Marshall Raskind, a learning disability researcher and author, shares a few tips on how to avoid getting taken in by people and products that promise a cure for LD or other disabilities.
“Parents should be suspicious about anything that claims to be a panacea, produces immediate results, or promises a cure,” Raskind says.
Other steps to consider when evaluating a treatment:
Get it in writing
Lots of companies say their products are “research-based,” but that doesn’t mean they’ve been research tested. Ask to see a report showing that the product has been researched and tested with the particular population the company is claiming it will benefit (for example, children with diagnosed learning disabilities). The research should be conducted by a third party and published in a peer-reviewed journal. Even if you don’t have the expertise to understand the study, ask for it anyway. Then ask a professional (or two) to assess its credibility.
Who is the product aimed at?
Again, check the research to see if it was tested on children with a similar disability. Often, products used for a particular condition and population are touted as being effective for others. Raskind says, for example, that he would have reservations about the effectiveness of a reading product tested on adult English-language learners for an 8-year-old with dyslexia.
Here’s how to test a product:
- Is your child at a skill level or does he have the experience to use the product in a way that is not frustrating and counterproductive? Can the product be modified and adapted to your child’s specific needs and skill level?
- Talk with your child’s teachers, therapists, and counselors to determine if they think the product is appropriate.
- Listen to your child — make sure you get his feedback regarding the product and its perceived effectiveness. Make him part of the process. Is the effort and cost worth the benefit?
What about those parent testimonials?
It’s fine to find out what other parents think about a product, Raskind says, but don’t let that be the only source of information when deciding whether or not to try it on your child. Remember, what may be a blessing for one child may be a curse for another.
More places to check
Look up one of the many professional organizations that have up-to-date information. For example, in the area of learning disabilities, check out the National Center for Learning Disabilities, International Dyslexia Association, Council for Learning Disabilities, and Learning Disabilities Association of America. Another great source for parents is the What Works Clearinghouse, run by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.