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Cures for LD? Consumer Beware!

Controversial Therapies - Cures for LD?

Sometimes, smart people believe dumb things. We are tricked into thinking that something is true because of slick advertising that includes pictures of the brain and lots of scientific words and medical jargon. We embrace ideas and therapies that feed into our beliefs, even when our information is faulty and plays to our emotions, leading us to follow our hearts rather than our heads, especially when ideas are presented under the cloak of “science.” With only the best of intentions, we allow others to recommend or make choices for us because we don’t trust our ability to weigh evidence carefully. We are... human! That said, there are ways for us to be better at deciding what to believe and how to make decisions about how to help our children (and ourselves) when it comes to learning disabilities (LD), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and related disorders. In general, it is wise to beware of treatments that:

  • Sound too good to be true and make sweeping claims of success for all users (no treatment works for everyone!)
  • Are based on a secret formula or technique only known to those selling or delivering the service
  • Promise to cure problems rather than help to alleviate the symptoms of the problems
  • Are promoted as “breakthrough” approaches (some might have preliminary and interesting data to share but need more careful study)
  • Make claims that are impossible to study or that are based on theories that do not fit with our scientific understanding of the disorder (For example, one product reviewed presumed to repair “an underlying functional imbalance and under-connectivity of electrical activity within and between the right and left sides of the brain.”)
  • Have not been proven to be effective by studies by independent researchers who have replicated positive results
  • Offer proof of benefit based on studies with very limited numbers of subjects or involve subjects who were selected in a way that could bias the outcome

The best treatments are those that:

  • Carefully select the subjects they study (participants should have the same profile or diagnosis)
  • Have conducted studies in carefully controlled conditions, with comparisons made to non-effected subjects (a control group)
  • Have involved enough subjects to allow researchers to be comfortable with the “strength” of their findings.
  • Have been repeated (replicated) a number of times by different independent researchers (meaning that they have no investment in whether the treatment works or not)

Treatments that are based on less carefully conducted studies, involving fewer numbers of subjects and drawing conclusions from testimonials of patients and doctors, may not be harmful and may even appear to be beneficial for some people. Just know that by choosing these rather than others that have undergone peer review, replication, and scientific scrutiny, you could be wasting valuable time and money, and delaying the opportunity to deliver high-quality, well-proven support, not to mention perpetuating misinformation about the nature of the difficulties and disorders you hope to treat. Download our infographic for a visual guide on what to look out for when choosing a treatment.

NCLD has compiled information to help parents make decisions about specific types of controversial therapies.