Fort Myers occupational therapy

Therapy Isn’t a Quick-Fix – Why You Should Still Follow Our Course Until Successful

Parents of children disabilities can quickly find themselves immersed in a dizzying world of various doctors, therapies, medications and treatment. The thought of their child spending several days a week – for years – in speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapies is frankly overwhelming. So we do understand the temptation of quick-fix, non-medical services that promise to “get your child talking” or “catch your child up” with just a month or so of intensive programming.

Call them hype or scams – but they don’t work.

In fact, some do more harm than good. They waste precious time and valuable resources – which can be especially damaging when you’re encouraged to interrupt or leave the routine of traditional, physician-recommended therapies.

“Parents of children with special needs will go to the ends of the Earth to get their child the additional help they need,” said Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, owner and founder of FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers. What we don’t want to see is parents being taken advantage of. In fact, we care so much about these kids that we will even help parents investigate other treatment options and share information about and with other medical providers if that’s the direction parents want to go. But it pains us to see parents blindly signing up for ‘treatment’ from centers that make big promises, but objectively just don’t compare to what we’re offering in terms of quality and effectiveness.”

It’s not just non-medical facilities that are offering quick fixes. Some online apps and websites do too.

The problem is they are advertising unrealistically rapid, easy solutions to complex conditions like autism, ADHD, down syndrome and other developmental delays and disorders.

Many of these programs and providers do not have a clinical or medical background. They don’t require a diagnosis. Many aren’t even concerned with obtaining the child’s medical records. They are not developing research-based plans of care with specific goals for that child. They aren’t making commitments to follow through with the strategies that have proven clinically effective in therapy.

Why Our Fort Myers Pediatric Therapy Services Are So Effective

As longtime speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapists, the last thing we want to tell families is, “This may be hard sometimes.” Because we understand that just processing a new diagnosis is emotionally difficult.

There is absolutely hope, but the truth is: You will have to work at. You will have to stay consistent. You will have to stick with it. We provide the tools for success, but families must be committed.

Effective therapy takes months, if not years. We work on skill sets day after day, week after week and month after month – steadily helping every child reach their goals and ultimately their maximum potential. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are: FOCUS stands for Follow Our Course Until Successful.

In contrast to so-called “achievement centers,” therapists at medical clinics like FOCUS give standardized testing. That means two speech language pathologists – one in Florida and one in Alaska – could test a child’s expressive and receptive language skills with different standardized assessments, and the scores from both should only be within a few points of each other.

It’s true that the treatments you receive may vary slightly from therapy center to therapy center. We may even prioritize different skills. However, licensed therapy clinics are all ultimately using the same treatment strategies that help improve both the health and well-being of the child.

Non-biased evaluations are how licensed medical providers like FOCUS are kept accountable for the diagnoses, feedback and treatment we provide to children. Non-medical providers and online apps can’t do this, and that’s why we strongly urge caution.

So How Long Should Speech Therapy – or Any Therapy – Take? 

Some successes take a few months. Others may take years. Some are incredible, lightning bolt moments of achievement. Others are subtler, quieter and occur more gradually. But they last because we are using methods that help these lessons “stick.” Our providers are educated and credentialed in their field. At FOCUS, they are carefully chosen not only for their expertise and experience, but for their dedication to these children.

The exact amount of time therapy takes will depend on the severity of your child’s challenges, how intensive and frequent their treatment is and how early they start. This is one of the reasons we have long preached early intervention. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states:

“The connections in a baby’s brain are most adaptable in the first three years of life. These connections, also called neural circuits, are the foundations for learning, behavior and health. Over time, these connections become harder to change. … The earlier developmental delays are detected and intervention begins, the greater chance a young child has of achieving his or her best potential.” 

Some of the quick-fix program providers don’t even offer their services to children under age 4.

“People get drawn like a moth to a flame with flashy advertisements and big promises – and then they get burned,” Voltz-Ronco said. “I want them to stay the course with us – because we have proven time and again that this works.”

Families who have started elsewhere before coming to FOCUS Therapy can sometimes see the difference more clearly.

“We are rare, and we are in this for the benefit of these kids,” Voltz-Ronco said. “We don’t succumb to what can earn us more money or sacrifice quality over cost. It is always, always about what is best for these kids.”

There are some ways we can potentially expedite progress in certain areas for some children. One of the most effective means is active parent involvement. When parents are “all in,” eager to better understand our processes and learn how to help their child carry over the skills we’re trying to teach – progress is often faster. This is why we take time after every session to discuss what skills we worked on, how we did it, what challenges we had, what progress we made and how families can continue working on the same skills in other environments.

Home carryover is perhaps one of the most significant benefits we have seen with teletherapy. Parents can be more hands-on in teletherapy, which helps them continue working on these goals in everyday life. That’s one of the reasons we will continue to offer teletherapy and recommend it as a supplement to in-person therapy sessions even after our clinic reopens.

Questions to Ask When Choosing Treatment for Your Child

The bottom line is, whether we’re talking about autism spectrum disorder or down syndrome or traumatic brain injury or stuttering: There simply aren’t quick fixes.

It’s important before you purchase apps or enroll your child in any “one-month intensive programs” to ask:

  • Is the program licensed by the state Department of Health?
  • Will the plan of care for your child be research-based?
  • What sort of evidence will be used to measure success?
  • Do they accept health insurance for their services?
  • Do they truly have your child’s best interests at heart?

“We want to encourage the parents of our patients to get second and third opinions – look at the research,” Voltz-Ronco said. “Talk with your primary care physician as well as the specialists. See if they have heard of the treatment or provider you’re interested in. If they haven’t heard of it, it’s likely not what it appears to be. If these program centers were capable of delivering on their big promises, the physicians AND therapists would be shouting their praises from the rooftops. And we aren’t.”

If you have questions, we are happy to offer our guidance based on our professional experience and personal knowledge of your child and their needs.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

The seekers: Why parents try fringe therapies for autism, Sept. 21, 2016, By Alisa Opar, Spectrum Magazine

More Blog Entries:

ABA, Occupational Therapy Helps Address Safety Concerns for Florida Children With Autism, March 23, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

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