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.