Newspaper coverage of autism treatment in Canada: 10-year trends (2004–2013)
Couverture médiatique des traitements de l’autisme au Canada : tendances sur 10 ans (2004-2013)
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofCanadian journal of psychiatry = Revue canadienne de psychiatrie ; vol. 60, no. 7, pp. 329-333.
Objective: To compare trends in coverage of empirically supported and alternative autism treatments in Canadian newspapers during a 10-year period and to examine whether the portrayal of empirically supported and alternative treatments differed. Method: We searched a sample of 10 daily local and national Canadian newspapers using the word autism combined with intervention or treatment in the Proquest Canadian Newsstand and Eureka.cc databases, which yielded a total of 857 articles published between 2004 and 2013. In our subsequent analyses, we only included articles whose main topic was autism and that referred to at least one treatment. We then categorized the 137 remaining articles by treatment and rated whether each treatment category was portrayed in a favourable, unfavourable, or neutral manner. Results: In total, 46% of the articles discussed at least 1 empirically supported treatment, 53% at least 1 alternative treatment, and 12% at least 1 uncategorized treatment. Newspaper articles provided favourable, unfavourable, and neutral portrayals of empirically supported treatments in 75%, 10%, and 16% of cases, respectively. In contrast, alternative treatments were portrayed favourably in 52%, unfavourably in 32%, and neutrally in 16% of cases. Our analyses indicated that empirically supported treatments were portrayed more favourably than alternative treatments (χ2 = 10.42, df = 2, P = 0.005). Conclusions: Despite some encouraging trends, our study has shown that researchers and clinicians must continue to clarify misconceptions about autism treatment. Families of people with autism spectrum disorders should be directed toward more reliable and accurate sources of information.