Who do you believe?
A common thread in the autism world is that there is no common thread. So whom do you believe? How do you know what new trend to follow or try with your child? I’m going to give a few pointers on ways to sift through all the research, news articles, Facebook posts, celebrity endorsements and e-newsletters so that you can feel more comfortable with the treatment your child receives.
First: Who is sharing the information?
Check to find out the original source of the information. Is it a peer-reviewed research article? Is it from a reliable medical foundation (think American Academy of Pediatrics or Mayo Clinic)? Is it from a non-scientific source, such as People magazine? Don't get me wrong, I’m not knocking People magazine. In fact I appreciate how publications such as this introduce new ideas to the public and spark conversation. There has been many times when I’ve seen an article in a doctors’ office waiting room that has made me curious enough to learn more about a topic. However, it is important to know who is writing and sharing the information so that you may make an educated decision on whether to incorporate the material into your family’s life.
Second: Why are they sharing the information?
If the source of the information is funded by an outside agency, know what might be in it for them for the public to be aware of the information. For example, if a big drug company funds a research study on the effects of medical interventions for certain behaviors related to autism, and the study finds their product to greatly improve behaviors, how reliable is the study really? Unfortunately there is a lot of research done this way, so be careful to find out where the funds to research or publish came from before implementing a change.
Third: What kind of investment is involved?
I’m not just talking financial, although that is a huge component. But we already lead very busy lives, so we need to think about the time investment that a new therapy or treatment plan might involve. How will it impact your family as a whole? Will the benefits outweigh the negative impact? We often function in survival mode day-to-day, but consider the long-term effects by asking yourself questions such as will a little extra time now create a huge amount of benefit (for everyone) in the long run? And the financial investment may not be an option for you either, since treatment is typically long and costly. Even with insurance a lot of families cannot take advantage of all the interventions they would like because of the cost of copays, or the fact that insurance does not cover all treatment options. So is this time effective and cost effective for your family?
Fourth: What does you gut tell you?
If you read something and it just feels wrong, then it probably isn’t the right treatment for your family. I’m not suggesting turning away every new idea, not by any means. But, after you have done sufficient research on a topic yourself, if you feel like the information is too out of touch with your lifestyle you probably shouldn’t try it. Just try to keep an open mind and learn about the new research and treatments coming your way…there was a time, less than 75 years ago in fact, when science said autism was caused by bad mothering (remember hearing about Refrigerator Moms anyone!). Thankfully we now know that is not the case! Let’s be grateful that there are scientists out there brave enough to keep looking for answers so that our children may lead happier, more comfortable lives.
Colleen writes with the real-life experience of raising three children as a single mom, one of whom happens to have autism. With too much on her plate, humor is Colleen's survival technique, often to the horror of her children! Welcome to the Land of Sunshine!
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