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By Valle Dwight
Ultimately, when the "listening therapy" didn’t work for Matthew, Shumaker was able to come to terms with the fact that his autism was a lifelong issue. “I got a grip,” she said. Even so, in the years since, Shumaker and her husband have tried vitamins, therapy, and medication to help their son.
“It’s your job as a parent to do everything you can,” she said. “If you don’t, you feel guilty.”
Various treatments for autism have made national news (chelation, gluten-free diets, hyperbaric chambers, and more), but it’s not just autism that attracts claims of miracle cures. Over the years there have been many programs that trumpet miraculous results for children with AD/HD, Down syndrome, and dyslexia.
But anyone who promises a cure for dyslexia is “misguided,” said Elizabeth Ditz, a parent who has tracked and commented on dozens of so-called miracle cures on her blog, I Speak of Dreams. Or “they’re lying through their teeth,” she added with a laugh.
Ditz’s daughter, now 20, was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in second grade. A self-described “information nerd,” Ditz read everything she could get her hands on concerning the reading disability. Armed with the knowledge of what dyslexia is, she said her “BS meter” went off frequently when she read about assorted claims of cures.
When Ditz went to a presentation about a weeklong intensive program near her home in northern California, those alarms were ringing madly. “He was marketing a program where after a week it was: ‘kid fixed, problem solved,’” she said. And a claim like that, backed by parent testimonials but no scientific studies, is hard to resist. The problem is, according to Ditz, “it’s a lot of time, a lot of money, and it doesn’t work.”
Ultimately, Ditz and her husband sent their daughter to a school that used an Orton-Gillingham approach. Her daughter is now in her second year of college.
Ditz doesn’t discount that any number of interventions might help a child with a learning disability, but there is no one thing that will take away the diagnosis. “With an LD, there is natural improvement,” she said. “I’m not sure what causes the improvement. It could be the focused attention; it could be a natural maturation.”
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