By Leslie Lindsay
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8: Fish Oil, Diet, Horses, Music & More: Complimentary Alternative Medical Approaches (CAM) to Childhood Apraxia of Speech in “Speaking of Apraxia,” (Woodbine House, March 2012).
Does “Nontraditional” Therapy Do Any Good [for children with CAS]?!
Sometimes you will find scientific research that supports the treatment claims you hear or read about regardingCAMproducts, but sometimes you won’t. Many folks will ask, “So, if it’s not scientific, why bother?”
It’s been my experience that parents want to know what else may help their child. Since we live in a society in which “more” sometimes equates to “better,” why stop at “just” speech therapy?
Knowing about—even trying—additional therapies or remedies gives hope to parents whose kids are struggling. For children with CAS alone, it is just as beneficial to work with them on a frequent, intense basis to remediate symptoms associated with CAS. If your child has additional concerns, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) provides options to augment more traditional therapy.
For instance, one parent in my Small Talk: All About Apraxia group noted:
“We had really hit a plateau in speech therapy. Once we started occupational therapy [OT], my daughter really took off in terms of speech and language. We still continued with speech therapy, but I firmly believe it was the addition of OT that did the trick.”
While many “claims to cure” are anecdotal success stories, it never hurts to be a smart consumer. Ask questions, be critical, and then go with your gut. I’ll show you how in the next section.
Assessing Alternative Treatments
When you go online, it’s likely you will find hundreds of websites, listservs, blogs, and message boards that will tell you “ABC Wonder Remedy” will cure, or dramatically improve CAS.
That’s why you need to get really good at assessing alternative treatments. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Consider the source. You don’t believe just anything you see, hear, or read, right? I hope not. Sites you can generally trust include: websites of a government agency, national organization for a specific disorder, nonprofit organizations, or a medical school, or a speech pathology department page within a university website. Buyer Beware: if you’re on a website with success articles and products for sale, be extra cautious before whipping out that credit card.
- Sounds like an empirical question. Want to know if a study is valid? Find out if there have been any scientific studies done using the scientific procedure you learned about in school. Think hypothesis, data collection, results, conclusions . . . then go beyond that and think “controlled studies,” “peer review,” “reputable journal,” and “randomized control trial.” A good study needs all of those elements. Sometimes you will run across studies that sound good, but they are limited by sample size (too small to make generalizations) or are testimonials—sometimes called anecdotal—from just one doctor, or just one SLP or only one patient. It could very well still “work,” but for the results to really be valid and conclusive, it should be tested using the scientific method, which involves having a control group as well as an experimental group, and sometimes a “blind” study in which researchers are not told which group has had which treatment, so as not influence their conclusions.
- Really? Or are you just saying that? Fads come and go. The evening news will report something is “breakthrough,” and it’s not yet ready for the public market. You need confirmation and not just speculation on a new claim. Always go to the primary source–a journal article in an academic publication or the reputable website associated with the claim.
- Says who? Is there an expert in the house? Expert opinion should be objective, meaning the expert has nothing to gain personally or professionally from the product or claim. What does your SLP have to say about something you are willing to try? What does the ASHA have to say about it? Check it out at www.ASHA.org.
- Go with your gut. You know when something feels “off.” Listen to that little voice and then sleep on it, ask around, make a pro and con list, whatever you need to do to feel better about things. If the treatment could cause a problem, especially to your kid—but even to your bank account, be conservative. Quackwatch.com is a good place to check out dubious sounding therapies or even therapies that just sound “too good to be true.”
Speaking of Apraxia is the first-ever comprehensive book written exclusively on childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) for the non-academic audience. It’s 380+ pages of text will give you a sense of hope, encouragement, ideas, and tips from professionals as well as parents. Designed primarily with parents of children with CAS in mind, this book is also a valuable resource for the practicing SLP, pediatrician, pediatric OT/PT, educator, and early intervention staff. It can be purchased through Woodbine House (www.woodbinehouse.com), Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.