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Who Should Choose Treatments for Autism?


Updated April 12, 2009

Question: Who Should Choose Treatments for Autism?
Who should choose treatments for autism?
Answer: If you are a parent with an autistic child, the simple answer is that the choice of therapy is yours. If you are an adult recently diagnosed with autism, that answer goes double.

It is, of course, important to consult with trusted, properly credentialed experts such as developmental pediatricians, neurologists, therapists and psychologists. But the reality is that to follow the advice of all those well-intentioned experts, you'd need thousands of hours and dollars a day.

Many doctors and therapists are more than happy to recommend treatments for autism. But which doctor or therapist is right? Since research has only begun to tap into the causes of autism, there's no absolute answer to that question. And the more you explore the options, the more you'll discover legitimate disagreements among serious, well-intentioned professionals.

So how DO you begin to choose among available therapies?

The issues to consider when choosing therapies include symptoms to be addressed, availability, quality, cost, and apparent usefulness of treatment methods. For example, if your child has few behavior issues, then a behavior specialist is probably not a priority. If your child does have language delays, then a speech language therapist is a great idea. If you can get Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provided to your child by a local specialist (and ABA is often paid for through public funds), then it may make sense to start with ABA.

All things being equal, however, the choice of therapy or therapies for autism often comes down to comfort level. Do you want to provide therapy yourself, or hire someone else to do it? Are you comfortable with behaviorist theories or developmental theories? Do you buy into Dr. X's ideas, or do you find Dr. Y more believable?

If this sounds like a less than ideal way to choose a treatment plan, you're right. Yet even the most experienced developmental pediatricians and child psychologists can only make recommendations based on their own experience. You will find yourself in the driver's seat, perhaps more often than you would prefer.


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