Dear Dr Silver:
I wanted to ask your opinion regarding a controversial treatment of learning disorders. My daughter’s school has begun a program of using what I believe is an old technique (40 or so years) that was found not to have conceptual or scientific foundation in the treatment of learning disabilities. They’re using an exercise program aimed at re-patterning the neuronal pathways. The claim is that by doing exercises and crossing the midline of the brain the child is able to learn to read better.
The school is not only having kids with LD do the exercises but the entire school. As an adult with a learning disability who believes exercise is extremely important for many reasons, I disagree with the use of an unfounded method of treatment. I believe it gives parents false hope, wastes precious time in the classroom, and takes away from time that could be used with proven methods. I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics has denounced such methods. I respect your knowledge and expertise and I wanted your opinion on whether you believe patterning is an effective treatment for LD.
Thanks for your input.
David Kalis, LCSW, Ph.D.
You are correct. This method - originally proposed by Doman and Delacado - has been long shown to be incorrect in the concepts proposed and not successful as a treatment. You will need help in approaching the school board. First, you might contact the American Academy of Pediatrics and request their position paper on this approach. Second, you might look through the chapter on “Controversial Therapies” in my book, The Misunderstood Child, Fourth Edition, published by Random House/Three Rivers Press.