The Dore website dore.co.uk has been redesigned recently. In the process they seem to have ‘lost’ all mention of the ‘Balsall Common’ study (Reynolds, Nicholson, Hambly, 2003; Reynolds & Nicholson, 2006), which though heavily criticised was the only research on Dore published in a peer-reviewed journal. They also seem to have dropped the various bits of ‘research’ which were either unpublished or press-released through such august journals as the Leamington Courier. The research which Wynford Dore said he’d be concentrating on funding, after Dore went broke and he brought back the assets (but not liabilities) for a fraction of the cost, seems to have disappeared – I’d be glad to hear if there’s been any progress here.
Prof Nicholson of Sheffield university carried out the ‘Balsall Common’ study and is a key figure in Dore’s early research and the cerebellar approach to learning difficulties. He has been admirably honest about the limitations of the approach, including issues with using the ‘dyslexia screening test’, which he developed, and refusing to endorse claims of a ‘miracle cure’. Prof Nicholson seems to have been dropped from Dore’s publicity machine.
Dr Roy Rutherford, a GP who had been very vocal in lending ‘medical backing’ to the Dore programme, seems to have also been absent from Dore and setting up his own ‘Autism Treatment and Prevention Centre‘. Holfordwatch also discovered that Rutherford withdrew from his supposed PhD researching Dore at Sheffield university ‘without completing any substantive research’.
The only research on the new Dore website is a well-hidden link-dump of paper titles, which seem to have been put there by someone who’s done a keyword search without reading and understanding the papers – some of them don’t relate to cerebellar theories of learning disabilities at all, and none specifically look at the Dore programme.
Meanwhile, Dore’s expensive PR company, Phil Hall Associates, are pushing a human-interest, celebrity-backed media drive. This has seen them get slots on several regional news programmes and local papers, where Dore have been able to deliver their message completely unchallenged, despite in one case my telephoning the TV station before transmission.
Phil Hall have also been using Scott Quinnell, the rugby player who brought Dore from Kenny Logan and Wynford Dore, for free national publicity for the Dore programme. Worryingly, the BBC, ITV, and other news organisations either don’t know, haven’t checked, or don’t care that Scott owns the company he’s being given airtime to promote. I thought I was cynical about mainstream media, but this hidden advertising during news and sports programmes by supposedly reputable and trustworthy organisations has shocked me.
To summarise, Dore have had to give up trying to pretend their programme is ‘scientifically proven’, but they can pay for clever enough PR that this does not seem to matter any more. But do not despair. The Advertising Standards Authority have upheld a complaint about Dore, agreeing that Dore could not come up with evidence to support its claims to treat dyslexia.
As neither the first nor second study referred to Asperger’s syndrome and only two participants in the first study had dyspraxia, we considered that the evidence was inadequate to support claims to treat those conditions. With regards to dyslexia and ADHD, we did not consider that the studies were sufficiently robust to support the treatment claims for those conditions, and we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
Hooray! Go & read the whole thing, it’s a few paragraphs of clear demolition of Dore’s arguments. Holfordwatch, who made the original complaint, have a discussion of the ruling, and Podblack has covered the background.
So: the ASA agrees that Dore has no evidence to show it works, Dore themselves have pretty much taken their ball and gone home on the research issue, but because of Dore’s unfortunate tendency to reach for lawyers, Dr Rutherford’s admission that I’ve only not been sued yet because they can’t find me, and British libel law being pants (please sign their petition), then I still can’t put my real name to telling you so. This is a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation.
By the way, I’m now using Twitter for short links & comments to subjects of mind-geek interest – @brainduck