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Three Million Ways….

Cara and I recently googled “autism treatment methods” and found about 3,840,000 results. Gasp. These results included autism organizations, autism support groups, stem-cell therapy, alternative treatments, ABA agencies, schools, autism blogs, group practices, chelation, lawsuits, news organizations….and on and on and on. How can a parent wade through 73 pages of results and find what is reputable, what is evidence-based, what is a good match for their child and family? How?

Autism Speaks has a great section on their website called Your Family & Autism that offers ways to make the most of the Internet as a resource without getting overpowered with information.  Autism Speaks recommends:

While you are trying to make the most of every minute, keep an eye on the clock and frequently ask yourself these important questions:

  • Is what I’m reading right now appropriate to my child?
  • Is the information new?
  • Is the information helpful?
  • Is the information coming from a trustworthy source?

Sometimes, the time you spend on the Internet will be incredibly valuable; at other times, it may be better for you and your child to use that time to take care of yourself.

The Autism Society of America suggests that parents ask some of the following questions about potential treatments:

  • Will the treatment result in harm to my child?
  • How will failure of the treatment affect my child and family?
  • Is the treatment scientifically validated?
  • What assessment procedures are used?
  • How will the treatment be incorporated into my child’s current program?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) talks about how professionals agree on the importance of early intervention and highly-structured and specialized programming. NIHM’s section on Treatment Options suggests that parents create a list of questions when researching treatment options and planning for their child:

  • Has the program been successful for other children?
  • How many children have moved on to a typical classroom setting and how well have they performed?
  • Do staff members have training and experience in working with children and adolescents with autism?
  • How are activities planned and organized?
  • Are the daily schedules and routines predictable?
  • How much individual attention will my child receive?
  • How is my child’s progress measured?
  • Will my child’s behavior be carefully observed and recorded?
  • Will my child be motivated with individualized tasks and rewards?
  • In the beginning, will the environment be designed to minimize distractions?
  • Will I be trained and involved in the treatment so that I can continue the therapy at home?
  • What is the cost, time commitment, and location of the program?

With all the treatments available for individuals with a diagnosis of autism, and among the many methods and approaches available for treatment and instruction, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has become broadly accepted as an effective treatment. A report from The Surgeon General states that, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.”

Without a doubt, the road traveled toward discovering the best autism treatment for a child is cumbersome. The support networks above are an excellent beginning for parents to arm themselves with knowledge, support, and a sense that they are not alone. Regardless of the services and supports that are decided upon, active participation is critical while respecting the uniqueness and preferences of the individual. Services should strengthen the family and improve the individual’s quality of life.

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