Food and Behaviour Research

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Survey of complementary and alternative therapies used by children with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia).

Bull L. (2009) Int J Lang Commun Disord.  44(2): 224-35. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here


BACKGROUND: Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty affecting up to 10% of British children that is associated with a wide range of cognitive, emotional and physical symptoms. In the absence of effective conventional treatment, it is likely that parents will seek complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to try and help their children. However, little is known about the level of CAM use or the type of CAM used by dyslexic children.

AIMS: This study assessed: (1) the lifetime use of CAM by dyslexic children, (2) the role of socio-demographic factors in CAM use by dyslexic children, (3) parental attitudes towards CAM use in the treatment of dyslexia, and (4) how parents' understanding of dyslexia affects CAM use.

METHODS & PROCEDURES: A semi-structured questionnaire-based survey of parents of 148 dyslexic school children was undertaken. The children had been recruited to a university research programme investigating the effectiveness of a complementary therapy for the treatment of learning difficulties.

OUTCOMES & RESULTS: Lifetime use of CAM was 55.4% (82 children). The most popular CAM approaches were nutritional supplements/special diets (63 children) followed by homeopathy (29 children) and osteopathy/chiropractic manipulation (29 children). Socio-demographic factors did not predict CAM use. In total, parents of 101 dyslexic children reported that an interest in CAM for the treatment of dyslexia was based on their preference for CAM for their families more generally. Parents who thought that dyslexia was a 'medical/health' disorder were more likely to have used CAM with their children (p<0.01) than other parents in this survey.

CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Educational and health professionals should be aware that many dyslexic children use CAM. Parents of dyslexic children should be provided with evidence-based advice to help them make informed therapeutic choices.