Friday, August 03, 2012
Dear Ms. Goodwin,
Because pediatricians are typically the first point of contact when parents are concerned about their child's development, we read your article, "Many Parents of Kids with Autism Don’t Put Faith in Pediatricians" (May 16, 2012), with great interest. We commend you for your straightforward reporting of the research results, which indicate that many parents of children with autism spectrum disorders are not comfortable turning to their pediatricians for advice on potential treatments. Likewise, pediatricians often feel they lack the knowledge and time to devote to patients diagnosed with autism.
As Geraldine Dawson, the chief science officer for Autism Speaks, points out, these families are experiencing high levels of stress and, in the absence of guidance from their primary care providers, parents are left to navigate treatment options on their own. Many families will begin their search for interventions on the Internet, which will likely yield a range of information from helpful to potentially harmful information about treatments for autism.
In your article you also noted that pediatricians reported that they felt especially uncomfortable advising parents on complementary and alternative therapies. Taken together, these factors underscore the importance of providing additional training to medical professionals to ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to effectively advise families affected by autism. You provided a helpful suggestion by the study’s author, Dr. Susan Levy, about how pediatricians might better serve families with autism by serving as a “medical home,” helping to manage all aspects of the child’s care and treatment.
In addition to the medical home model, the literature on autism treatments suggests that the pediatrician be knowledgeable about the following: (a) treatment options (educational/behavioral), (b) psychotropic medication, and (c) complementary and alternative treatments. Further, it is suggested that these research findings be disseminated among medical professionals to bridge the gaps that exist between research and practice. This might result in more children with autism accessing evidence-based treatments, such as Applied Behavior Analysis. Including and explaining these areas would have improved the message of the article by demonstrating that there is scientifically validated information available for the medical community.
Thank you for an excellent article. Recently the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) published Autism Treatment Reviews for Physicians: The Take Home Message in their Spring 2012 newsletter which provides a detailed review of the research literature on effective autism treatments (www.asatonline.org). We encourage you to access this and other information when preparing future articles about autism and autism treatment. When media journalists continue to raise awareness and provide sound information about autism treatment effectiveness, parents can become more well informed and savvy consumers.
Elizabeth Zink, B.A., BCaBA
Media Review Committee, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Sharon A. Reeve, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Advisory Board Member, Association for Science in Autism Treatment