Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The autism diagnosis changes being introduced in the upcoming DSM-V have spawned a loud lament over potential loss of services, the fear being that under the new criteria many children will be deprived of essential treatments they would have qualified for under the old criteria.

But here's my question: how does anyone know this is a bad thing? Let's face it, we have yet to see the first piece of meaningful, significant evidence that these so-called “essential treatments” are actually helpful for autistic children (or adults, for that matter). My suspicion is that many of these so-called “essential treatments” (drugs and ABA at the head of the list) are actually harmful in most instances. Suspicions aside (mine or anyone else's), even a cursory glance at the autism research literature reveals that our current knowledge about autism treatments and interventions is chaotic at best. In point of fact, we haven't the first clue whether we're doing harm or good.

So I'll ask the question again: if more children are being denied treatments and interventions under the new diagnostic guidelines, how do we know for sure this is a bad thing? It's the law of unintended consequences. And the reason the consequences are unintended is that when it comes to autism knowledge and understanding, we remain almost totally in the dark.