Shared decision making during initial diagnostic and treatment planning visits for children with autism spectrum disorder

Date: January 13, 2021
Journal: Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Citation: Mulé CM, Lavelle TA, Sliwinski SK, Wong JB. Shared Decision-Making During Initial Diagnostic and Treatment Planning Visits for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 2021.



Although shared decision-making (SDM) can improve patient engagement, adherence, and outcomes, evidence on the use of SDM within the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) initial diagnosis and treatment planning remains limited. The goal of this study was to objectively assess the occurrence of SDM in these visits and to compare this assessment with parent and provider perceptions of SDM in the same encounter.


After audio-recording and transcribing initial clinical visits between parents (n = 22) and developmental behavioral pediatricians (n = 6) discussing the diagnosis of ASD and treatment options, we used the OPTION5 Item scale to assess the occurrence of SDM. Afterward, parents and providers completed the OPTION5 Item, and parents also participated in a semistructured qualitative interview. Analysis consisted of descriptive statistics for OPTION5 Item scores and a modified grounded theory framework for interviews.


Low levels of SDM were observed, with 41% of visits having no elements of SDM. On average, visits scored 1.1 of a possible 20 points on the OPTION5 Item scale for SDM. By contrast, parents and providers indicated on the OPTION5 Item scale that providers made a "moderate" to "skilled" effort to engage parents in SDM. Qualitative interviews with parents were consistent with their OPTION5 Item ratings.


The level of SDM determined by parent and provider reports was higher than the level of SDM determined by objective observation using a standard validated rating method. The findings reinforce the need for further research into barriers and facilitators of SDM methods and outcomes within ASD. 

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