Evaluation of Autism-Related Health Information on the Web
Background The Internet is a frequently accessed source of information for parents of a child with autism. To help parents make informed decisions about treatment options, websites should contain accurate information. This study aimed to evaluate the quality of information in a sample of autism-relevant websites. Materials and Methods Autism-related keywords were entered into three widely used search engines in April 2013 and the 20 most frequently appearing sites identified. Website quality was rated, by two independent raters, using the DISCERN tool. Websites were also coded according to the type of references/ sources provided to support the intervention content presented. Results The mean DISCERN score was 46.5 (range 23– 67.5), of a possible 80. Information about treatment risks and no treatment as an option was rarely described. Only six (30%) websites provided research references when describing intervention options. Conclusions Many websites did not meet criteria for quality health information and failed to cite evidence supporting described interventions. Implications of these findings are discussed.
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