I was initially disappointed that the keynote speaker for the conference on Sept 8th, Al Galaburda, was unable to come at the last moment. His pioneering brain research helped us understand an enormous amount about the differences between the structure of dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains. However, Alex Richardson from Oxford, who stood in for him, put a (slightly) more practical emphasis on the somewhat impenetrable presentation he had sent. I still only understood a small proportion of the talk on ‘Dyslexia in the Genomic Era’ though.
But what did make absolute sense was the connection Dr Richardson made between diet and intelligence: ‘They are what we feed them’. I’m certain that everyone at the conference will recall with startling clarity her short film. Two rats were placed in a pool with a small block above the water on which was some food. The first swam directly to the block and ate the food – it took less than 5 seconds I’d guess. After about 30 seconds (felt like a lifetime to the viewers) the second was finally retrieved from the water. It had flailed randomly around, swimming to and fro frantically, becoming more and more exhausted. Both had identical genes, identical experience, identical environment – except for one thing: the first rat had had fish oils in its diet. It really was the most extraordinary insight into the effect a good diet has on learning. I went out immediately and bought vast quantities of Cod Liver Oil!
The rest of the day was enlightening too. Pamela Deponio showed parts of the Dyslexia at transition pack – due to be sent to schools very soon – a very useful DVD and website providing support in the crucial P7/S1 period. My talk went without any technical glitches – much to my surprise – and I even kept to time!
A good conference – if you’re interested in reading more about it or in going next September keep a look out on the Dyslexia Scotland website