The Study Design
The Education Authority was delighted to collaborate on the study
with the Dyslexia Research Trust - an Oxford-based charity that has
done much research into the causes of learning conditions, and Dr
Alex Richardson, senior fellow of Mansfield College at Oxford
University, whose specialty is on how fatty acids can help with
learning conditions. As it can take several weeks before fatty-acid
supplementation show results, the collaborators opted for a simple
design: a six-month-long trial throughout the 2002 school year, with
a one-way cross-over at the mid-point.
- Nearly 200 children were initially identified. All of the
children had some difficulties with coordination - many had
additional problems with concentration and learning.
- A total of 12 schools participated, and crucially, the schools
were to have a direct role in administering the treatment.
- The capsules were to be randomised, that is, assigned on the
basis of a code that none of the researchers were able to access.
As we were dealing with very inquisitive children, we had to
ensure there was no detectable difference between placebo and
- The capsules also had to be double-blinded, meaning that those
taking the capsules and those giving out the capsules had to be
'blind' to which participants were on active and which on placebo.
- For the second three months of the trial, all would be on
active. Under this design, when the data is analysed, it may be
possible to see a response in those under active treatment in the
first three months, that would be mirrored by the placebo group,
when they switched to active for the second three months.
Recruiting and organising the trial was a major undertaking, but
equally important was being very clear about what we were looking
We decided that we should greatly extend the various
outcome measures so that we could advance the research into many
different directions. Dr Portwood has a particular interest in
Dyspraxia, while Dr Richardson's research has focused on Dyslexia
and ADHD. A comprehensive assessment of each child was completed.
Among the measures we assessed were:
- The Wechsler IQ assessment, which has 12 subtests looking at
verbal, non-verbal and organisational skills, and distractibility
- A Motor assessment.
- Four subtests, including manual dexterity, ball skills, static
balance and dynamic balance
- Visual memory
- Auditory memory
- Perceptual skills
- Breath Test
- Excitability/Hyperactivity: Teacher Assessment
- Excitability/Hyperactivity: Parental Assessment