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Knowing What to Ask About Treatment Options for ASDs

After looking at the needs of the person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there are other factors to consider before deciding on what treatments and therapies to pursue at this particular time. Here are some things to consider when looking at treatment options:

  • The potential risk to the individual. Does the therapy have side effects? Is it risky to mental or physical health? Do the possible risks outweigh the possible gains? Does it use any form of punishment?
  • The family. ASDs are a family thing, as they affect everyone in the household either directly or indirectly. But so does the treatment. The parents have to think about how the treatment or therapy fits into the family. What kind of involvement is expected from others? How will this treatment affect any siblings? Is the family going to be able to follow through with whatever the professional deems necessary (e.g., giving supplements on a regular basis, sticking to a diet, generalizing skills learned)? Can the family commit to the prescribed treatment or therapy for whatever time it takes or is recommended? Are all responsible adults in the household in agreement about the particular treatment and supportive of seeing it through? If the treatment fails, how will it affect the family?
  • The financial cost of the therapy. Money does not grow on trees. Do you have to sell your home to provide this therapy or intervention? Is insurance going to cover it? Are you asking for the school district or private health insurance to fund the treatment? If yes, do you have the tenacity to advocate effectively to obtain the appropriate type of service?
  • Can the treatment be integrated into whatever existing program the child already has, and if so, how? For example, in the case of a special diet, can it be carried over to all of the child's environments? Will the treatment's inclusion be at the expense of other equally important aspects of the child's program?
  • What evidence exists to validate this method of treatment? Is the therapy being touted as a miracle cure for everyone? Is there scientific validation of this treatment? What does the anecdotal evidence have to say?
  • Is this treatment or therapy autism-specific and, if not, has it proved effective with individuals with ASDs? Some treatments may not be specifically created with ASDs in mind, but can be very beneficial. However, it is important to verify how others with an ASD have done with this treatment. For example, early intervention is a great concept. However, some programs do not work well with all children with autism, because most children with ASDs do not imitate or tune in to social cues the way other developmentally delayed children do, and therefore need first to be taught how to imitate or understand those social cues.
  • How is the effectiveness of the therapy going to be measured? With any treatment or therapy, there should be record-keeping in order to track effectiveness. Parents need to ask who is responsible for taking data, how data is taken, how often it is recorded, and how often it is reviewed.
  • What is the track record of the provider of the therapy or treatment? How long have the practitioners been doing this therapy and with what age group? What level of ability has this person worked with? If it is dietary supplements, is it a reputable company that is making them?
  • Does the person prescribing the treatment or supervising the course of treatment have all pertinent information about the person being treated? Make sure the person knows as much about the individual in question as possible. It's a good idea to write down anything you think the provider should know, especially if she is dealing with a young child or someone who is unable to communicate independently about himself. Information that is helpful includes other treatments that may have been tried, the person's likes or dislikes, and particular behaviors the practitioner should know about. Any allergies to food or medication, phobias, chances of seizures, special diets, and so on are all valuable information.

More on: Autism

Excerpted from Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Other ASDs©2004 by Chantal Sicile-Kira. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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