Monday, 2 June 2008

The end?

As my last posting sort-of suggests, we lost a sense of progress for a few months and I couldn't be bothered to post anything.

But recent Dore-ish developments make me feel that I want this story to have some sort of beginning, middle and end; it only seems fair.

The lethargy that set in from January continued for another couple of months. We continued to do the exercises in a fairly desultory fashion, 'forgetting' a session or single exercise maybe three times a week. The exercises were all 'hard' -apparently we were on the hardest level - but continually finding tasks difficult and not getting easier is pretty wearing. But on assessment days scores continued to improve, increasing the feeling that the end was nigh.

Then I started to get more positive feedback from school. Son's teacher, who had been very negative only a few months earlier, commented on a marked improvement in his concentration and application. A teaching assistant who has known him for years (and who didn't know he was on the Dore programme) stopped me to tell me I must be delighted in the 'improvements' in him this year. And son himself seemed generally more settled at school and even, dare I say it, no longer completely uninterested in school work.

This feedback helped spur me on for one last push and to keep going to the end.
Our last assessment was last week - and it was a disaster! His balance scores had all slipped right back again - back into the 'red' again. What was going on? Well I had a clear theory. Wii Fit.

I had bought Wii Fit for the family about a month earlier and son had spent a lot of time working almost exclusively on the 'balance' activities - because they are the ones most like games. You might think that this would be positive - but all the 'balance' activities on Wii Fit are based on visual stimuli when son's Dore exercises were very much about learning to stop depending on visual clues - with which he was very much over-compensating.

So depressing though this was, I felt there was a way forward. We agreed to slog back for a re-test in 2 weeks time rather than being forced to drop back a level - and there was no question in my mind that Wii Fit would be banned for those two weeks at least. (The Dore centre staff reported back on my concerns about Wii Fit- but HQ said that the game was too new to have any data on similar findings. I now imagine that they also had other, more pressing matters weighing on them!)

And then, just a couple of days later, we heard that the Dore Programme nationally was to be suspended.

Since then I've read a very shabby, ill-informed article in The Times implying that the programme was an exercise in quackery - appended to which, a series of heart-felt responses - most of which from parents who need no half-baked journalism to tell them that the programme helped their children as nothing else had.

My own feelings?

I don't think that W. Dore is a charlatan or that the programme is quackery. I think there is a great deal of sense in the premise and the programme. I think some of the claims were over-stated - but perhaps this is more by aforementioned half-baked journalism than by W. D. himself. I think that the year and a quarter that son has been on the programme has soon the most dramatic period of improvement in his balance, concentration, fine-motor skills and social sensitivity. He is now a settled and happy child who still has some learning difficulties. I might be wrong, but I would say that these difficulties are now at the 'right' end of a normal range.

I met only staff at the centre who seemed determined to to their best by my son. I saw no evidence of high staff-turnover, which would be an obvious indicator of employess who did not believe in what they were doing. No, in every case staff were kind, committed and in no hurry to take money off me or to rush us through the system - quite the reverse!

I don't know how much longer we will be able to sustain the commitment required to keep up the exercises with all the uncertainty in the air. Not long, I feel. But that's OK. I think we have got from the programme pretty well what we can and I hope, as I have heard, that progress will continue even after the end.

I'm glad we did it. Son will be glad too, one day. I am grateful to the staff and I wish them all well. I commiserate with those who had only just started the programme. I hope the good of the programme is not lost and that it becomes possible to configure access to it such that this is based on need - not on parental income.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Nearly a year

It's been nearly a year of the Dore programme and it's probably indicative of present state of mind that I haven't posted anything here for over 2 months.

The last review went well in terms of tests. It was the first review since the introduction of the mental tasks and all the results stayed comfortably in the green.

Yet this time it all felt a bit meaningless because I've lost any sense of making progress. I thought that this was the point at which I would really begin to notice improvements in concentration and perhaps in mental flexibility. But nothing. Things remain pretty balanced in the playground with his friendships and his writing and spelling remain 'dreadful' as opposed to 'abysmal'. But not what you would call any improvement.

Both he and I were definitely running out of steam when it came to the exercises and then over Christmas I got ill - the flu-ey thing - and for nearly 10 days I wasn't up to the effort of bullying him into activity. This was very depressing so we had a chat and he agreed to take on a bit more responsibility for them. And, to his credit, he has. We've got back on track and both feel slightly more positive, as though we can limp along for a bit longer. But I wonder if we've just about come to the end of this particular road?

Next review tomorrow.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

"Well done"

That's what the sticker says. Yes, it was great that this time the tests confirmed my instincts that changes are beginning to take place. All the results were very well 'into the green' so on to the next challenge.
We now move into 'mental tasks' and something different happened today which makes me think that maybe it's in the normal order of things that son's social skills seem to be sharpening up whilst his concentration is as poor as ever. As we are now moving on to the mental challenges, two new sections of questions were added to the standard questionnaire. I laughted out loud as I read the questions and confidently awarded son the lowest possible mark:they were ALL about the ability to concentrate, focus and keep still! This surely implies that it is from now on that we might reasonably expect some progress in this area?
Anyway, much heartened all round.

Before and after?

I thought I would try posting a message just before the next review - and then one straight after. It's 9.20 in the morning and in a few minutes we'll venture off to Bedford and the Dore Centre.

We picked ourselves off pretty well after the gloom that set in last visit. Somehow the exercises weren't quite as tedious as I had feared and we just got on with them. But probably more important is the fact that son has now settled into year 5 at school, new teacher, new routines - and seems to have had fewer problems than in previous years.

When we started this programme I said to myself that the main success factor would be that son can have a bettter time in the playground - and this is definitely the case now. He plays happily with his friends, seems better able to compromise and seems less clingy and dependent on one or two individuals. He still has real problems concentrating, focusing on work and organising himself - but there's still lots of time. It's strange: I would have thought that the effects of the programme would show themselves firstly on the cognitive processes (being able to structure and focus) and only later on the social responses (being able to work co-operatively with other children). Instead it appears to be the other way round.

Now lets see if the tests back any of this up ...

Thursday, 6 September 2007


Well the next review was very disappointing. Despite the effort of managing to keep the exercises going throughout the disruption of the summer holidays, son's scores went decisively backwards this time! The effects of this on morale are clear. Of course we're demoralised - at least, I am; it's hard to know what son is thinking. And it means that the next book of exercises is almost identical to the last two and we're BORED.

Why might the tests have gone so badly when we do the exercises unfailingly and he doesn't find them particularly challenging? Well I feel a bit guilty because he had had a very late night before the review. The Harry Potter audio-book we were listening to was just too gripping and I suppose he had a bit less sleep than usual. But would this be enough for such a clear step backwards?

I also wonder if anything else he does in his life might counter the stimulation of the exercises. Could it be that the computer games he so loves are busy stimulating other bits of his brain and diluting or nullifying the stimulation to the cerebellum?

His time on the computer is rationed (although he gets a generous allowance of time) and it's hard to cut this down because it's the one thing that gives him satisfaction and self-esteem; he knows he is really good at them and it gives him some credit in the playground too.

Monday, 23 July 2007

All green

The third review, last week, was mixed. On the balance board all the measures were in the green at last - although there is still a high level of inconsistency in the scores. And there was actually little overall improvement noted. However, son had been ill earlier in the week and still wasn't quite over it, which might have affected things a little. So the exercises we've received this time aren't too different from the ones we had before. They are also talking in terms of a 2-year programme rather than 1 year, as at the start, which is rather daunting, but at least proves (since all payment was up front) their commitment to do their best by son.

On a brighter note we just might be seeing some changes on the behaviour front. At school they seem happier with him. He appears more settled, more content, less frustrated and confused. Although he still needs adult supervision to get him started on tasks, he doesn't drift off-task the moment the adult walks away. And - most importantly to me - he seems to be getting on better in the playground.

Of course this can be ascribed to different things. He's growing up. In the summer term he knows his class teacher and her routines better. The Head Teacher had intervened to sort out some of the playground issues. So perhaps the test will be in September, with a new teacher and new routines. If he can cope with these and keep calm and happy in the playground, I shall really begin to feel we're making progress.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent encouraging words; it really helps. So I'll finish be sending my very best wishes to you and your children.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

We've had the second reveiw now, and the improvement in his performance on the tests is quite dramatic. As predictied, after an initial dip in all-round performance, the dodgy 'vesibular' score has surged up close to normal levels while the others senses seem to be learning to work with this newly awakened team-mate.

All this is undeniable. I watch hawk-eyed as the Dore staff put my son through his paces, looking for signs that would account for the improvement; are they rejecting unfavourable results?; are they skewing the scores through the instructions they give? And, no - they aren't. Tests are performed fairly - and if anything there is less encouragement now to son to really concentrate on the tests - not more. Could it be that son is simply getting better at doing the tests (eg balance board) because he's done them before and knows what to expect? Possible, I suppose - but not very likely because he only does the tests a few times and then has a 6-week gap between.

So it seems undeniable to me that all the hard work is paying off in terms of physical response - and this is supported by my own observation as he does the test. His balance is dramatically better; he can whip through exercises that make me dizzy when I try them for a few seconds. He is getting more co-ordinated.

BUT what I haven't seen yet is any real spilling over of this physical improvement into behaviour. His concentration in class seems much the same - BAD. His new good handwriting is still reserved for concentrated bursts when working with an adult - not for normal school work. He still struggles with 'thoughts-to-paper' and getting his mind to pin-down a Maths question, stay on task, spell a simple word, organise himself.

But 4 months isn't long. (Is that all it's been? I've counted 3 times, unable to believe it!). I'm very glad that the tests vindicated our hard-work and showed big change. I'm glad he works so hard at the tests. It shows he CAN apply himself to tasks that are often tedious and uncomfortable for no immediate reward except praise and self respect. I expect this shouldn't be under-valued in itself.