Brainduck’s Weblog
Psychology geek tries to explain a few things.

An open invitation to Dr Rutherford of Dore

Dear Dr Rutherford,

We have both been asked by the forum moderators at Dore Talk to move debate elsewhere.

I understand you were also less than happy at having your reply to the Guardian ‘Bad Science‘ article mentioning my blog deleted by the newspaper moderators on grounds of libel, as was I – I’d far rather debate with facts than lawyers & there’s a lot there I’d enjoy answering.

Therefore could I suggest that we continue our interesting discussion on Dore Talk in the comments section below this posting?

Since your Guardian post described me as ‘Bloggers … hide behind anonymity and make comments which are ill informed, based on limited knowledge, biased and have therefore been very damaging to Dore’, I do hope that you will find it worth your while to correct a few of the most painfully glaring of what must surely be my many mistakes on this blog. Pick anything you like, if I’ve been wrong I’ll be only too happy to correct it. It shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find something, I am after all an undergrad & therefore lower in the academic pecking order than a lab rat, and since you think I’ve been so ‘damaging’ then it must surely be worth your while to spend a few minutes setting me right?

To start this off, I’ve re-posted your Guardian comment in the comments section of this post. I promise not to delete anything you write (except for swearwords which tend to mess up my access) & the comments on here are un-moderated (except a standard spam-filter). If you’d rather have this discussion elsewhere on the same terms, please do suggest it. Anyone else with an interest in the research is of course very welcome to join in the discussion, though please be aware I’m aiming for more of a no-holds-barred academic debate than sharing personal anecdotes, otherwise I’d leave it on Dore Talk.

I’ve posted this invitation on Dore Talk, if anyone knows of other ways to bring this to Dr Rutherford’s attention, please do pass them on.

Thank you,


10 Responses to “An open invitation to Dr Rutherford of Dore”

  1. This is what Dr Rutherford wrote in the comments section of the Guardian, in response to the Bad Science column mentioning this & other blogs.
    To my annoyance the original has been deleted by Guardian moderators, probably on grounds of libel. Since it’s mostly libelling me if it is, and I think that arguing with lawyers is Seriously Not Cool, I’ve reproduced it in full below. The original didn’t have any paragraphs either.


    May 31, 2008 5:38 AM

    Ben I refer you to my comments to your article of last week on many of
    the issues you again raise here. You are right Dore has been the
    target of many bloggers who hide behind their anonymity and make
    comments which are ill informed, based on limited knowledge, biased
    and have therefore been very damaging to Dore.
    From the start Dore attempted to seek and have published independent
    evidence for its programme which was earlier found to show very
    promising effects on the symptoms of dyslexia. The Dore organisation
    was not involved in designing nor conducting these independent
    studies. This was left to the scientists who were engaged to do this.
    These scientists were allowed full freedom to publish their findings
    whatever the outcome. This was a very bold move based on Dore’s faith
    in the power of their intervention. One scientist was paid expenses to
    conduct the research as is the norm in the research industry, the
    other did not. This research underwent the full scrutiny of the peer
    review process where totally anonymous academics within the field of
    the speciality rigorously examine the evidence and conclusions. The
    studies on Dore, because it was a new and innovative programme,
    underwent the most severe of examinations and demands of the process
    and thus some very solid data was excluded. For example there is a
    suggestion that there was never a control group to compare the Dore
    treated children to. However the reality was that there was a very
    solid control group, that of the study children’s peer group in the
    same classes at the same school receiving the same educational input.
    They only difference being that the Dore group were shown to be
    underperforming in a range of skills which are linked to dyslexia. It
    was found that the Dore group exceeded the progress in all measures
    when compared to their ‘normal’ same aged peers. I believe such
    improvement when compared to normal learning controls is unprecedented
    in the literature. This research was presented by Professor David
    Reynolds at the BDA conference in 2004. However because of the extreme
    response to an earlier research study the reviewers of this study felt
    that this should not be a part of the publication because the peer
    control group were not matched for ability. This argument seems
    counterintuitive as one would expect a control group who did not have
    any evidence of learning difficulties to substantially exceed the
    progress of one which was matched for learning difficulties and so
    would have significantly reduced any impact of the improvements seen
    in the Dore treated children. Most studies in dyslexia have to use
    ability matched groups because improvements of intervention are
    usually so limited that they would not show any significant impact of
    treatment. The fact that the Dore treated children showed
    significantly better progress even when such a control group is
    testament to the powerful effects of the Dore programme.
    Unfortunately Dore has been forced robustly defend itself against
    continuous biased and inappropriate criticism. For example you mention
    Professor Bishop’s article. The piece is very biased in as much as it
    deliberately excludes all the research evidence which showed the
    positive effects of Dore and focussed only on the less impressive
    improvements. This commentary was allowed to be published without
    referral to the authors of the original study on Dore (Reynolds D and
    Nicolson RI 2003) for rebuttal of any claims. The Dore study authors
    were understandably incensed and severely criticised the editor of
    this journal and demanded a response to Bishop. It took several months
    to get permission to do this and this rebuttal has now been accepted
    for publication, unfortunately too late to prevent the significant
    damage caused. I am sure Professor Reynolds would be happy to supply
    anyone with a copy of this response.
    You mention PsychDuck who has spend a year supposedly exposing the
    Dore research. You are correct she is a psychology undergraduate at
    York University. Strange that because it is this very department of
    this very University which has been the source of all the criticism of
    the studies conducted so far on the Dore Programme. One has to ask
    whether this year of her studies (paid for by the UK taxpayer) was
    devoted entirely to developing a blog site intended to destabilise
    Dore or whether this was actually an official undergraduate project.
    No doubt she will get honours for her endeavours. These York academics
    who were supposedly so ‘incensed’ by the independent studies conducted
    on Dore and had no option but to resign from the board of the dyslexia
    journal are all inter- related. These were York Psychology Professors
    Maggie Snowling and Charles Hulme who are married to each other;
    Professor Peter Hatcher who has worked for years and published with
    Snowling and Hulme; Hatcher’s wife Janet who co-wrote the Dyslexia
    Action (formerly Dyslexia Institute) organisations research with Dr
    John Rack who is also research director of Dyslexia Action but has
    offices in the psychology dept at York University. They all support a
    specific theory of dyslexia and a vigorously defended methodology with
    which to treat it. This methodology is used by Dyslexia Action, a
    charity which charges dyslexic people up to £2500 every year for
    treatments. Snowling, known to be vociferously critical of all other
    potential theories and interventions not just Dore, happens to be the
    only Honorary member of the Guild of Dyslexia Action. Readers might
    like to search the Dyslexia Action website to examine their own
    research. This charity has been around for 25 years and only recently
    performed a study on its specific intervention. This study was
    designed by York University academics, conducted by Hatcher and Rack
    mentioned above and never peer reviewed nor published in any journal.
    The apparent reason being that the results were poor and did not reach
    significance. Even more damning was that those who were showing signs
    of significant dyslexic symptoms (for which the Dyslexia Action
    tutoring is designed specifically for) responded the least. This
    treatment is still offered to dyslexia sufferers around the UK today
    and they continue to pay for it year in and year out.
    Your comments on the fact that these bloggers have SpLDs and have
    somehow overcome them and are successful exposes how little you know
    about these conditions. For every bright and intelligent person who
    can manipulate compensatory strategies to deal with their disability
    there are 100 who cannot. It is offensive, even from those sufferers
    who have managed to compensate for their difficulties, to suggest that
    such conditions are somehow a gift. For the majority this is not the
    case. For every Richard Branson there are many thousands languishing
    in prisons or low paid jobs who have suffered for their disabilities.
    Unless the stranglehold on this industry by those with vested
    interests are removed to allow new science and innovative treatments
    to be tried and tested then another generation of our children will
    suffer the same consequences.’

  2. I’m glad that you published this Duck as I was unable to for obvious reasons.

    As a student at York of the department in question, could you do something that would make this debate clearer?

    Request permission to publish the Dyslexia Action research paper (as mention by Dr Rutherford) here on your web site.

    It would be very interesting to provide that research with the same level of scrutiny that Dore’s research has recevied.

    By doing this we will be able to established if Dr Rutherford’s claims are correct or not. If the research does show a strong benefit then the rest of Dr Rutherford’s accusations are clearly sour grapes.

    But if Dyslexia Action’s research is poor, then it makes Dr Snowling’s et al criticism of Dore look very suspect.

    By publishing Dyslexia Action’s paper where everyone can see it, this debate can be moved on and hopefully a little bit more scientific understanding can be gained.

    Brainduck, will you be able to do this?

  3. Chris,

    Given my lecturers don’t know I write this, asking them if I can publish something on here will be tricky! I’m happy to see what I can get hold of though – please can you give me more details about what this mysterious unpublished study is, so I know what I’m asking for?

    From reading your comment though two things jump out:

    DA’s methodology doesn’t rely on just one trial. Unlike Dore, there’s been lots of independent work done just on phonics (see for example the review Dr Rutherford keeps citing in the Dore Talk discussion!). Phonics is also not the only area of interest. If one trial showed no effect of treatment, I’d want to put that in context of other robust research suggesting the basic approach is reasonable, and wonder if there was something particular to that trial that gave those results. Dore just doesn’t have the breadth of evidence to allow this.

    DA don’t claim to ‘cure’ dyslexia in quite the same extravagant way that Dore do. There isn’t the same ‘nearly everyone who does this will be guaranteed to be ‘normal” spin to the marketing, and I’ve not seen endless cute anecdotes trotted out. All they are saying is that practicing specific skills will make you better at specific skills, which is a rather less complicated & controversial claim than Dore make. If Dore were a bit more straightforward about how they presented their claims and the evidence for them, I’d be less bothered – I’m happy for people to try ‘experimental’ treatment, so long as it’s made clear that’s what it is.

    However, I completely agree that not trying to publish research is unfair to the participants who gave their time for it and to those who could benefit from it. If you can give me more details of what to ask for, I will certainly give it a try.

  4. I’ve deleted a comment above which was essentially just an advertisement.

    Louis, would you mind making it clear that you work for Learning Breakthrough when you post on here please? Also, I’ve no general objection to you posting about LB, but I’d prefer it if it was as a relevant part of the discussion, rather than simply extolling the virtues of your particular treatment without touching on the matter at hand.

  5. I too would be grateful for the publisghing of this research- if indeed it exists. I have followed the DORE saga for some time after considering it for some time I rejected it,my children however do attend Dyslexia Action .
    I have met a couple of parents who evangelise about DORE, so sad for their children that they consider them ‘cured’ meaning their struggles in the future are likely to be dismissed as deliberate laziness.
    Thank you for the effort you put into this. It is appreciated.

  6. I too have been folowing the saga over the last few months and have nothing but praise for the work that all the bloggers have put in to show the real face of Dore. I am an ex employee and am not suprised that Rutherford has not continued his debate here as it now seems all the rats have deserted the now sunk ship. How the company managed to peddle its snake oil for so long just shows that in this country if you have enough money you can get away with murder. Wynfred Dore seems to have gone to ground and the ex CEO Bob Clarke who was apparently in the final stages of a court case and was going to expose the whole company has disappered completley. Hopefully it will be the last we hear from either of thoses grubby little men and suffers will find some real treatment elsewhere for a fraction of the cost

  7. […] can read all of Dr Rutherford’s comments here: An open invitation to Dr Rutherford of Dore […]

  8. My concerns are that so called experts with their own research areas and funding, whether connected with Dyslexia Action, University of York school or otherwise are stiffling useful scientific work and treatment for dyslexics etc in a tirade of hostile attacks and smears, antagonistic towards business plans; dressed as scientific scrutiny.

    As a secondary teacher for 20 years with diagnosed often statemented dyslexics in lessons; I can state the Rose report, phonetical approaches or SEN classroom assistants have done little to improve the dyslexic condition; solely providing a gravy train of crutches whereby learning is accomodated between Yr7 to Y13. Pupils in Yr13 still have scribes/readers for them in exams. I find the whole UK approach and reaction to DDAT programmes totally depressing and repressive.

    I have a younger brother, heavily dyslexic, 30s. He undertook a Dore Programme 3 years ago as an adult; his literacy and writing quality spiralled. Instead of short scrawled Christmas cards every year, I receive long well constructed more fluent letters.

    My thoughts are the whole debate should be solely on outcome of several approaches, where dyslexics are placed first, not causuatities to the intellectual battles of rivial acedemics/experts. It’s too early to scrutinise for two reasons. 1) Anti DDATs don’t have sufficient evidence that Dore Programmes don’t work. 2) Anti DDAT’s own research directions aren’t entirely successful by outcome- certainly from what I’ve witnessed at the secondary school coal face in the last 5 years via Dyslexic Action.

    As a teacher and having a dyslexic brother I can easily identify dyslexia on the spectrum; yet faced with very concerned parents at parents evening, referring to the SENCO; I have little confidence the Rose report recommendations will tackle the causes; just provide yet more learning crutches (laptops/SEN assistants in phonetics/scribes) for dyslexics, whilst wasting millions of money on pointless research gravy train, OFSTED tick boxes.

    So essentially this saga is a sad professional struggle between DDAT/Dore supporters and the phonetics based Dyslexic Action; where dyslexic kids and parents are the victims. Certainly the latter seem intent on dismissing pluralism and promising experimentalism. Viagra trials had better success and support at Pzier and some recent misleading government adverts seem to have less science supporting them.

  9. Rob, thanks for an interesting comment.
    You’ve obviously got a lot to say about this & useful background to contribute from, how about putting up your own blog explaining the evidence for the Dore programme?

    If you’d like to reply on here, could you please go into more specific detail on the research? You haven’t actually referred to anything in your post suggesting that the Dore programme leads to better outcomes for people with dyslexia.

    What I’d like is for the research to come first. That’s what will show what works to help people with dyslexia. Unfortunately, the Dore programme does not have good research evidence suggesting it works. If you disagree please do post your analysis of the published data, I’m always happy to discuss the data.

    FYI I’m not ‘anti DDAT’, I just don’t think they’ve yet come anywhere near proving the claims they make. Attacking other approaches to dyslexia (none of which I promote on here) is irrelevant in assessing the quality of Dore research.

    My only association with Dyslexia Action is through having been an undergrad in Psychology at the University of York, and since I graduated in summer 2008 I’ve not been working or formally studying Educational Psychology anywhere. I’ve never been employed or otherwise received money for anything to do with dyslexia.

    FWIW as someone with an SpLD (dyspraxia) I’m happy with the assistive technology approach, and phonics are not relevant for me.

  10. […] 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…, and British libel law being pants (please sign their petition), then I still can’t put my […]

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