Evaluating the Efficacy of Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders

By Wilczynski, Susan M, PhD, BCBA; Sutro, Leslie, PhD. The Exceptional Parent 38.9 (Sep 2008): 77.

Evaluating the Efficacy of Treatments for Autism Spectrum DisordersWhen 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.

Other Considerations

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

Continuing Education Courses on Autism

This is a test only course (book not included). The book can be purchased from Amazon or some other source.This CE test is based on the book “Apps for Autism” (2015, 436 pages), the ultimate app planner guidebook for parents/professionals addressing autism intervention. There are hundreds of apps for autism, and this course will guide you through them so that you can confidently utilize today’s technology to maximize your child or student’s success. Speech-language pathologist Lois Jean Brady wrote this book to educate parents and professionals about the breakthrough method she calls “iTherapy” – which is the use of mobile technology and apps in meeting students’ individual educational goals.For those who are new to the wonderful world of apps, worry not! This award winning reference will review hundreds of excellent apps, accessories and features organized into 39 chapters for parents and professionals alike. There are also helpful sections of how to choose apps, evidence-based practices, choosing an iDevice, internet safety, a helpful toolbox and much, much more.

It is well-established by research that many learners on the autism spectrum benefit from the use of visuals. How can we go beyond a basic use of symbols to create and implement individualized visuals that will help our students learn and communicate more comprehensively? Participants will learn about considerations and strategies to take into account in order to put more effective visuals in place for their students on the autism spectrum. Topics covered include: broadening symbol selection, adding layers and additional components to visuals in order to make them more motivating and meaningful, providing visuals for a wide variety of expressive communicative functions, and using visuals for comprehension and organization as well as expression.The course video is split into 2 parts for your convenience: part 1 is 56 minutes and part 2 is 57 minutes.

The first section of this course traces the history of the diagnostic concept of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), culminating in the revised criteria of the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, with specific focus on the shift from five subtypes to a single spectrum diagnosis. It also aims to provide epidemiological prevalence estimates, identify factors that may play a role in causing ASD, and list the components of a core assessment battery. It also includes brief descriptions of some of the major intervention models that have some empirical support. Section two describes common GI problems and feeding difficulties in autism, exploring the empirical data and/or lack thereof regarding any links between GI disorders and autism. Sections on feeding difficulties offer interventions and behavior change techniques. A final section on nutritional considerations discusses evaluation of nutritional status, supplementation, and dietary modifications with an objective look at the science and theory behind a variety of nutrition interventions. Other theoretical interventions are also reviewed.

Autism Movement Therapy® is an emerging therapy that combines movement and music with positive behavior support strategies to assist individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in meeting and achieving their speech and language, social and academic goals. Its purpose is to connect left and right hemisphere brain functioning by combining patterning, visual movement calculation, audile receptive processing, rhythm and sequencing into a “whole brain” cognitive thinking approach that can significantly improve behavioral, emotional, academic, social, and speech and language skills. This course is presented in two parts. Part 1 summarizes what is known about the brain functioning of individuals with ASD and illustrates how participation in dance, music and the arts can render the brain more amenable to learning social and language skills. Part 2 is a documentary created by Joanne Lara – Generation A: Portraits of Autism and the Arts, which spotlights – from a strikingly positive perspective – the challenges and accomplishments of eight individuals with ASD.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).