Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond

Who are the Family Hope Center?


Yesterday, George Hook hosted an interesting discussion on Newstalk Radio. His guests were Michelle McKeever, a mother from Northern Ireland, and Terence Cosgrave, a PR professional based in Dublin. Michelle spoke about her son, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. She described how her experience with the Irish Health Services Executive was unsatisfactory, then she talked about a US based group who had helped her. This group is the Family Hope Center

Following her interview, Hook then spoke to Cosgrave. Cosgrave also talked  forcefully about the dysfunction of the HSE. He referred to the Family Hope Center as an option for parents in such circumstances. 

I have some questions. 

Who are the Family Hope Center? What do they offer? Why was yesterday chosen to come on the programme? And what was a PR consultant doing sitting in on a piece about childhood autism?

Let’s answer the last question first. I looked up Cosgrave’s LinkedIn page. His clients include the Family Hope Center and he has an article from the Wexford People about the Family Hope Center and how they can achieve ‘real, measurable results in children with brain disorders or impairments’. So, there’s that. Cosgrave has a business connection with the Family Hope Center. It would have been good if Hook had mentioned this explicitly on the radio show. Full disclosure, etc.

Who are the Family Hope Center? Well, from their webpage, they offer ‘a practical scientific approach’, striving to ‘educate and help parents promote functional improvement improvement in their children’. Sounds great. They say they can help with a large number of ailments, from ADD to Autism to Down’s Syndrome. 

They describe a Scandinavian observational study “Important Real World Evidence of Neurological Development in Disabled Children” the aim of which is to show that their methods are making an improvement with children with moderate or severe learning problems. Given no details about controls, correlations or methods used to avoid bias, no peer review and no submission to any international journals, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from this at all. It’s strange. 

They detail big improvements along the WeeFIM scale compared to national results, but it’s unclear how they determined this or whether this was validated by an independent agency. I would love a doctor’s opinion on this in terms of how meaningful these improvements are. They don’t seem to corellate much with the above  Scandinavian study.

The Meet Our Team section is also interesting. The director Matthew Newell has years of experience in this field, but I couldn’t find any relevant medical qualifications. The International Academy for Child Brain Development is mentioned, but it appears defunct. Carol Newell has a certification as a nursery nurse, but how this translates into an international lecturer in all phases of development and brain neuroplasticity is unclear.
Kristin Clague Reihman is a certified medical doctor, with a diplomate in Integrative medicine plus training in acupuncture. She also has published material on Facebook promoting Kerri Rivera and her Chlorine Dioxide protocols. This is the  MMS bleach product that has hit the news in multiple countries, easily one of the great alt-med scandals of recent years. For a medical doctor to be associated with this in any way is surprising and disappointing, to say the least.

Barry Gillespie is a periodontist with a keen interest in cranio sacral therapy and fascial therapy – how this translates to working with severe childhood development disorders is anyone’s guess.

Maybe there’s something I’m missing here, but it seems that the Family Hope Center are somewhat ill-equipped for the challenge of tackling major childhood brain disorders. If, as was said on the George Hook show, they are an option for parents who cannot get satisfaction through conventional approaches, then they have a pretty enormous burden of proof on their shoulders. This is not a burden that website testimonials and “success stories” will adequately address.

And why was Cosgrave on the show yesterday? It wouldn’t be because the Family Hope Center are in Kilkenny over the weekend? 

According to some blogs, the costs of these seminars are pretty expensive, so you would need to be sure you are making the right decision and that the evidence is there. From what I have seen, this evidence is thin on the ground. Buyer beware.


3 thoughts on “Who are the Family Hope Center?

  1. Thank you for doing the research work with that one C!

  2. We participated in this and I could kick myself for paying thousands of dollars for snake oil treatment. It is so very sad that they have NO medical training but think they are Gods.

  3. When I first heard about FHC, I found it too good to be true. Even by doing extensive search, I hardly found information about their approach as the descriptions they use is so generic.I attended the Family hope centre conference as I was curious to understand what they could offer and what could trigger such enthusiastic reviews from previous parents. I was appealed by the reviews and testimonies and wanted to understand more about the brain and how I could “scientifically” help my son with ASD.
    The conference was a mix of theoretical knowledge about brain, brain function and personal coaching or how to have the mindset and organise your family life to support your child. THe director, Matthew and his wife, Carol spend also a lots of time sharing their personal experience and explaining how they recovered 2 of their children using this program. On the face of it, it looked like science and back up by evidence but a few things made me suspicious and on my return from the conference I made some interesting findings:
    -FHC present you this approach as their creation after a compilation of scientific studies around the brain development. In reality, M. Newell, FHC director, started to work in another organisation called the institute for achieving human potential before funding the FHC in early 2000. This is Glenn Doman, the man at the head of IAHP that, in the 1960’s, developed the approach that FHC is using. This is called the doman method or doman delacato method. A book was published by Glenn Doman describing it and called “what to do about your brain injured child”. You can buy it online for 15€. Might be better to start there before you decide to spend money for the conference and the child assessment.
    -FHC present themself has the author of the “Integrative and developmental Chart”, a chart that maps the child age with the brain functions. In reality, this is heavily inspired from the “institute developmental profile” chart develop by G. Doman. They have been explaining for a couple of years in their conference that they are going to publish a scientific paper about it…Still waiting.
    -FHC keep repeating that their approach is backed up by many doctors, studies and health organisations. In reality, there has been a lots of criticism from the scientific community as the approach had been considered too simplistic. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Children with Disabilities also issued its warning against the program.
    -FHC will help you to build a program that is tailored to help your child development. In reality, we all had programm that were looking very similar, based on crawling, creeping, sensory exercise. The intensivity of the program makes it a full time home based program and even then it is hardly achievable. (like asking a 3 years old child to crawl on his belly 300 meters every day)
    -FHC claim that you will get 2 to 3 time more progress with their program. The results they presents give however no details about the number of children assessed, what are their age, what is the distribution of the results and how the children who left the program are accounted for. An observation study (“The effect of interventions based on the programs of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential and Family Hope Center”) from 2013 founded by Norvegian health authorities conducted over 2 years on 40 children and a comparison group established that the program did not bring the benefit they were claiming.
    It shall be said that the study also concluded that the program was offering similar results as the results from the group who has followed the heath care system recommended intervention but parents following the program reported to feel more satisfied and empowered to help their child.

    I believe that FHC are genuinely convinced that they will help children and that they are ready to support whoever is asking for help, and I would not blame anyone trying that.
    Being followed by FHC with 2 assessments per year will cost you around 10,000€, the program requires that one quit his job and to ignore all the approximations and omissions presented by FHC. A step too far for me.

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