All in the Mind Conference September 2014
Four members of Dyslexia Positive attended the annual conference of The Developmental Practitioners’ Association (DPA) Conference in Wolverhampton in September. The DPA is an organisation of practitioners and parents who share a common interest in developmental therapy for children and adults. More details can be found at: http://www.brainshift.co.uk/
The four speakers were; Professor Julian (Joe) Elliott of Durham University; Mark Menezes, a behavioural optometrist based at Aston University and in private practice; Pete Griffin, a retired headteacher now delivering assessment and “Open Doors Therapy” for children with “neuromotor immaturity” and Lynn Stammers, an expert in therapeutic play using Theraplay® Principles.
I guess most of us came to hear what Professor Elliott, co-author of “The Dyslexia Debate,” (a book reviewed by me on this site in May) had to say. However, in fact, the most interest and information was conveyed by the other three speakers. Professor Elliott makes it his business to stir up controversy (I think for genuine reasons and not just to sell his book or promote his TV appearances). His style was to challenge us to think, but then not really listen to people’s genuine responses. His slide show was far too long and disjointed for the time allocated. Unlike the book, which was exceptionally well referenced, I found the presentation light and far less well justified. In particular he offended practitioners in the audience who also do research, by dismissing any research that does not reach the gold standard of huge sample sizes, double-blind protocols and acceptance in the mainstream journals.
By contrast, Mark Menezes gave a much less forthright talk, but impressed me with his quiet and well-reasoned account of what behavioural optometry can offer to children and adults who have barriers to their learning. Mark advocates programmes of eye training as well as specialist prescriptions for lenses, and gave an insight into improvements this can support. You can find out more at: www.babo.co.uk and www.visiontraining.org.uk
Pete Griffin now knows that what teachers labelled in him as “late development” was probably neuromotor immaturity. This seems to me to have a lot in common with what we call dyspraxia, though no doubt his definition and symptomatology would be far broader. He has immense passion for his current career providing imaginative interventions in schools. Despite his research not meeting Prof Elliott’s gold standard for control samples, Pete enthused us with the massive improvements in literacy and well-being engendered in the children he worked with. His techniques include work on posture, balance and coordination.
Along the same theme, Lynn Stammers provided moving case study evidence of the impact of her play therapy has had on very troubled children.
For me, inspiration comes from accounts of changing the world one person at a time, rather than large scale attempts to change opinions or terminology used in a sector already fraught with controversy and public sector funding cuts. Sadly, we all know who the media and government policy makers will tend to listen to.
Thanks to Janice Graham and the team at DPA for putting together a great conference.
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