Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do We Need to Choose Sides?

Baseball fans growing up in Chicago are taught early on to choose sides. You have to be either a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan. And you can’t simply like one team; you have to also hate the other with as much passion.

In the autism community, there seems to be much the same dynamic. When it comes to therapy, you have devout ABA proponents, and those that swear by Floortime. Each passionately declares their method to be the best.

The debate between conventional versus alternative medicine is even more heated.

At the suggestion of a psychologist who recently evaluated our son, we consulted a psychiatrist about putting our son on medication for attention deficits and anxiety.

We told the psychiatrist that we had been seeing a DAN (Defeat Autism Now!) doctor since our son was first diagnosed with autism. We showed him a list of all the alternative-medicine supplements that our son is on, and told him of the progress he has made. The psychiatrist said that he thought the supplements were worthless. He said that there is no scientific research to substantiate any of the purported benefits of this alternative approach.

It was not a surprise that he would feel this way. With his training and background in conventional medicine, that is to be expected, I suppose. I actually appreciated the doctor’s frankness. But, when he went on and on about his disdain for what he called “quack” medicine, it got to be a bit much.

A few days later, I spoke to someone at our DAN doctor’s clinic and told her that we were considering medication. She said that while we might see some short-term benefits, she had concerns about longer-term usage. She said that many of these drugs have not been tested for use on children.

So, here we are, both sides critical of the other. Remarkably, their respective criticisms are similar – lack of appropriate research.

I wish there was a treatment that everyone would agree on, one that has been “proven” to be effective. Alas there is not. And so we are left with a conundrum. Do we continue with the alternative approach or do we begin more conventional medication?

When it comes to baseball, I am a bit of a rebel in that I cheer for both Chicago teams. I figure that when your two hometown teams have had only one World Series championship between them in the last 94 years, it doesn’t make sense to cut your chances in half.

And so it is with our approach to autism. I don’t know if overcoming the harmful effects of autism is as futile as hoping for a Cubs championship, but I don’t want to reduce my chances.

We have done both ABA and Floortime. And had success with both.

And while I don’t like the attitude of this psychiatrist, I don’t want to rule out the treatment he has to offer. But that doesn’t mean that we will necessarily quit the alternative approach. We may do both.

Whatever we do, I hope we have more success than the Chicago baseball teams are having this season. Sox? Cubs? Sigh. It’s already “wait ‘till next year” time.


  1. Very good...one must take into account all variables before rendering a rational decision... as you are doing. Limit nothing...search everything.

    Take the best from everything...make it your own.

    Your son is fortunate to have parents such as he has.


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