The number of therapeutic programs being advertised to parents of learning disabled children is multiplying. Some are taking advantage of our deep concerns for our child. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? The following guidelines are offered as a help to you when considering a program. It is hoped that by weighing all of the options thoroughly, more heartache and unnecessary expense can be avoided.

1. Have your child’s disability diagnosed professionally by a competent tester.

This may seem like an easy process. After all, individuals willing to provide this service are plentiful. Inexpensive testing "assembly lines" are even becoming common. Keep in mind, though, that a careless or incompetent tester can arrive at the wrong results and lead to more problems for your child.

The first step should be a medical screening. Have your child’s vision checked by an ophthalmologist and his/her hearing checked by an audiologist. Your family physician might turn up a problem that could be corrected medically.

If a medical condition is not discovered, your next step is to select an educational psychologist or diagnostician. Check out the tester’s reputation before making an appointment. Meet privately with your chosen tester before your child’s first session - it will be well worth your time and any fee that might be charged. This conference will ensure that the tester is "child-friendly" and willing to respect your religious convictions and decision to home school. Find out if you can observe the testing. Also, ask questions about the testing and reporting processes and all fees that will be charged. No one likes surprises.

2. Understand your child’s disability.

Read books and ask questions to understand your child’s weak areas. You will need to specifically address these aspects of the disability. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to find a suitable therapy program.

3. Look at the evidence.

Get past the interesting stories and testimonials that are often found in brochures and magazines. The sources of these success stories are usually hard to track down and are no guarantee of legitimacy. Almost every therapy on the market will work for some children, but could have a very low success rate overall.

Do not blindly accept the program because the developer’s educational credentials are impressive. Things are not always as they appear. Inquire about additional credentials such as experience and published articles or books.

Look in libraries for professional journals that report on valid scientific studies that support or disprove the therapy program. It is important that someone other than the program’s developer conducted the research. Check with home-schooling organizations in your state, like the SCAIHS Special Needs Department, or other home schoolers that you personally know before you commit to any therapy program.

4. Get beyond the "talk."

Be wary of the words miracle, secret, and guaranteed results. They are used for advertising appeal. Genuine educators and medical professionals do not use this terminology. Remember the saying: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!"

Keep in mind that there are no quick fixes when it comes to most disabilities. If there were, everyone would be rushing to jump on the bandwagon. Disabilities would quickly become nonexistent--a reality that has not even begun to occur.

5. Keep an open mind while thinking clearly and objectively.

The field of special education is constantly changing. New discoveries are leading to new kinds of treatments. Some therapies may appear very strange if you are unfamiliar with their basis. Do your research and prepare to ask questions until you understand the principles involved. Then use common sense. Any therapy that has no logical connection to your child’s needs should be considered questionable.

6. Be committed to the chosen program.

Commitment involves time. Again, there are no "quick fixes." Give the therapy time to work. Little is accomplished by jumping from program to program. Keep in mind that this commitment may involve several years of therapy sessions that cut into your daily or weekly schedule.

Commitment involves enthusiasm. This is hard to maintain when progress is slow. Without it, though, progress is almost impossible. Do not let your child see any of your feelings of discouragement. Look forward to the therapy sessions.

7. Consider your part.

As the parent and/or teacher, your involvement in the therapy is crucial. Remember, no one knows your child as well as you do. Your valuable input is needed when determining objectives, methods, and timetables. A good therapist will invite and welcome your participation. Ideally, the therapist should equip and encourage you and your child to work at home on the objectives.

Due to the expense and time involved, going to a therapist may not be the best arrangement for your family. Look into the possibility of doing all or part of the therapy yourself. Books, resources, and training classes are usually available.

Linda Truax is the Director of the Special Needs Program for the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools . Linda has her Masters Degree in Education from the University of South Carolina and is a certified therapist with the National Institute of Learning Disabilities. She has been home schooling her children for 13 years, and was home schooled herself in high school.