A sobering report on value of autism treatment studies

By all accounts the rate of the diagnosis of autism has risen dramatically over the years.

According to the National Institutes of Health, experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD). One out of 88…

A couple of weeks ago we put together a special section on autism. We interviewed families of those with autism, parents, friends and our good friend and blogger Erin Clemens even wrote a column about living with her autism.

We all felt good about how we presented the topic and thought maybe, just maybe that would get someone’s attention.

But then an article from HealthDay about autism and treatment came out and left us feeling a little disheartened.

Reporter Robert Preidt wrote the story that basically said there are not enough studies to tell us whether or not treatments actually help adolescents and young adults with autism. Here is a link to the HealthDay story: http://bit.ly/O3nnS9

Here are some highlights from the HealthDay story:

“Overall, there is very little evidence in all areas of care for adolescents and young adults with autism, and it is urgent that more rigorous studies be developed and conducted,” report senior author Melissa McPheeters, director of Vanderbilt University’s Evidence-Based Practice Center, said in a university news release.

“Her team reviewed 32 studies published between 1980 and 2011 on therapies for people aged 13 to 30 with autism.

“They found some evidence that treatments might boost social skills and educational outcomes such as vocabulary and reading, but the studies were generally small and had limited follow-up.

“There was little evidence supporting the use of drug therapy for people with autism in these age groups. The most consistent findings showed that antipsychotic medications might lessen problem behaviors such as irritability and aggression. However, harmful side effects linked to these medications included weight gain and sedation.

“Only five studies tested interventions involving work skills training for young people with autism. All of the studies suggested that vocational interventions may be effective for some adolescents and young adults with autism, but the studies also had significant flaws that raised questions about their conclusions.”

So not just because we recently did our look at the topic, but I wonder if autism is indeed on such a meteoric rise in numbers of diagnosed cases, why are there not more studies?

The HealthDay article also addressed that issue…

“One expert said the paucity of data on this topic is disheartening.

“Only five studies that address vocation skills were published in the last three decades, and all were of poor quality,” said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at the advocacy group Autism Speaks. However, “the meager evidence that exists suggests that vocational interventions improve rates of employment, reduce autism symptoms, and (improve) quality of life.”

One has to wonder why the lack of studies when it comes to something so much in the news, so much in the forefront of our everyday lives, with so much attention and focus.

Call me a cynic but it sure seems like autism should be getting as much attention as it can seeing the raw numbers of 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an Autism Spectrum disorder.

I just don’t get it. And for people like Erin Clemens, her family, her friends and those who know anyone with autism this must be very frustrating news.

And I don’t blame them for being frustrated.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay attention to heart disease, breast cancer or anything else but c’mon, autism deserves more attention than it’s getting and the studies need to be more on the radar when it comes to the value of treatments.

Any treatment for any disease or condition can’t begin soon enough. So the more we start to realize new, different or better the treatments for autism the more likely the quality of life for those afflicted will be improved.

Isn’t that the goal?

— Andy Hachadorian

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About fromtheeditorchair

I am the editor of the Daily Local News.
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