Let the Buyer Beware| February 7, 2023
Many parents struggle to accept the fact that their child is challenged with dyslexia, ADHD, or anxiety
Let the Buyer Beware
The school told you your child is struggling, or perhaps you noticed that he or she is having difficulty. It’s time to get some help. But, how and what and from whom?
Our publications are filled with ads for practitioners who purport to work magic or treat a host of different issues. If your child does these exercises, takes this supplement, wears this item, or works with that wonderful person who trained under someone who trained under someone else who said the method is foolproof, then your child will be cured!
When it comes to medical matters, the necessity of treatment by a licensed provider is more obvious to us. Even if someone is a whiz with a sewing machine, we wouldn’t let them give our children stitches. But when it comes to academic or emotional challenges, things get stickier. Many parents struggle to accept the fact that their child is challenged with dyslexia, ADHD, or anxiety, and treating the problem head on makes it feel more real.
It’s important to realize, however, that while it’s normal and understandable to have a hard time accepting that a child has a problem, the sooner we do so, the faster we can begin dealing with it.
The first step is to identify the challenge through diagnostic evaluation. It’s imperative that the evaluator be properly trained, whether a psychologist, special educator, kriah specialist, OT, PT, SLP, BCBA or mental health provider. They will be able to accurately assess a child’s challenges using standardized measurements and can share the results with you. Many evaluators do not necessarily provide treatment; as such you can trust their objectivity when they make recommendations, as they don’t stand to benefit financially.
How do you select a provider? Check their credentials in the specific area. A licensed professional will have studied for many years, learning all different aspects of child development and treatment in their field, as well as working for thousands of supervised clinical hours. They offer a differential diagnosis, knowing what the challenge is and also is not. Many special educators or professional tutors have advanced degrees or specialized training in specific reading methodology or other educational domains.
A practitioner who lacks this background, or whose training or knowledge is limited to one method, can be compared to someone whose only tool is a hammer, who therefore sees everything as a nail.
Limudei kodesh remedial specialists may not have a specific license or degree, so we rely on the training and experience they bring. Ask what methods they use or which school professionals they have collaborated with who can attest to their successful work.
Check research-based practices. When someone tells you their nephew did better using this method, or even 15 students did, that is called anecdotal reporting. It’s not representative of a large enough sample to say that this treatment works effectively. Research-based practices test the reliability of the specific treatment with different providers and large numbers of clients. This assures us that the method or modality is statistically proven to be beneficial.
Check transparency of treatment goals and measurable expected outcomes. Most providers have a hard time putting a time frame on treatment, because there are so many different variables that affect efficacy. However, they will tell you what their goals are and how you will be able to measure progress once they start working with your child. They won’t ask you to “just to trust them” or “leave it to the experts.” You are entitled to be informed about practices, modalities, techniques, and goals. If a practitioner can’t describe to you what they are doing, that is a red flag.
Will it hurt to give an unlicensed or inexperienced professional a try? It may. Interventions that aren’t designed to address the actual problem may not directly harm your child, but you will have squandered time and effort. This often leads a child to be resistant to future treatments. Additionally, you will have wasted significant amounts of money, leaving you with fewer resources for further treatment.
Could alternative and unconventional remedies be helpful? Possibly. They may help the child’s general stress level, which will help them cope better and do the hard work that is required to remediate the actual problem. They may also target a tangential issue which is contributing to the larger problem. However, direct treatment of the specific deficit or challenge with proven successful interventions will still be required.
Sometimes a specific practitioner or intervention creates a buzz in the community, and suddenly everyone thinks that it’s the answer for their child, only because it gained popularity and not necessarily because it was effective. This is often reminiscent of the emperor’s new clothes.
Will every practitioner be successful with every client? No. But honest ones will inform you as they work with your child that perhaps their skill set isn’t what the child needs now and that progress isn’t being made. Maybe a different modality or methodology or even a different field is needed. Practitioners should stay in their lanes by offering treatment in their specific area of expertise and not assuming they have the answer to every problem. For every time they say no, we are better able to trust their yes. You aren’t held hostage by unreasonable demands for time needed or money to be spent blindly in order to see success.
Parents seeking help for their children are vulnerable. Be an educated consumer. Target the real problem. Get referrals and second opinions. Ask questions. Monitor progress. And im yirtzeh Hashem, you will see much nachas.
Zipora Schuck MA. MS. is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.
Abby Delouya RMFT-CCC, CPTT
Competition in relationships usually comes from a place of insecurity, but it can lead to resentment — or at the very least, annoyance and disconnection. I often see spouses playing the “one-up” game. “I got up with the kids four times.” “I did the full Motzaei Shabbos cleanup without being asked.” The back-and-forth volley of who did more or who had it worse lends itself to a highly unpleasant and competitive dynamic.
Often what prompts this kind of interchange is feeling misunderstood or underappreciated. We feel the need to state every little thing that we did to establish usefulness and alert our spouse to our contributions. But this kind of scorekeeping doesn’t fill the deeper need of feeling appreciated and valued. We end up focusing on tasks done (or often not done), and less about process and the meaning behind these contributions.
Scorekeeping also tends to elicit a reaction of defensiveness instead of gratitude. Here’s what it can look like:
Sury: “I’m so tired. The baby was screaming all day and the kids refused to eat what I made, so I made dinner again — and the kids still ended up eating soup cups.”
Shimmy: “You’re telling me about tired. I was up so early for shul, and then I had my chavrusa, and then I had to run straight to work for that super intense meeting. I haven’t stopped all day.”
What Sury needs to hear right now is: “That sounds so exhausting, how can I help you?” And then later, once Sury is reregulated, Shimmy can offer that he also struggled, and hopefully Suri will be in the frame of mind to support him.
When we just vent and try to win at “Who’s done more,” we lose at actual connection, togetherness and friendship.
Abby Delouya, RMFT-CCC, CPTT is a licensed marriage and individual therapist with a specialty in trauma and addiction.
A good choice can be compared to natural, unenhanced beauty. A bad choice can be compared to someone who doesn’t possess natural beauty, but spent money on a professional makeover and knows how to wear their makeup and hair just so.
Good choices have natural appeal but aren’t necessarily presented in an attractive way. Those pushing less-good choices use a lot of money on marketing to make it all more exciting: Buy a luxury car, even if that means you won’t pay your mortgage on time.
This is also true with the way we look at decisions in our own head. That little voice inside knows the right decision, but the other option is much more compelling.
Our job is to see past the external glamour of poor choices and make decisions based on the real core factors within.
Dina Schoonmaker has been teaching in Michlalah Jerusalem College for over 30 years. She gives women’s vaadim and lectures internationally on topics of personal development.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 830)
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