By Wilczynski, Susan M, PhD, BCBA; Sutro, Leslie, PhD. The Exceptional Parent 38.9 (Sep 2008): 77.
When considering different treatment options for a child with autism, it’s important to know if research has verified that a treatment is effective. There are lots of treatment options available, and while many of these may be supported by personal testimonials, many have not been shown to be effective by scientific studies. How do parents know what studies to look for and where to find them?
To be a sawy consumer, it is critical to determine which treatments are based on good science and which are based on pseudoscience. Good scientific studies involve:
* a solid research design
* strong tools for measuring change
* accurate identification that the children really have autism
* evidence that the treatment was provided accurately
* efforts to show the treatment produced positive outcomes over time or in different situations
Many studies do not meet these standards and are therefore not fully contributing to our knowledge about treatment effectiveness. Pseudoscientific studies involve information that sounds scientific, but in reality is not; they are not based on good scientific methods.
The Importance of Peer Review
One way to decide if a study is science or pseudoscience is to look at whether or not the study is a peer-reviewed study. The peer review process involves having other experts in the field read the study to determine if it is of good enough quality or makes an important enough contribution to the field to be published in a professional journal. Peer review is an important process because it ensures that a study meets the minimum acceptable standards of science.
Many public libraries have access to databases that contain links to peer-reviewed articles. University libraries and the Internet are also excellent resources for locating research databases, such as PsyclNFO (http://psycnet.apa.org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/index.cfm?fa=search.advancedSearchForm) and Medline/PubMed (http://www.pubmed.gov), which often contain a number of articles related to autism treatment. There are also certain Web sites for locating peer-reviewed articles (such as http://www.scholar.google.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu).
The National Standards Report, a document that identifies the quality of research support for educational and behavioral treatments for schooled children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders is expected to be released by August 2008 by the National Autism Center. This new resource will make it much easier for parents to determine the effectiveness of various treatments for autism.
Scientific support is only a first step. There are several other key considerations when making treatment decisions. First, professional judgment should play a significant role. Even if a treatment has good scientific research support, it may only be applicable under certain conditions that may or may not be available. second, the thoughts and opinions of parents and sometimes the children themselves should be taken into account. Third, ongoing treatment decisions should be based on data whenever possible. Data collection is crucial to determining if a child is responding positively to a particular treatment. Finally, the training and knowledge of those implementing a treatment should be considered. Once a treatment is chosen, the child’s treatment team should determine what they need in terms of training, feedback, and materials in order to provide that treatment accurately.
There are several “red flags” that parents should be aware of when trying to decide which treatment to choose for their child. Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for autism. When considering a treatment, parents should watch out for exaggerated claims of a cure, especially if the treatment requires a significant financial commitment. In addition, parents need to be aware of the marketing aspect of what they read. No one will advertise a treatment with testimonials saying that a treatment does not work, but positive testimonials do not always mean that treatments are effective. Additionally, when pursuing biomedical treatments, parents should always consult with a pediatrician or some other medical professional. Finally, they should be cautious of treatments that may cause direct physical harm to their child.
Source: Wilczynski, Susan M,PhD., B.C.B.A., & Sutro, L., PhD. (2008, 09). Evaluating the efficacy of treatments for autism spectrum disorders. The Exceptional Parent, 38, 77. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/docview/223507947?accountid=3783
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