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Helping Parents and Families Make Treatment Decisions

Families are faced with significant challenges in trying to filter through the large volume of information that is available about autism treatments. As a trusted source, educators may be asked by parents for assistance in evaluating information about treatments. Providing accurate information about autism treatments and knowing where to send parents for accurate information is helpful.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities maintains current information about autism and the research that is being completed regarding autism treatments. This is a great first step in information gathering. 

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment recommends that parents ask the following questions before making treatment decisions:

  • Does this approach have empirical support in peer-reviewed journals?
  • How can I obtain this and other relevant literature?
  • According to this literature, what percentage of individuals make objective and meaningful progress?
  • How does this treatment work? How can I obtain a written copy of the procedures?
  • Are there risks or adverse side effects?
  • What are the criticisms and limitations of this approach? How do the proponents respond?
  • How will the treatment be individualized?
  • What are the necessary experiences and credentials to carry out this treatment approach safely and effectively?
  • What experiences and credentials does this service provider have (years of supervised and independent experience, number of individuals with autism, types of behaviors treated, etc.)?
  • What mechanisms are in place for oversight of this service provider such as licensing board, credentialing board or provider agency?
  • What are the costs in terms of finances, time, materials, etc.?
  • What roles do the parents, other family members and school personnel play?
  • How will progress or lack thereof be evaluated?
  • Are target behaviors stated in observable, measurable terms?
  • Are the assessment procedures logical and thoroughly described?
  • Are the intervention procedures logical and thoroughly described?
  • How will gains in treatment generalize to everyday settings?
  • How will we know when to change specific and general strategies?
  • How long is the individual expected to need treatment? With this service provider? Others?
  • How often should the service provider and the parent communicate? What types of information would be helpful to the service provider?


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