Hydra Oil: Careless Therapy Labels

A Discussion of

Quackery and Our Duty of Care


There is value in identifying and changing careless therapy labels.

Accuracy in naming reflects a caring dedication of one’s understanding.

When therapists don’t know what they’re doing, they inflict harm.

Some are surprised to discover how wrong they have been.

Others intentionally fake expertise for personal gain.

We need to care for people better than this.


I believe this tutorial to be safe in tone.

That said…

To unequivocally identify quackery, sometimes I will be sharp and firm

But I will not be not harsh, even in fun, just in case.

Except when calling out intentional quacks.

In such cases, I will sometimes be less reserved (and more amused with myself).

At the very least, the clarification of terms in The Imitation Family of Concepts should be useful on its own, and that section is devoid of any intensely editorializing voice.


The discussion of the Imitation Family of Concepts (e.g., echophenomena) has its own glossary.

Interoception is defined at the top of its own section.

Dunning-Kruger Effect: Insufficient knowledge leads people to overestimate their own competence.

A gestalt is the (a) perception of an entity as being a whole that emerges (b) from an understanding of the unified system of relationships that holds between a collection of elements (e.g., symbolic, emotional, psychological, physical, and so on), where that entity is specifically (c) more than just the set/sum of its parts; for example, when three dots (∴) are understood to be a triangle (i.e., more than just a set of three individual dots), then that unified perception of a whole entity is a gestalt.

[German gestalt (“form, shape, figure”)]

Hydra oil is a set of quack products that proliferates from the residue of a fraudulent product (snake oil) that has been debunked.

Semeiognomy  is the study of communication in terms of symbol systems (Gk. semeio-) and cognition (Gk. -gnomy), appealing to the symbolic nature of communication.

An ymage is a sensory image that is not just visual in nature (also ymagine, ymaginary, ymagination, and so on).

A quack is someone who practices quackery (i.e., fraudulent medicine).

[Middle Dutch kwaken (“to croak; to boast”) + salve (“salve, ointment”) + -er (suf: agent noun) > Dutch quacksalver / kwakzalver]




What you  Call Something Matters

A Plea for Open-Mindedness in the Beforemath

Recipe for Snake Oil

The Slick Pitch

It’s Still a Duck

Purpose of this Tutorial

Respecting What you Don’t Know

Guideline #1: Consorting with Wizards

Guideline #2: Invite Criticism

Cautious Reiteration

Nothing to Do with It

When Figurative Illustration Goes Wrong


“Object Permanence and ADHD”

“Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

“Lungs are Bellows”

Be Figurative Only When Accurate

Standards for Therapy Names

Don’t Get Hysterical


Interlude: Determining some Terms

Facilitated Communication

Semeiognomy: the Meaning of “Meaning”

You are Here

The Imitation Family of Concepts


Types of Imitation





Innovation: Novel Expressions



“Delayed Echolalia”

Oxymoronic Labels: Variably Useful

Complex-Compound Quackeries

“Gestalt” has Nothing to Do with It

“Delayed Echolalia” has Nothing toDo with It

This Point

This Point

Up to “This Point”: What it Isn’t

“This Point”

After “This Point’: What it Is

Save the Baby (Cheerleader)?

Honor their Expression

Scaffold Conventional Access

Historical Context

Formalist Linguistics: Blissfully Defined by Cherry-picked Data

The Challenge: What Peters was Trying to Capture

Inability to Segment Time-streams

Why Peters Chose “Gestalt”

Gestalt ≠ Unresolved Mass

More than Words

But What If

Early Establishment of Symbol Components

Let’s Make some Noise

Perceptual Organization

Perceptual Grouping

Natural Helpers

Caring for Other People

Start Fuzzy?

Start Small

The Overwhelm

Illustrative Illustrations

Component Gestalts

Change Points


Artificial Augmentation of Environmental Segmentation



And I’m Not So Sure about You

Contemporary GLP Products

Voice Intensity Spectrum: Kind > Polite > Civil > Firm > Sharp > Danger

Moment of Reconnoitering


Uses and Abuses of Interoception

Mahler’s Interoception Programs

Mahler’s Steps Have Value

(Step 1) Body: notice body signals

(Step 2) Emotion: connect signals to meaning

(Step 3) Action: regulate with an action that promotes internal comfort & health

Mahler’s Concerns

Comfort and Compliance


Cognition-Based Therapies


Aversion/Exposure Therapy

Types of Practice

Deficit/Benefit Base

Summing Up this Bit on Mahler’s Concerns

Mahler Summary

A Plea for Open-mindedness in the Aftermath


Appendix 1: Details about Categorization

Atypicality and the Suspicious Coincidence Effect

Blowfish Effect

Appendix 2: ASHA’s Stances are Sometimes Wrong

What you Call Something Matters

I have some significant concerns about quackery in the therapeutic products that are developed by some practitioners who serve the special education community.

While there is identifiable value to be found in some of the therapeutic components associated with (the misleading label) “gestalt language processing” [GLP], the foundation itself is nonsense (including the fiction called “delayed echolalia”), and the consequently harmful parts should be repaired. I will offer a taxonomy to help clarify such notions as imitation, repetition (scripting and automatizing), and the various echophenomena… mahna mahna…

Furthermore, in special education (particularly as student needs become increasingly intense), substantial competence around interoception (and its related concepts) is vital to the design and implementation of therapy; unfortunately, the term “interoception” has come to be used as little more than a marketing buzzword in some therapy products (some of which make an appeal to GLP). I will offer some clarity around that set of concepts as well.

We can and should care for people better than this.

Nothing to Do with It

Now we’re ready to look at some disturbing (and familiar) therapies that have nothing to do with the conditions that they were  designed (in ignorance) to therapize, no matter how much they are argued (by their inadequately informed designers) to be grounded in common sense.

Common sense isn’t automatically right; in fact, common sense is often just plain wrong, and imagination can extrapolate that error into a procedure that harms one whole hell of a lot of people. It can take centuries (if not millennia) for the quackery to be exposed.

We don’t want communication disorder quackeries to plague us for that long.

The Imitation Family of Concepts

It’s pretty easy to be incompetent about the “echolalia” network of concepts, as the literature and the research are clustered messes. (I blithely wallowed in unexamined ignorance for years.) I’m going to suggest a taxonomy here for the purposes of clarity of discussion, but keep in mind that your understanding might vary from what I describe (given your individual path to this knowledge).


Given the tutorial foundation that we have built up to this point, we can move on to solidly support the contention that “delayed echolalia” is quackery, and then discuss the effect that this misunderstanding has had on the products that are based upon that error.

This Point

This is a good place to raise our (collective and respective) heads for a moment so that we can take a look around and get our bearings.

Historical Context

A solid understanding of how things got this way can help you to avoid making the same mistakes.

The Challenge: What Peters was Trying to Capture

The challenge is not only to symbolically link one well-bounded form with one well-circumscribed conception, but to make sure that those pairings closely match the conventional system of symbols that is dominant in that communication environment (i.e., ensure that they are accepted as paradigmatic among participants).

Early Establishment of Symbol Components

All sorts of involved material has been written about the development of cognitive precursors in prenatal people, including the functions that contribute to symbolization. If you want to understand what has not been going well for someone, then you need to know at least something about what should have been happening.

Caring for Other People

We should discuss the best ways to support people whose language is developing in these ways (without the misleading labels).

Contemporary GLP Products

Truthfully inform the people for whom you have a duty of care.

Moment of Reconnoitering

Pause for breath to consolidate your understanding (up to this point) before diving into the next big part of the discussion.


Interoception is an emergent property. There’s a whole lot to learn before making therapy decisions that are truly informed.

Uses and Abuses of Interoception

Public and professional awareness of interoception has reached the stage where people are selling products (including research) with the term “interoception” slapped on the cover as a marketing buzzword. People who chose to publicly represent a product that affects the well-being of other people are responsible for the consequences, including being subject to review.

A Plea for Open-mindedness in the Aftermath

Be a critical consumer of therapies to avoid perpetuating quackery on the people for whom you care.


The appendices associated with this discussion are collected here.

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