By Valle Dwight
Laura Shumaker was struggling with her son’s autism diagnosis back in 1993 when she saw an Oprah episode in which a parent announced that her child had been cured of autism by using a “listening program.”
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s it — he’s just sensitive to sound,’” Shumaker said. Her son’s therapist recommended against the treatment, which had no research to back it.
“But Peter and I were already carried away by the wave of information we had gathered on auditory training.... What if Matthew’s autism was caused by hypersensitivity to sound, and what if this one treatment improved his life forever? And how guilty would we feel if someday, some specialist said, ‘If only he’d had auditory training when he was six,’” Shumaker wrote in her 2008 memoir, A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism.
That search for the one thing that might “flip the switch” for a child with autism — or other conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities like dyslexia — drives parents to explore, research, experiment, and buy countless remedies in the hopes that something will cure their child.
Shumaker and her husband shelled out $3,000 for the auditory treatment, on top of what they were already spending on speech therapy and a psychologist, but they figured it was a good investment. “We thought it would cure him,” she said in an interview with GreatSchools.
And that’s the key to why parents are vulnerable to such claims. What parent wouldn’t do whatever she could to end her child’s problems? And how would she feel if maybe, just maybe, that one thing would make a difference?
Though there is no cure for autism, the claims continue. A Google search on “autism cures” turns up almost 25 million hits.
“The problem with scams is that they offer parents their wildest dreams about having a child who is ‘normal,’” says Rory Stern, the publisher of ADHD Family Online. “Everyone is looking for a quick fix.”
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