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So what exactly are autism interventions intervening with?

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Often the first question after receiving a diagnosis of autism, is what can we do to help? The answer to this is by no means simple and is generally met with the reply – “it depends”. This paper by Damian Milton, an autistic adult, explores the complexity of this question and in particular draws attention to the fact that often the answers given are from a non-autistic perspective and fail to discover what the general view of autistic children or adults would be to what is suggested or what the particular individual would wish for. He argues that there is little, if any, robust research evidence to support the interventions currently offered and that this may never be so, given the issues in conducting such research. Professionals, parents, autistic children and adults have different views depending on their experiences, their training and their own personal preferences and these will all affect what is offered or searched for.

Damian declares his own biases and this is an important first step in considering the options for intervention. He and others maintain that the proponents of some interventions have little experience outside that intervention or indeed of autism, and reviews of research show that studies are often conducted by those who developed the intervention, creating bias from the start (Jordan and Jones, 1998; Parsons et al, 2009).

This paper will cause readers to consider their own work and choices for the children and adults they live or work with and is likely to prompt them to consider ways in which they find out how the person receiving the intervention perceives this prior to and during its delivery. In a new edited book to be published by BILD on promoting happiness and wellbeing, Vermeulen (in press) makes the point that intervention studies often measure levels of skill, anxiety, stress, IQ etc, but how often do we ascertain whether the autistic child or adult is now happier as a result? This is an apt question given the arguments put forward in this paper by Milton.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Good Autism Practice is dedicated solely to promoting good practice with children and adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome.
    Each journal includes articles:
    • encouraging good and innovative practice
    • written by practitioners, academics, parents and people with autism
    The journal is edited by highly respected academics and practitioners specialising in autistic spectrum conditions and will be of interest to parents and practitioners in health, education and social services, as well as people who have autistic spectrum conditions.
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