A New Year’s Resolution


Happy 2015, everyone! Although it can be fun to celebrate the new year, I am not always super excited around this time of year. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. Christmas is over
  2. Football is almost over
  3. Tax season is coming
  4. I will write the wrong date on paperwork for the next 3 months

Anyhow, there are lots of exciting things about starting fresh, making positive changes, and all that jazz – which is what the beginning of a new year often gets us thinking about. Like most people, I’m typically centering these thoughts around my personal life but THIS year seems to be different.

Why? Well, it all started with watching the news. I happened to tune in during a story about a doctor in Naperville, IL. According to news sources, she was known nationally for treating individuals with autism. I believe I may have even known families who pursued this doctor, as her name sounded extremely familiar. The story was about how her license was placed on probation after allegedly providing “medically unwarranted treatment that may potentially result in permanent disabling injuries.” Sadly, this is a story that is told all too often.

What always makes my heart break the most is knowing that the families who fall victim to these scenarios truly want to help their children and are willing to do anything it takes to do just that. Although we typically think about those qualities as being good & honorable, they can also be especially dangerous given the number of providers in the autism community that feed off of them. In other words, there ARE doctors and other, typically well-respected professionals who are not in business to help, but to make money. It may take a lot of questions and research to identify them, but the worst thing you can do is make assumptions about the soundness of their recommendations before doing any research (or simply based on their credentials).

To get back to my original point, I knew after hearing this story that my resolutions were going to be less about personal achievements and more about helping families that I work with have the right perspective so that they can better advocate for their children. Although this is something that I always try to do, there is so much more that needs to be done. To start, I want to give you a couple of ideas to consider…

First, remember that all services providers (doctors, psychiatrists, behavior analysts, counselors, etc.) are HUMAN! Why is this important? Because being human means that we don’t always have the answer. It also means that there is some possibility that we haven’t done our research because we are lazy (but don’t like to admit it) or that we are simply “followers” and continue to do things because it’s what we were taught to do. Unfortunately, it also means that there is some possibility that all we begin to think about is what is going to get us the most clients and income for our own business or family – without considering what’s at stake for others. I can tell you from my own experiences that the nicest people can fall into all of these categories, which directly affects the soundness of their services. The outcome can be disastrous…

Second, consider what things would be like if there was a quick cure for autism that simply required a particular medical procedure. Wouldn’t the effects of this type of discovery be dramatic??? For one, you would know because other well-established therapies, such as ABA, would no longer be growing exponentially. Also, more than a handful of doctors would be providing it and more funding streams would be covering it. You may immediately think, “All types of therapy were ‘born’ at some point – what if this one turns out to be the best?” This is a good point; however, if there is little yet known about whether something is effective, there may also be little known about whether it is dangerous. Aren’t we just as responsible to protect our children from harm as we are to find them the resources they need? Furthermore, if we disregard/minimize proven treatments for those that may not be effective at all (or even dangerous), isn’t that also doing our children a disservice? Wouldn’t it be most beneficial to re-allocate resources if/when other treatments are actually proven effective?

I know this process can be unbelievably overwhelming for families, but checking your perspective is a great place to start. There is so much to learn about what questions to ask and what to look for when deciding on the type of treatments to pursue/continue. If you want more information on this topic, I’d encourage you to visit the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (http://www.asatonline.org/) – an organization whose primary goal is to educate people on evidence-based treatments for autism. Even if you are seeking treatment for other disabilities, you may still find resources on this site that will help you have the right perspective throughout your search.

I think I’m off to a good start to my new year’s resolution – now if only Auburn could win the 2015 national championship 🙂