People living in National Disability Insurance Scheme
trial areas might have different intervention and support options from people outside the trial areas. It’s worth checking out your options under the NDIS.
Choosing evidence-based early interventions
When you’re looking at any early intervention or therapy for your child – even one your paediatrician recommends – it’s best to get some reliable information about it. This is even more important when you’re doing your own research into interventions and therapies.
After all, you wouldn’t give your child a medicine if you thought it wouldn’t work – if it hadn’t been tested as effective and safe to use. It’s the same with therapies and interventions. You need to check there’s good evidence to say they work.
Interventions that are based on scientifically validated and reliable evidence are the ones most likely to:
- be worth the time, money and energy you have to invest
- be safe for your child.
Here are some tips for choosing wisely and thinking carefully about individual interventions.
Think about the claims
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether an intervention for a particular disability really works. Often this is because it isn’t clear what people are saying the intervention can do for your child, or what the end result is supposed to be.
For example, you might want your child to ‘behave better’, ‘act normal’ or ‘be more social’.
To get clearer information about the claims being made for the intervention, you might ask questions like these:
- How will I know whether the intervention has worked?
- What does ‘better’, ‘improvement’ or ‘cure’ really mean? That is, what changes in my child should I expect to see?
- How will the changes be measured?
- Could the changes be measured by anyone (objectively)?
- Is there a risk of bias, or ‘seeing what I want to see’?
Ask about the evidence
As a parent learning about a therapy, you might be finding it difficult to look at things objectively. It’s easy to feel overloaded with information, or to think straight away that the treatment works – after all, you just want to help your child. You might also get different advice from different people, including professionals, about what will work.
And to make things even harder, many interventions haven’t been properly tested.
In this situation, it’s worth asking what evidence there is that the therapy does what it says. The information you find about an intervention won’t always be clear and conclusive, but it’s always best to make an informed choice.Some questions to ask about testing the therapy
The following questions can help you work out whether the therapy has been properly tested:
Some questions to ask about the science behind the therapy
- Has the therapy been tested?
- Was the test reliable or fair?
- Did the test use unbiased research methods that couldn’t be influenced by the person running the tests?
- During the test, could other factors (such as parent or therapist expectations) have influenced the results? What about the placebo effect?
- Was a control group (or ‘comparison group’) used in the test, and did participants have an equal chance of being in the control group or therapy group?
The following questions can help you work out whether the therapy is backed up by reliable science:
- Have other people tested this therapy and come up with the same results? This also helps to ensure that the results one researcher got weren’t because of other factors, and were in fact because of the therapy.
- Were the results published in a scientific journal? Or by an organisation or association with a good reputation, like a university or hospital?
- Were the results published more than once, or as part of a bigger study, like a systematic review?
- Can I get copies of what has been published?
These questions about evidence and the science behind it are based on what we know about how interventions are tested
Choosing an intervention that suits your child and family
On top of the evidence, practical and personal questions are also important to think about. The following questions might help you decide whether an intervention is a real option for your family.
Cost: is the intervention affordable? If not, are there subsidies, rebates or funding that can help you afford it?
Time and involvement: some interventions take a lot of time and need you to do a lot as a parent. Can your family commit to this? What would you need to do to make it work?
Availability: is this intervention available in your area? If it isn’t, is there a way you can use it? Are there places available in the program?
Child fit: does the intervention meet the current needs of your child?
Family fit: does the intervention meet the goals and needs of your family? Does the intervention fit with your family’s beliefs and values? Or can adjustments be made to accommodate these?
It might also help to read more about choosing disability service providers and what to expect from disability professionals.