Thursday, March 27, 2008

Diagnosing Autism

Here's an interesting article from CNN, mainly for parents needing help getting a proper diagnosis of their children with respect to autistic behavior. I think the article is good, but worry sometime about the potential for over-reaction. In some sense, I worry the article makes it easy for parents to see "autism" as a label to explain certain behaviors that could be attributable to other causes.

Reading this article made me think of some other incidents I've experienced when autism makes the popular press:
  1. When The Curious Incident About the Dog in the Night came out, everyone recommended it to me. Some even asked if my son was like the kid in the book. I never read the book. At the time I was reading a lot of books for parents and clinical work on autism and therapy techniques. I couldn't handle reading about autism for fun. (Some people actually recommended it to me as a "fun read" since I had a son with autism.)
  2. Jenny McCarthy's book about her son is (from what I've been told) a quick and easy read. However, most parents who read the book then spend lots of time looking at various diets and other "non-traditional" approaches to treatment. While these are potential sources of benefits, my experience has been that the benefits from these are (for most individuals) on the margin of the greater benefits obtained through one-on-one therapy and interactions. My worry with this kind of book is that it suggests a "cure" for autism which may distract parents form the daily needs and regular therapy an autistic child requires. I think its important to remember that Jenny McCarthy has a lot of resources (i.e., money) which permitted her to give her son 24 hour support. Most parents don't have this and so must be perhaps more organized with their time in caring for their child. I know too many parents who have spend literally hours per day looking on the internet for the miracle diet or the silver-bullet of vitamins. This time probably could have been better spent with the child or taking care of oneself.

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