Autism, also referred to as autistic spectrum disorder, occurs in approximately 1 per 2,000 children and is a complex, lifelong condition that can be devastating to families who are often ill-equipped to meet its challenges. Increasing media attention has led to public fascination with autism as well as amazing claims about the efficacy of a wide variety of treatment approaches. Unfortunately, there is little empirical evidence with which to support many of these claims. Because nurses are often asked to help families navigate through a maze of confusing treatment choices, they should understand the characteristics of autism, historical treatments and current trends, terminology commonly used by parents and the “autism community,” and scientific advancements with clinical implications. With this knowledge, nurses and other professionals should be well-positioned to assist parents who must make critical decisions about treatment options for their autistic children and to promote sound scientific inquiry.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to: Jennifer Harrison Elder, PhD RN, College of Nursing, University of Florida, Health Science Center, PO Box 100197, Gainesville, FL 32610–0197. She is an associate professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Florida.
© 2002 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses