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Alternative/Complimentary Therapies

The Dyslexia Association has been working with children and adults with SLD/Dyslexia since 1972. The association advocates direct teaching as the optimum way of improving literacy skills. Teaching is time-consuming and often tedious, but when appropriate teaching, as an intervention, begins early in life and has the moral and practical support of the home and the school, it is successful. All teaching is most effective when it adheres to the following basic principles:

  1. The results of the assessment are used to diagnose specific learning difference.
  2. Learning objectives are used for planning and evaluation.
  3. The teaching is multi-sensory, using all available learning channels.
  4. The teaching is systematic/sequential, i.e. uses task analysis.
  5. The teaching is cumulative, i.e. helps the learner connect what is being learned to what is already known.
  6. The teaching provides for over-learning, i.e. repetition and consolidation, through rehearsal to automaticity.
  7. The teaching is cognitive and encourages learners to think about language and understand language structures.
  8. The teaching is success orientated, i.e. that it ensures success and builds self esteem.
  9. The learner is helped to transfer learning to real literacy situations.
  10. The home is involved.

The Dyslexia Association’s years of experience and knowledge of SLD/Dyslexia, as well as our contact with British, European and International associations, has led us to the conclusion that there is no quick fix, no magic pill, no universal panacea, that will provide a cure.

Despite this belief, regularly, over the years, bona fide researchers and charlatans alike continue to look for alternative treatments that might cure, prevent or otherwise have a positive effect on the learning difficulty. Learning difficulties, and dyslexia in particular, seem to attract unusual forms of treatment. The only real way to determine the worth of these treatments is to become better acquainted with some of the methods of scientific investigation. Research has shown that many things can influence performance incidentally:

  • Placebo Effects – in placebo effects, illnesses can be ‘cured’ just because patients believe that they are receiving effective treatment.
  • Hawthorne effects – the Hawthorne effect is the finding that for every change in circumstances there will be a change in behaviour.
  • Attentional effects – in attentional effects, subjects may react favourably to a treatment just because they are the centre of a lot of attention.
  • Motivational effects – motivational effects are the result of a subject trying much harder just because they have been singled out for treatment and made to feel special.

Parents and professionals should watch out for any promoted method or product that costs a lot of money and promises a quick fix or ‘cure’. Any method or product should be considered controversial and suspect if:

  1. There is no research to prove that it works, or which explains why it works.
  2. The research has not been independently replicated.
  3. The claims of the method or product far exceed the research results.
  4. The only ‘proof’ is the personal testimony of parents or their children.

Before signing any contract, agreeing to any treatment or purchasing any product that sounds too good to be true, ask to see the independent research papers that support their claims. Also ask for local references. Talk to professionals in the field about the method. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Some Alternative/Complimentary Therapies

The association is open to the adoption of new and improved methods of teaching but we owe it to our members to be cautious when new and alternative methods are suggested. Therefore, the association does not endorse any methods of working with people with dyslexia other than teaching which is specific, systematic and cumulative, designed to cater to the learner’s assessed needs.

If other non-teaching therapies are being considered then users should satisfy themselves as to the scientific validity of these therapies.

Thus, the following approaches are included for information only, and their inclusion does not constitute a recommendation by the association.

Movement-Based Therapies

Educational kinesiology, neuro-developmental therapy, primary movement, brain gym, DDAT programme – these theories hold that learning difficulties can be caused by primitive reflexes remaining active in the body. Attainment of balance, hand-eye co-ordination, motor control and perceptual skills may be delayed or inhibited as a result. This condition is said to be corrected by a programme of exercises designed to inhibit primary reflexes and thus develop and improve balance, co-ordination, etc. For further information see: (CranioSacral Therapy/Massage)

Eye-Related Therapies

Scotopic Sensitivity (Irlen) Syndrome – Irlen lenses (colour tinted) or filters have been found to reduce or eliminate glare which causes some readers to experience perceptual difficulties. Further information is available from:

Search4 Visual Stress Clinic, Kilrea Health Centre, 36 Garvagh Road, Kilrea BT51 5QP.  Tel: 0844 5769226. Email:


Auditory Therapies

There are some therapies which claim to improve auditory abilities:

Nutritional Supplements / Diet

Essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils) are said to help maintain eye and brain function. These essential fatty acids are found in oily fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and in vegetable oils and seeds (e.g. sunflower, flax, pumpkin and sesame). Nutritional supplements are also available in pharmacies and health food stores.
For further information see:

Others Therapies and Therapy Centres

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DAI activities are part-funded by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 administered by Pobal), the Special Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills, SOLAS and KWETB.