Monthly Archive for February, 2011

NY Times: Levine shot himself

According to Tamar Lewin’s report in the New York Times, “Dr. Melvin D. Levine, a nationally known pediatrician who was found dead last week, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a medical examiner said on Friday.” Ms. Lewin’s article includes extensive recounting of the background on both Dr. Levine’s influence on Learning Disabilities and the accusations of his inappropriate behavior with patients.

Pediatrician in Abuse Case Killed Himself,” By Tamar Lewin, published 25 February 2011.

Procedural learning theory of dyslexia and dysgraphia

In “Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Procedural Learning and the Cerebellum,” Roderick Nicolson and Angela Fawcett present a fascinating and, to me, strong argument for unifying theoretical views of dyslexia and dysgraphia. To be sure, their analysis is preliminary and basic, but my first read left me feeling as if they’d hit lots of good points. They’ve emphasized impairment of automatic procedural learning in the cerebellum at the level of neural circuits, but in dysgraphia the problems are with motor circuits and in dyslexia they are in the language circuits. In developing their case, they integrate a broad range of neurological and psychological research.

In this review we focus on the developmental disorders of dyslexia (a disorder of reading) and dysgraphia (a disorder of writing), considering their commonalities and differences with a view to reflecting on the theoretical implications. Interest in dysgraphia was stimulated by the distinction between phonological and surface dyslexia (Castles and Coltheart, 1993), which claimed that orthographic problems (spelling) were separable from phonological reading problems. While this distinction has received mixed support ([Snowling et al., 1996] and [Stanovich et al., 1997]) it led to a fruitful analysis not only of the underlying causes of orthographic difficulties, but also to the widespread recognition of developmental difficulties in handwriting control ([Deuel, 1995], [Manis et al., 1996] and Sprenger-Charolles et al., 2000 L. Sprenger-Charolles, P. Cole, P. Lacert and W. Serniclaes, On subtypes of developmental dyslexia: Evidence from processing time and accuracy scores, Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology-Revue Canadienne De Psychologie Experimentale 54 (2000), pp. 87–104. Abstract | Full Text via CrossRef[Sprenger-Charolles et al., 2000]). The result of this theoretical and empirical progress is that there are two usages of the term dysgraphia. One takes dysgraphia to refer to errors of writing that are analogous to errors in reading (e.g., surface, phonological or deep dysgraphia corresponding to surface, phonological and deep dyslexia), the other relating to difficulties in handwriting control. Furthermore, despite these attempts at differentiation, there remains some controversy in the literature as to whether motor difficulties in handwriting should be subsumed under the label dyslexia.
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Levine suicide report surfaces

In an article headlined “Accused pediatrician left suicide note,” Jesse James DeConto of the Raleigh (NC, US) News & Observer reported that Dr. Melvin Levine, the widely known pediatrician who had been dogged by accusations of molesting patients, left a suicide note before his death last week. According to Mr. DeConto, “Barbara Levine found the note Thursday night, according to the sheriff’s report.”

In a version that is otherwise filled with background, WTVD of Raleigh-Durham (NC, US) reported that “Reports have surfaced that Dr. Mel Levine left a suicide note after he was found dead last week.”

Accused pediatrician left suicide note and Reports: Mel Levine left suicide note.

Previous coverage: Levine suit to continue (2011), Mel Levine died(2011), AKoM founder resigns (2008), Levine surrenders MD license (2008), Levine’s short-comings (2005).

Levine suit to continue

Attorney C. Durso
Atty C. Durso

Carmen L. Durso, the attorney representing 45 men who claim that Dr. Melvin Levine manipulated their genitals during private examinations for Learning Disabilities when the men were children or youths, said that their suit against Dr. Levine will proceed against his estate now that he has died.

Appearing on NECN’s “The Broadside,” Mr. Durso told interviewer Jim Braude that he has 45 people in the group, but that he has talked with “at least 60.” People say “thousands” were abused, but it is difficult to ascertain how that number is reached.
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Mel Levine died

According to news reports, Dr. Melvin Levine, the pediatrician famed for promoting the idea of “learning differences” rather than Learning Disabilities and dogged by accusations of inappropriate examinations of young patients, found dead at age 71 on 18 February 2011. Dr. Levine’s death in Rougemont (NC, US) was reported one day after the filing of a law suit by former patients alleging medical malpractice.

Read David Abel’s report of Dr. Levine’s death in the Boston Globe, “Doctor in sex abuse suit dies: Worked 19 years at Children’s Hospital,” and the version carried by the Associated Press that appeared in the New York Times Boston Pediatrician Facing Sex Abuse Suit Dies. For more on the law suit, see Mark Pratt’s 17 February 2011 story, “Former Boston doctor accused in lawsuit of inappropriately touching boys during exams,” as carried in the Los Angeles Times.

Dr. Levine faced previous charges of sexual abuse while he was affiliated with Children’s Hospital in Boston (MA, US); those were dismissed. Another set of charges were settled. In response to the new round of charges, brought by 40 male former pediatric patients who are represented by attorney Carmen Durso, Dr. Levine’s attorney Edward Mahoney said that Dr. Levine has made valuable contributions to the field and he “denies in the strongest terms possible the allegations.” In an interview with television reporter Jim Braude, Mr. Durso discussed the future of the most recent law suit, given the context of Dr. Levine’s death.

Obituary from the Raliegh (NC, US) News & Observer (see, also, SpedPro.

LearningRx in the popular press

Sandy Hausman, Charlottesville (VA, US) reporter for WVTF (one of the local public radio stations available in my listening area), carried a story about LearningRx and Learning Disabilities this morning. Unlike the credible coverage provided by many reporters for popular-but-unproven therapies for LD and other disorders, Ms. Hausman provided a sensible and balanced story about LearningRx. Here’s the blurb from WVTF’s Web site

Americans spend millions of dollars keeping our bodies in shape. Now a Charlottesville man is offering a workout for the brain. His center–part of a nationwide franchise–promises to help children and adults improve their concentration, memory, reasoning, and other mental skills. Sandy Hausman has the story.

Unlike many reporters who too-often fall for pop-psych and pop-ed theories (as regularly noted in other posts here on LD Blog), Ms. Hausman gets many facts right (e.g., prevalence of LD), phrases her report carefully (describes LearningRx reports as “internal studies”), includes appropriate caveats along with personal-interest angles, and even incorporates alternative explanations from the experts she interviews.

This is an example of journalism done better. Listen to an MP3 of Ms. Hausman’s report and explore

IDA research grants

Over on I’ve posted a note about a research program sponsored by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) to examine the effects of multisensory structured-language reading instruction. Skip over there to check on it.