent of the population are believed to be dyslexic - 4 per cent of them severely. Some 70 to 80 per cent of the prison population is dyslexic, showing the enormous personal and social cost that dyslexia incurs on society.

Today the first mass screening of school children for dyslexia will take place at Balsall Common primary school in the West Midlands where clinic staff will test 450 children aged six to ten. Each child will be set a 90-second test.

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