Science debunks fad autism theories, but that doesn’t dissuade believers

 

Debunking another fad treatment – facilitated communication

Despite the prevalence of these fad therapies, relatively few scientists who study autism have raised their voices to rebuke these methods. Perhaps that is because most do not regard public outreach as part of their job description.

In a recent article in the journal Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, my co-authors Julia Marshall, Howard Shane, James Todd and I examined the persistence of facilitated communication, a scientifically discredited autism therapy. The premise of facilitated communication is that autism is primarily a movement disorder, not a mental disorder. As a consequence of supposed motor deficits, individuals with autism cannot articulate words properly, which presumably explains why many are incapable of speech. With the aid of a facilitator who offers gentle support to their arms, previously uncommunicative individuals with autism can supposedly type eloquent sentences and paragraphs.

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

Scores of controlled studies performed soon after the widespread introduction of facilitated communication to the United States in the early 1990s demonstrated that its seeming effectiveness is a mirage. Facilitators are unintentionally directing autistic individuals’ fingers to the desired letters, much as Ouija board players unknowingly direct the planchette to specific letters and numbers.

We found that facilitated communication, despite being debunked by the late 1990s, remains alive and well in much of the autism community. The method continues to be widely practiced in the US and parts of Europe. It’s still publicized in numerous trade and academic books, seminars, workshops and high-profile documentaries.

This revelation has taken many of our academic colleagues by surprise. One told me that earlier this year, he had invoked facilitated communication in a psychology course as a prime example of a fad that had long been consigned to the dustbin of pseudoscientific history. This is a critical point – for scientists these matters are settled. But that doesn’t mean the information in studies disproving claims from fad therapies has hit the mainstream.

Why is there so much misinformation about autism?

Continues Here

Pages: 1 2

Top Stories and Breaking News

Researchers hope to revolutionize autism diagnosis through Autism & Beyond app

New York — A team of researchers from Duke are hoping to revolutionize how autism is diagnosed in young children through an iPhone app called ‘Autism & Beyond’. The researchers are working closely with Apple in hopes of improving how autism is diagnosed in children today. Due to the surge of the number of children […]

The damage of Chlorine Dioxide also peddled as Miracle Mineral Solution

For those of you that do not know there’s a very real threat to our autistic children in the world today. Naive parents and carers are being told that parasitic worms are the cause of autism in their children. They are being told that if they remove these worms with CD (Chlorine Dioxide) treatments the […]

Blogging mother, Temporary Tourist, shares her experiences of Disney’s Guest Assistance rule change

We’ve had mixed responses on Disney’s decision to change the Guest Assistance Card system. We reported Autism Hippie’s experiences on October 11. Disney implemented a change in their guest assistance cards for children and adults with special needs on October 9 after reports that people were flagrantly abusing the old system. Cards called Disability Access […]