On Friday, June 17th we were treated to a very informative talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski of the UCC Applied Psychology department. In his talk, Marcin discussed the main kinds of childhood learning difficulties, what was generally known about their diagnosis and treatment, and the different approaches used to address these difficulties. In particular, he looked at Brain Gym, a popular but pseudoscientific approach that claims it can help children with learning difficulties. He contrasted this with more conventional, science based approaches. He ended his talk with a baloney detector kit – rules of thumb to consider when evaluating potential treatment options.
His talk was wide ranging and of interest to anyone who has children, or works with children with learning challenges.
You can now listen to a podcast of his talk below. In addition, we will be providing further reading materials and references in the coming days.
Science and Pseudoscience in the Treatment of Special Educational Needs
Friday 17th June at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork
Some children experience significant difficulties in aspects of their psychological development, making it hard for them to achieve their full potential inside the mainstream school curriculum. Those developmental difficulties can be elusive—hard to diagnose or even define precisely—and hard to treat. Naturally, there is no shortage of those who claim to have found the solution—wonderfully simple and effective— and who try to sell it to (often desperate) parents, teachers, psychologists or speech therapists. What these consumers need is the ability to critically evaluate the therapeutic products that are being marketed to them.
In this talk, Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski of the UCC Applied Psychology department will offer a brief overview of special educational needs—their symptoms and causes—as currently understood by the mainstream scientific community. The talk will cover subjects such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. He will then suggest some rules of thumb that will allow us to evaluate the competing therapeutic proposals, helping to differentiate those that are plausible from those that are almost certainly a waste of time.
The boundaries between evidence-based therapy and its dubious alternatives can be fuzzy. Even bona fide scientists are often guilty of over-selling the genuine remedies they offer. Dr. Szczerbinski will discuss the effectiveness of widely known therapies, such as Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym as part of the talk, questioning how effective they are in reality.
About The Speaker: Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski is a psychologist, a graduate of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, and University College London. He has taught psychology and research methods at the University of Sheffield, before moving to the UCC earlier this year. He researches developmental dyslexia, among other things.