Special Needs Therapy to Consider and How to Evaluate Treatments

Whether you're looking for treatment for autism or one of the many physical and emotional disabilities, there are several options available.

The April issue of Metro Parent features our bi-annual Special Needs Section. This month, we focused on special needs therapy options that are available for kids, which include different diets, music and more. To find safe and effective treatments, it’s important to critically evaluate available options.

Anecdotal experiences can be highly persuasive but are not always sufficient when exploring potential harms versus benefits, notes Dr. Lisa Klein, pediatrician at Child Health Associates in Troy and Farmington Hills. Here are some tips to keep in mind when exploring treatment or therapy options.

Ask for references or evidence of safety and efficacy. This can be in the way of journal articles, preferably ones based on a randomized double-blind placebo controlled study.

Be skeptical if the provider cannot produce references or if the evidence relies heavily on anecdotal experience.

A fully developed explanation may sound plausible, but make sure it has rational scientific validity.

Be skeptical if the treatment is mired more in philosophy then evidence. Even though a treatment may seem OK, it may not be safe. For example, a highly restrictive diet could lead to problematic vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.

Other Special Needs Therapies to Consider

Just as Clawson mom Tina Meluso easily recites a laundry list of the therapies and treatments she’s tried over the years, there is a longer list of options not mentioned, several of which can be described as a form of complementary, alternative or integrative medicine – if not stand-alone therapies or treatments. Some are considered evidence based, while others are not. They include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Art therapy
  • Astronaut training
  • Bal-A-Vis-X
  • Beckman oral motor therapy
  • Brain Gym
  • Chiropractic
  • Developmental Individual-difference Relationship-Based (DIR) Model
  • Dolphin therapy/water therapy
  • Feeding therapy
  • Floortime
  • Healing touch
  • Hyperbaric oxygen chamber
  • Integrative medicine
  • Interactive metronome
  • Massage therapy
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
  • The PLAY Project
  • Reiki
  • Recreational therapy
  • Therapeutic listening
  • Vision therapy


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