South African educator René Engelbrecht worked with a group of 20 Afrikaans-speaking pupils in grade 5-7 from a school for learners with special needs, to study the impact of the Davis program in a controlled setting. These children had all previously been diagnosed with a reading disorder and had an average to above-average intelligence quotient. These children were randomly assigned to a control group (10) and an experimental group (10).
The participants from both groups were then pre-evaluated by means of four measuring instruments to determine their reading and spelling levels, and parents, as well as educators, were asked to complete psychological questionnaires beforehand so that the participants’ psychological functioning could be ascertained.
The participants of the experimental group were then subjected to an intervention programme based on certain Davis techniques. It comprised of seven weekly sessions of two hours each. The control group received no intervention. After the intervention, the participants of both groups were again evaluated by means of the same four measuring instruments and the parents and educators were asked to complete the psychological questionnaire once again.
Engelbrecht worked with the experimental group using Davis methods as described in the book The Gift of Dyslexia. This included Davis Orientation Counseling, Davis Symbol Mastery, Davis reading exercises, and Coordination Therapy [Koosh Ball exercises].
After the programme was completed, all 20 participants were retested and the parents had to fill out the questionnaire again. The results were analysed by means of the Mann-Whitney U test and the Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test and in three of the four reading and spelling tests, significant positive results (p <. 05) were obtained as compared to the control group. There had also been an improvement as far as the fourth test was concerned. Although this improvement was not scientifically significant it was an improvement compared to the control group. As far as the psychological test is concerned, the participants in the experimental group significantly improved in 12 of the 17 subtests. The control group also improved in one of these subtests and therefore this one could not be taken into account. It, however, left an improvement in 10 subtests.
Follow-up tests were performed 12 weeks later and the results showed that the improvement had been maintained even though 70% of the participants had not tried to carry on with the programme on their own. The psychological results were even better than before.
This study shows that over a short term the Davis techniques had a positive effect on the reading and spelling ability of the participants and on their psychological functioning. The effect was furthermore sustained after the intervention.