Caveat emptor! Let the Buyer Beware!

  • December 7, 2016

“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”

—C.H. Spurgeon

This quote by Charles Spurgeon can be central to many current affairs in today’s world. It also heeds a call to be aware of the subtleties that we, as humans, tend to believe as truth. We are often desperate and tired, running the race against time, and as a result become vulnerable to believing almost anything that promises to take away pain, give relief, or fix our problems quickly. I have seen this in the many stories of parents who are living the life of finding the right treatment and therapist for their child who is struggling to learn. The concern is real. The time is now. The need is urgent. I am not here to convince you to choose one thing or person over another, but to guide you in thinking about differentiating between “right and almost right” treatment programs and therapy for your child.

Please, consider these things before deciding to spend money on programs that are commercialized and claim so much.

1. Question the quality and expertise of “one stop shops” and products or treatments that claim to be so global.

Would you have hesitation if someone tried to sell you a car that could fly, be a submarine, and run on tracks? Would you pause and think before taking a pill if it promised to be able to help you sleep, keep you awake, help you read, and cure diabetes? Would you dig deeper if someone said, “by completing these 14 activities in 6 weeks you would feel better about yourself, gain weight, make a million dollars, make friends, and never have any struggles in your life again”? The answer clearly, is “yes”. For every one thing that the product claims it does, it contradicts another or even more, the items do not relate. Why then would there be less diligence in investigating programs that claim to be able to treat and improve such a variety of difficulties with children who have disabilities?

2. Question the service, product, or treatment if it claims to only take a certain amount of time to “fix” the problem.

As consumers, we all would like a “quick fix” and the convenience of a short-duration program to get us the results we would like is very luring. This is why diet fads come and go and positive results usually don’t last. The truth is, there are commercialized therapeutic programs that claim the same “quick fixes” to help children with learning differences. What they fail to tell the parents is that a disability is caused by a brain difference. A disability does not “go away”. Some disabilities can be remediated with the correct interventions. The hard truth is that it takes a process of learning differently, with therapists trained in specific areas to help the child and families learn remediation techniques. New lifestyles of integrating functional tasks and therapeutic activities that can make physiological differences to help the child learn according to how their brain is designed is a critical factor. A process, cannot and shouldn’t be expected to be a quick fix.

3. Question the service, product, or treatment if it claims to get you the results you want for your child without actually taking them through the functional tasks.

Most programs that are commercialized have their own battery of tests that do not directly or necessarily relate to the daily functional tasks of the child. For example, they may test reflexes, rapid naming, response time to certain tasks, etc. But how do these tests relate to the functional, daily tasks of the child? How are the outcomes measured?

The argument is not that the tests measure something and can give data that can be collected then compare to later post-tests (arguably proving a program’s effectiveness). The point here is, does what is measured relate to the child’s function in daily life…in the home, school, and community. It is possible to show improved test scores without showing improved function. How does one improve reading comprehension, if in fact the program does not require the child to ever read nor apply remediation reading strategies to other areas of academic learning? How can you teach a child compensatory strategies for coping during a meltdown from sensory overload without actually using cognitive and behavioral strategies specific to how their bodies are responding and the circumstances surrounding the meltdown? How can you teach social skills if the child is not treated amongst peers and only interacts with an adult and its regime of sensorimotor exercises? The bigger question is not can the brain make changes through repetitive exercises using “whole brain” activities. The question is, do those changes relate to the child’s daily life and generalize into new or alternate skill sets based on the deficit areas?

4. Question the background, degree, training, experience, and expertise of the people providing these services as well as the people responsible for creating these companies and services.

In today’s world, there seem to be many experts on many topics. How do you discern who is the best to serve your child? First of all, if your child has multiple difficulties in various areas, it is very possible that they need more than one type of service. Hopefully, that service can be found under one roof with a variety of people who have been trained, specifically in higher educational settings, and have many years of experience in areas specific to the diagnosis of your child, not backgrounds so varied that they are a jack of all trades and masters of none. These types of people include occupational, speech, and physical therapists as well as trained academic tutors, with certified hours in accredited reading programs and psycho-educators who have training in areas specific to the child’s diagnosis.

Not all “interventionists”, “therapists”, or “clinics” are created equal. Some places are too generic and claim to treat everything, ignoring proven and researched methods for treatment for diagnoses for which there are proven, researched methods to treat. Therapists such as occupational, speech and physical therapists and some academic tutors have specialized trainings in higher education and some have even gone through certified level courses of intensive training where they have studied research and treatment methodologies to teach a child with learning differences in accredited programs. Understand that boxed, marketed programs can be made to sound scientific, successful and easy, but they are not necessarily proven, deeply researched, nor impactful long-term. Ask questions. Be involved and expect to be involved with your child’s treatment. Your long-term investment of a right choice will be worth it!

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