Autism Series V: How to Search For Relevant Information Online

Autism Series V: How to Search For Relevant Information Online
online search

Online search – There is no denying that the internet holds tremendous amounts of information across a variety of topics. In this tech-savvy era, answers to any query – big or small – is first searched online. Therefore, it is natural for parents and families that are grappling to understand a new diagnosis to also search for material over the web.

Having personally interacted with several parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I have seen more and more families come equipped with information off the net about their child’s disorder, its prognosis or even future course of action. A lot of the information provides peace to the family since they have answered some of their burning questions; however, some information just creates bigger questions. Search engines such as Google, when used ‘wisely’ can useful results. But, searching for relevant and accurate information is not always the easiest.

ASD related information is vast and growing by each day, and hence can be over-bearing. In this article, I am sharing six key aspects that allowed me to search for relevant information online with regards to ASD and its intervention. A note of caution – after being equipped with information from the web, it is always useful to interact with experienced practitioners (doctors, therapists) to help guide you based on your child’s specific skills.

Six key aspects to consider during online search-

  1. Evidence-based (practices): This should be your most important key-word when searching for information related to intervention. It refers to information that is backed by science. This should enable to find programs/methods that are backed by valid research and science. It gives insight into whether a program or method is – established, promising in its results (or not), safe for the child (i.e. no negative or harmful outcomes of the intervention).
  2. Related to intervention/therapy:
    • For parents of a young child with ASD, the primary key-word is ‘Early intervention’. This is the need of the hour. Looking out for centers that run such programs or provide such therapies would be valuable.
    • If a certain method or program is known to you or has been suggested for your child (such as ABA), it is best to read official sites to understand more about the program/ method, its evidence-based research. Read up on the- testimonials, news clippings about the same. This would give an idea for whom it has been effective, how popular it is etc.
    • If intervention is a new area you need to delve in, I would suggest to first receive some guidance from a practitioner. You can also check websites that provide an overview of the many therapies – but they must be run by groups that provide credible information – such as ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association), that give you an overview of the many intervention programs and methods available. Be aware that – there can be a lot of information to skim through. Hence, understand what is available in your country or city from the practitioner or family groups.
  3. Government related: Explore ‘Government’ websites or organizations that are backed by the government. They would not only talk about programs they run but more importantly give you insight about the Laws, concessions and/or benefits for the child and family.
  4. Testimonials: If a method or practice of intervention is tried and tested by other families- it is good to know. You should read information about how it has faired, how long it took etc.

However, searching for accurate and ‘truthful’ testimonials can at times be tricky. It is best not to be guided by one testimonial that is extremely positive or negative. And, never make judgments based only on testimonials but through a combination of evidence-backed information and positive testimonials.

  1. Culturally-relevant: When considering intervention in your country – look at websites (such as those of autism society of India) and unbiased articles (such as those by better India) that can provide names and details of the same. Get further guidance through ratings, testimonials by parents and families located in the same country or city. Always keenly look for recent updates to the websites or read most recent articles. There are also some wonderful blogs by mothers or families that provide recent information about centers (e.g. mom’s journal).

The best guidance, however, is from families staying in your city or country that have visited centre(s) or tried the method(s) and can talk to you about it.

  1. Know about paid Ads. Paid advertisements are common amongst search engine results. They are typically marked as ‘ads’ and many of them are the first few results. Be mindful of this and be aware that the results that come first may not always be the most relevant.

Online search

Allow these tips to guide your search. The credibility of the information you receive must always be scrutinized. The road to good web results is not an easy one, I truly understand! However, the information can most definitely be useful when done right!

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Online search

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Tanushree Chandhok
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