Speech & Language, Therapy Tools

Do I Buy the (Fill in the Blank) Program? Evaluating at Home Speech Programs/Products

Today I had three separate parents reach out for my opinion about a specific program making the rounds on social media discussion threads. I’m not going to name the program because I honestly haven’t used it. I do have concerns after looking into it because the program follows a fairly predictable pattern: inflated claims, weak research base, and “works for all children” mantra. It’s not a new story.

I’ve been there professionally:

Should I make this product a part of my therapy toolkit?

I’ve been there personally:

Will this help my child? I’ll do anything to help my child.

How are families supposed to weed through what works and doesn’t work? The very first thing to do is take time to look over the program with a critical eye. This isn’t personal, it’s fair. Do not get pressured by companies, therapists, or other parents to buy a product. Ask questions:

  1. Is it too good to be true? One technique cannot possibly be good for all children or all disorders. It’s more likely that the treatment is not as effective as claimed. I illustrated this once when presenting by displaying two pictures of a little girl with DS side-by-side (with parent permission). The first picture her tongue protrudes. The second picture her tongue is in her mouth, lips closed together. The technique? Nothing. Just an instant later with the same camera. You can’t believe everything you see.
  2. Has it caught a lot of attention online? View this as: proceed with caution. Just because someone claims a treatment works online, in the popular press (like a parenting magazine), or TV show doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your child. Remember several of years ago when a child with Autism was shown using an iPad with a specific type of app? Do you know how many families came in to our clinic requesting that app? It’s a great app. Unfortunately, it’s not usually the best fit for children with DS.
  3. What’s the research? Case studies and outdated articles (nothing completed in the last 5-10 years supporting effectiveness) are reasons to hold off on a purchase. Remember – Evidence comes from peer-reviewed journals where researchers discuss their studies. Self-published books, articles, or trade magazines (Advance) should not included as evidence a product works.
  4. Does the website or advertisement use pseudo-scientific jargon AKA words meant to sound scientific. Be aware that most treatments/products/programs won’t sound absurd. They are well marketed and use terms to make customers (that’s what you are) believe claims. Be wary of the following terms as it relates to specific products or programs: anecdotal evidence (“In my own practice…, my child starting speaking after using X”), expert opinion, authority, guru, testimonial, etc. While these terms can be convincing at first, they should lead you to…more questions. Don’t despair AND don’t end your search here!
  5. What happens if it doesn’t work? Unfortunately I’ve seen companies (or other parents sold on the product) claim that if your child doesn’t make progress it’s because you need to use it longer (spend more money) or it wasn’t implemented correctly (you did the program wrong). I find this type of blaming to do nothing but cause more guilt and shift focus from the real possibility – the program wasn’t effective for your child.

I know this is a lot to digest. In 2013 I made a worksheet for parents to use as they figure out which programs are worth their investment of time and money.  You can download it here: worksheet.

Ultimately, the decision to use a specific treatment is up to you. Even if you find out it is beneficial for children with DS, that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Keep in mind that any program has to fit within the boundaries of your family in terms of:

  • Cost – Do not, I repeat, do not break the bank to purchase a product(s)
  • Duration – How long the program is needed?
  • Intensity – How frequently is the product used?
  • Reality – Are you ready for the commitment now?  What barriers exist that may prevent you from following through with the program? If not now, could you manage in 6 months?

Whatever you do, do not buy into a product or program out of guilt or desperation. It’s not worth it. Weighing your options wisely will give you peace of mind now and in the future.

References & Helpful Links

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3 thoughts on “Do I Buy the (Fill in the Blank) Program? Evaluating at Home Speech Programs/Products”

  1. To Heather…there are MANY organizations that will gift you an iPad or help you pay for one. It is SOOO worth it. Create a gofundme account. Borrow from friends and family. Get a used one. There are many options. Where there is a will, there is a way. You don’t HAVE to show it on an iPad, but it does help get those repetitions in.

    The Global Down syndrome Foundation has endorsed this product. It is just the outside the box thinking we need for our kids.

  2. “You show the videos at meal times and in the car on the iPad app.”
    Sure…assuming that you have the means to afford a device that will play these videos in more than one room of your home and that you have the means to own an iPad. Hype didn’t put more money in a parent’s pocket to afford the latest swoon producing thing on the market.

  3. I know what product you are referring to so using your criteria I will break it down for you.

    1. Is it too good to be true? – I don’t think so (see #3). There is a TON of both scientific and anecdotal evidence that this product helps to produce speech. It works IN CONJUNCTION with the speech therapist. It allows for the parent to get more speech practice time in. MANY speech therapists are recommending this product to their clients.

    2. Has it caught a lot of attention online? – YES it has. WHY? because MANY parents are seeing results within the first month. I have a daughter with Down syndrome AND apraxia (verified by three different SLPs) and she is already saying MORE words with this program than she ever did without it. It’s getting a lot of attention from parents who are seeing results from their child.

    3. What’s the research? There is a ton of research on video modeling for kids/people withe disabilities. I’m sure you’ve seen the research on that, so I don’t need to post that here. Many other companies have created video modeling products…Watch Me Learn and TV Teacher to name a few. All this company did is create over 12,000 videos and put them in one place for parents to access. AND they also went several steps further. They videotaped the child’s MOUTH slowly saying the word(s) and individual sounds. My child said I love mommy spontaneously to me the other day, because she saw that on a video session. And unlike Watch Me Learn which is a static, unchangeable DVD, this program allows the parents to customize videos based on the childs needs. My girl LOVES watching kids play duck, duck, goose. I’ve never seen her play that at school before where she went around the circle. After watching it a few times on these videos, she is playing duck, duck, goose at school. This is just one example.

    4. Does the website or advertisement use pseudo-scientific jargon AKA words meant to sound scientific? Not that I can tell, but I’m not a scientist I’m a parent trying to help my child.

    5. What happens if it doesn’t work? You try it for six months. Consistently. You show the videos at meal times and in the car on the iPad app. If you don’t see progress you stop just like you would with anything else. BUT what IF you do see results, you’ll never know unless you try and when it comes to my child talking, I will pretty much try ALMOST anything. Speech is SO worth it. The way I look at it, I can stop or change anything. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you never try anything new, you’ll never get a different result. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll stop, but after two months of using the program I am already seeing MORE results than I have from any prior program, so I’m going to keep using it. And now four months in, I’m seeing even more results. I suspect the gains will keep on.

    Lastly, this program is not meant to replace what an SLP does. It works in conjunction with an SLP. I really suggest taking a look at it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. My girls’ SLP is very pleasantly surprised and she is a pretty big skeptic.

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