Our Role in Helping Clients Recognize Misinformation Guidance to clients on vetting online information can steer them to better health decisions. From My Perspective
Free
From My Perspective  |   October 01, 2018
Our Role in Helping Clients Recognize Misinformation
Author Notes
  • Brady Lund earned a bachelor of arts in communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University, where he was a member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. He is pursuing a PhD in information science at Emporia State University. blund2@g.emporia.edu
    Brady Lund earned a bachelor of arts in communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University, where he was a member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. He is pursuing a PhD in information science at Emporia State University. blund2@g.emporia.edu×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / From My Perspective
From My Perspective   |   October 01, 2018
Our Role in Helping Clients Recognize Misinformation
The ASHA Leader, October 2018, Vol. 23, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.23102018.8
The ASHA Leader, October 2018, Vol. 23, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.23102018.8
Does it seem that more people than ever believe they know the “cure” to autism? We shouldn’t be surprised.
Simply type “can autism be cured?” in a Google search. Articles from parents.com and nypost.com (the fourth-largest newspaper in the United States) share stories of miracle cures. These types of articles could lead to poor decisions about a child’s health or—at the very least—lead to terrible disappointment.
In fact, a Stanford University study led by John Ioannidis—a professor of medicine and health research and policy—found that about half the sites that appear in a user’s search of medical questions provide either half-truths or outright lies about a condition. This presents a clear danger to audiology and speech-language clients and their families.
People have more access to information about speech-language and hearing disorders than at any time in history. With the best intentions, some may use what they read online to inform lifestyle changes and pursue alternative treatments. What they may fail to consider is whether the information is accurate or completely fabricated. How can we help them to properly vet online information sources?

About half the sites that appear in a user’s search of medical questions provide either half-truths or outright lies about a condition.

Consider your audience
Peer-reviewed journal articles and NIH reports are likely to provide the most reliable information—but will your clients understand the material or are they more likely to get frustrated and turn to Facebook for answers to their questions? Very rarely do scholarly articles provide a straightforward answer to a question. Fortunately, there are many resources that are easy-to-read and provide trustworthy information. Ways to identify these resources are discussed below.
Strategies
Here are some information-gathering strategies to discuss with clients and their families.
Can I just Google it?
Nothing is inherently wrong with Google. It’s a fine place to start a search—it just shouldn’t be considered the be-all and end-all. Encourage clients to carefully evaluate the individual sites that search engines list to determine whether they contain accurate information.
Standards and policies
Suggest clients look for publications with detailed ethical standards and editorial policies. A trustworthy publication will apply rigor in the editorial process and make a clear distinction between opinion pieces and articles that incorporate research and investigation. Most of the major news sites (BBC, NPR, New York Times, National Geographic) feature these policies prominently on their website. If you can’t find this information, the writers/editors may not be held to strong ethical standards. A lack of editing rigor does not necessarily mean the article is inaccurate, but it increases the probability of misinformation finding its way into the article.
Name recognition
It’s best to stay away from sites whose names you don’t recognize. The proprietors of these sites are people who want to share their opinions or companies looking to attract you with click-bait so they can make more ad revenue. Prioritize sites known to be reputable, such as those from universities, government agencies and large nonprofits.

When people are desperate for answers, as many clients and their families are, it can be easy to get caught up in misinformation.

Evidence
Look for a preponderance of evidence. Don’t visit just one site. Visit multiple sites and, ideally, read multiple perspectives on an issue. Look for sites that bring additional information to an initial report, such as interviews with recognized professionals.
Check Wikipedia sources
Wikipedia isn’t a bad resource, but the accuracy of Wikipedia articles can vary. Some are well-researched and accurately sourced. Others may give the appearance of being well-researched but are not. Check the references section at the bottom of the article. If you click on a reference and it takes you to a page that doesn’t exist, or all the references take you to the same website, then question the accuracy of the article.
Medical sites
MedlinePlus and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sites make things easy. The search feature on these websites can lead to accurate, understandable results. These sources have a way of giving one-sentence answers that are incredibly clear and well-sourced.
With the ubiquity of the internet, it is highly likely (if not inevitable) that clients will use it to find information about their conditions, according to a Pew Research Center report. It’s best to educate clients during their first evaluation or treatment session—before misinformation takes hold. Simple handouts may suffice, but a discussion about evaluating internet information will likely be more effective.
Smart internet navigation is a valuable tool for everyone. When people are desperate for answers, as many clients and their families are, it can be easy to get caught up in misinformation. Speech-language and hearing professionals can provide an important line of defense through their guidance and advocacy early in the diagnosis and treatment process.
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
October 2018
Volume 23, Issue 10