In the category of "Duh?" for the week, we have a new article from France looking at how parental beliefs regarding autism dictate treatment choices. Dardennes et al. (2011) put 78 parents through a questionnaire called "the Lay-Beliefs about Autism Questionnaire (LBA-Q; Furnham&Buck, 2003). This questionnaire explores beliefs regarding the etiology and treatment of autism. LBA-Q’s authors considered two main academic theories of the possible causes and treatment of autism: the psychogenic model and the biomedical model" (Dardennes et al.).

This latest journal article is a further exploration of a previous study done by the same authors in 2010, in which they found that the "perception of seriousness of the disease was associated with the use of educative methods and unpredictable course of disorder associated with drug use. A higher sense of personal control was associated with reduced use of nutritional or pharmaceutical treatments. Attendance to training programs was associated with higher hereditary beliefs and lower perception of cyclical timeline" (referring to Al Anbar, N. N., Dardennes, R. M., Prado-Netto, A., Kaye, K.,&Contejean, Y. (2010). Treatment choices in autism spectrum disorder: The role of parental illness perceptions. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 31, 817–828.)

This time around, they specifically address assumptions about causes. Not surprisingly, most parents don't blame bad parenting for their child's autism. Most believe that it was a result of genetics and problems during the pregnancies. In the good news department, out of the parents questioned, "Surprisingly, only six respondents spontaneously cited vaccines as main causes of autism and only three endorsed it as the first cause (3.8%)." The authors suggest that this low belief is probably a result of "a lower influence, and mediatisation, of the vaccine hypothesis of autism in France."

So how did what parents believe about cause alter treatments chosen?

"Parents who had more beliefs in the causal role of very early traumatic experiences were less likely to use behavior therapy and PECS." 
"Higher beliefs in illness during pregnancy increased the odds of prescribed medication use." 

"Stronger beliefs on the etiological role of food allergy were associated with higher use of detoxification treatments, special diets, and vitamins. On the contrary, these beliefs reduced the odds of drug use." 

"Vitamins’ use was also negatively associated with beliefs in brain abnormalities." 

"[P]arents believing that a chemical imbalance is causal to autism are more likely to use special diets and vitamins" 

Ultimately, according to the study's authors, understanding what parents believe about the cause of their child's autism can help to reshape the parents' beliefs towards causes that lead to better treatment choices. According to the authors, "Modification of causal beliefs through cognitive restructuring may contribute to a reduction in perceived responsibility and self-blame and, consequently, to reduce self-stigmatization and psychological distress. Therefore, autism is a domain where illness perception studies may be particularly fruitful, not only from a theoretical point of view, but also from a practical perspective."

I'd bet you dollars to donuts that the study results in America would reflect very different rates towards causation and towards treatment choices, and that the biomedical and anti-vaccine communities would have a field day with the idea that physicians and other clinicians might consider the "utility of modifying such beliefs for both parents’ and child’s benefits." 

No, in the age of the internet, there's no need to rely on the experts in the field, no need to go through the laborious effort of years of rigorous education when you can be a google scholar so much faster and easier. If there's anything that a vocal part of our autism community clearly conveys, it's that a google education from sites like Mercola, Mike Adams, NVIC, and and handy-dandy do-it-yourself treatment ideas from forums and networks are all you need to know everything there is about autism, vaccines, and how to cure your child of autism and take care of your chronic fatigue while you are at it, too. 


Dardennes, R. M., Al Anbar, N. N., Prado-Netto, A., Kaye, K., Contejean, Y., & Al Anbar, N. N. (2011). Treating the cause of illness rather than the symptoms: Parental causal beliefs and treatment choices in autism spectrum disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(3), 1137-1146. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2011.01.010