Parents Beware: Malpractices Under Our Noses

Parents Beware: Malpractices Under Our Noses

autism malpractice


There is always someone taking advantage of a lack of knowledge. And some are – knowingly or unknowingly – at the root of the malpractice problem within the special needs education sphere. Based on our experience with people, directly or indirectly, we have compiled a few things which can help parents make critical choices. 


Last year, we invited a young Psychology graduate for an interview at the school. Her CV declared she was diagnosing children with Autism at her previous workplace. But then, the CV did not mention if she had the required certification to conduct the test. We were intrigued and asked if she was authorised to conduct testing. She was astounded about why we would ask this question as she had been diagnosing autism “successfully”. Unsatisfied, we continued to the next question: what tool did she use? Her body language suggested that the answer should have been rather obvious. Her verbal response was shocking – she was diagnosing children based on her observations, without any of the tools or techniques that have been determined by years of research by competent authorities. We had heard enough. The interview was over. For obvious reasons, she wasn’t recruited.


A quick question for the readers: were the candidate and her employers carrying out ethical practices?


This story above is just one horror story out of so many that have happened to us. A scarier addition is that the malpractice nightmare in this field begins here.


Not Quite Humble Beginnings

Right off the bat, Autism is misunderstood in many cases. So is ADHD. And Specific Learning Disabilities. Because many people don’t understand these lifelong disorders, this leaves room for many malpractices in this field.


Enter quacks – there, we’ve said the word dreaded by many. A quack is anyone who just joined – in our case – the special needs education without having the proper credentials. Having a degree in Psychology is a great start. But it’s not enough. An XYZ certificate from  “Nameless Institute” will also not cut it. One should at least have the qualification or certification from authorised bodies. The American BCBA has stopped certifying Pakistani professionals just because of the malpractices in our country.


Parents of kids with special needs masquerading as “experts”. We also have random people, without any relation to special needs education, psychology, therapy, or what have you, hoodwinking people into believing they are doing God’s work. But, the most disappointing are the doctors brushing off children with phrases like “they’ll be fine in a few years”.


We’re Never in the Same Boat

Merely being a parent of a child with special needs is never enough. Like we mentioned in another post, being a parent is not a qualification. It equips one to deal with the ups and downs of THEIR child’s life, but not with children with special needs in general. The fact is that each child is different. Hence, “I have an autistic child” does not qualify anyone to take on the role of therapist. In our city, Islamabad, there are some self-proclaimed “experts” just because they had three children, one of whom had ADHD, for example. But their reply is less than satisfactory when asked for qualifications and experience in the field.


Special needs parents feel a connection when they meet someone else in a similar situation. It might feel like the clouds suddenly parted, and the sun shone upon them. But in reality, no one is ever in the same boat. Everyone is different. And so are their struggles. Parents must remember the golden words here: “We all have our own journeys”. Maybe one strategy worked for this self-proclaimed messiah’s child, but there is a HUGE chance it won’t work for someone else’s child.


Physician, Heal Thyself

Then, we have doctors. Parents often take their concerns to paediatricians. Some of them are up to date – and instantly point parents in the right direction. While others are still living in the 1960s and tell parents, “no problem, the issue will resolve itself by the time the child is five. Don’t do anything.” Waiting till age five is the downfall. We agree that everyone can’t be an expert on all subjects. But as doctors, the right thing to do in this case would be to refer parents to someone who works in this field or, at the very least, seek help from colleagues before handing out this prison sentence.


Gold Standard Testing

ADOS-2 is a diagnostic test for Autism, this is just one of the gold standard tests available. To run this diagnostic, one must be certified and have the complete test kit. Even if someone has acquired the kit, they should only be running the test if they also have the certificate.


Let’s return to the story at the beginning of this post. What was wrong with the Psychology graduate conducting diagnostics for Autism? She was not certified. One may ask if certification is important to the result. In one phrase: it is essential! Would anyone ever ask a plumber to create blueprints for a house? No, of course, they wouldn’t!


In Islamabad, several practitioners (psychologists and paediatricians) are certified to run the test. But unfortunately, parents often choose people who don’t have either expertise or credentials. This compromises the integrity of the diagnosis and leaves a giant question mark over the result.


Diagnostic Horror Stories

Here, we must take a little horror story break. As a school, we ask parents to submit diagnostic reports (if tests have been conducted) during enrolment. Naturally, we are horrified and traumatised by these reports. Some of them are shocking because they have been conducted at reputed institutes.


The first jolt often comes when reports are handwritten on a single page, without any details of the test run, their observations, or anything that should be in the report. Those “diagnosticians” write the word Autism, and that’s it. This “report” looks like a General Physician’s prescription, where you have the name, age and BP etc., mentioned. Parents who pay thousands of Rupees for the tests never even see the report. The diagnosticians usually brush off the parents when they demand to see the reports. The reason cited is “it is standard protocol to not share the report with parents”.


The Bottomline

Parents often struggle to find support for their children. Disguised as well-wishers, some quacks will defraud parents, using their weak spots – their kids. Parents often encounter “practitioners” who will experiment on their kids, whether it’s medicine or some out-of-this-world strategy.  Here, we will like to go on record and say explicitly that no pill has been developed to cure Autism. If it had been, at least half of the North American and three-quarters European population would have “cured” their kids by now! The result is usually parents wasting time. And time is the crucial element.


We urge parents to seek out qualified professionals and those who know what they are doing. Sometimes, parents seek out people with a small price tag. But, please remember therapy is expensive. And if someone is charging below the market rate – for the love of God, please ascertain that they are not YouTube Centre for Training Therapists graduates. Because when parents waste their time following subpar services, their kids will suffer.


Another thing we’d like to mention here is that early diagnosis and intervention are crucial to managing ADHD or autism. Leaving things to when the child is older is great foolishness.

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