Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paying for DIR autism treatment, or not

The Eastern Los Angeles County Regional Center will no longer pay for DIR therapy for autistic kids. Developmental, Individual difference, Relationship-based treatment is being cut because they don't have any money, and when they listed the stuff they needed to pay for, DIR came out toward the bottom of their priorities, because it doesn't have any actual evidence that it works. The National Research Council said it was close enough to some therapies that have been shown to be effective that it "could be considered a valid model for treating autism," but that's not the same as a real study on  the actual therapy.

I don't have a dog in this fight. If DIR works, and if the agency is obliged to pay for any treatment that works, then tautologically they should fund this. And we should refuse to pay for treatments that don't work. Sometimes it's clear whether a treatment works or does not, and sometimes the evidence is not yet in.

The agency says they expect to save $4 million a year, but won't the parents who are cut off from DIR just go to another therapy? The regional center's action won't deny treatment, just this particular treatment. So won't the regional center just pay the same $4 million for other kinds of therapies?
So let's somebody do a real study on DIR and find out. Surely some grad student is searching for a dissertation topic that this would be perfect for.

And in the meantime, it's hard to tell parents that this treatment, which they deeply believe will make a difference in their children's lives, is a mirage. You hate to step on their bubbles, but it's equally bad to let them continue a treatment that will fail. We need to find out if it works.

No comments:

Post a Comment