Institutional review boards

Just expanding on Guidepost One a little bit … let’s say you’re thinking about pursuing a new treatment for your child.

It’s a reasonable thing to do.

When I was age 6 to 10, my father was in dental school. He was approached by someone doing research on interceptive orthodontic treatment. It was very new back then. My dad was worried about the proposal, and wasn’t sure it was a good idea that I be an experiment subject.

These days, he said it was too bad because I was the perfect candidate. I had a little bit of crowding, and it was causing some teeth to grow in crooked. Had I had spacers put in, they probably would not have needed to pull my bicuspids to straighten my teeth when I was a teen. That practice isn’t considered so smart anymore, and I know why. I had to have orthodontia again as an adult and eventually had to give up playing the euphonium because my bite kept shifting. Eventually I had to choose between chewing my food and playing.

I chose food.

Perhaps if they’d had an Institutional Review Board back then, my dad would have felt more comfortable allowing me to be a part of that experimental treatment.

IRB review and oversight is a terrific way to know whether a new treatment is being properly conducted and properly supervised. These groups, often situated at universities and medical schools, make sure the treatment experiment is scientific and ethical.

Mark and I agreed that if a university was ever studying something related to autism and we could participate, that was how we’d help Sam get access to new services and ideas. We were part of a terrific sibling study that I think went a long way to helping Sam and Michael be able to play together as boys and tolerate each other as teens.

We also had Sam in a case study, which eventually became a published paper.

One time, we thought we were participating in something bold and new and scientific, but as we got deeper into it — auditory training it was called back then — we realized it was bogus and we bailed.

Look for the IRB label.

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