How Do I Choose the Best Treatment/Therapy for My Child?
Answer: There is a dizzying array of information about autism and what treatments/therapies work best. You’ll get advice from parents who’ll tell you how well something worked for their child. Medical professionals will have an opinion. Internet research, forums, and articles may also influence your decision.
Just because someone suggests or endorses a treatment/therapy or there is solid research about it, does not mean it is right for your child. When deciding on a treatment or therapy, there are several things to consider. Think about the following:
- Functioning level – Is the child are verbal or non-verbal? What is cognitive ability?
- Age of the child – different ages and stages mean different needs.
- Behavioral issues – Are there anxiety and sensory issues or medical issues?
- Goals for the child – What do you want for your child? Do you want to increase independence, acquire social skills in order to make friends, improve language, learn to print, or control meltdowns?
Think about the impact a treatment or therapy might have on the family. What involvement is expected from you or other members of your family? Make sure you can commit to a treatment for whatever time it takes or is recommended. I see lots of parents try the gluten-free/casein free diet without considering the time, cost and preparation involved in such a diet. If your child is in a day home, the caregiver may not be able to prepare a different meal for your child. Consider what the effects will be if a therapy is not successful.
Assess what the cost of a therapy/treatment will be. See if your health insurance plan will cover the costs and check if there is government funding available. Before trying any treatment, do some research to see if there is scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. Try to find case studies or clinical trials to read. There are lots of claims about therapies or treatments that dramatically change the course of autism, but many of these claims are not true and prey upon the vulnerability of parents.
When choosing a provider for a therapy or treatment, check if the professional has worked with people who have ASD. Ask what age group they have worked with. If the treatment is not autism-specific, ask if it has been proven effective for those with an ASD. Make sure the person who is prescribing a treatment or therapy knows the person’s medical history, past treatments and therapies tried, allergies and food intolerances, and co-morbid conditions such as seizures or a dual diagnosis such as ADHD.
The bottom line is you have to do what is right for your family and not be influenced by what another family is doing or what the media is highlighting. Sure – ask other families what is working for them, but be prepared to adapt for your situation. Don’t be afraid to say no to a suggestion from a professional if you know you can’t make it work. A parent has the final word to say what is right for them. Gather as much information as you can about a treatment or therapy, make sure you know what it involved, and be realistic about the commitment you can make both with time and finances. Every family’s needs are unique so keep that in mind when choosing a treatment path.
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