There's No One-Size-Fits-All Way to Treat Autism

Life, Animated, a new award-winning documentary about Owen Suskind, a young adult with autism, shows how his family learned to communicate and to connect with him through Disney films. It beautifully illustrates how there is no one-size-fits-all solution for families to follow. This is not always an easy message for families of persons with autism to internalize, however.

In the work that we do as a developmental pediatrician and a speech-language pathologist and intervention researcher, we see that when a child receives a diagnosis of autism, parents often look for a clear path to treatment. Usually, by the time they come to us, they already will have looked online for answers. Online, they will be faced with a dizzying array of choices for possible treatments, from essential oils to speech therapy. It can be confusing when blog posts and celebrity profiles suggest one approach for intervention while peer-reviewed scientific publications may suggest another one. When deciding between a compelling anecdote with a video on a blog versus a chart with means and standard deviations, it is not surprising that parents may choose an easier-to-digest but non-evidence-based intervention.

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