ASAT Responds to AutismDailyNewscast.com's "Limitations Apparent in Applied Behavior Analysis Research"
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Dear Ms. Meydam:
On behalf of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, we wish to provide feedback to your recent article entitled Limitations Apparent in Applied Behavior Analysis Research (http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/limitations-apparent-in-applied-behavior-analysis-research/4612/janetmeydam/, November 9, 2013).
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a science that is used to promote the quality of life of individuals experiencing a wide range of challenging conditions and circumstances (e.g., smoking cessation, depression, weight management), as well as with individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). As in any science, ethical practitioners of ABA strive to recognize the limitations of our knowledge, reject demonstrably false assumptions, and safeguard the rights of others by practicing within the bounds of scientifically established practice. Like all scientific research, each ABA treatment study has methodological strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, a cornerstone of the scientific process is acknowledgment of limitations and a focus upon incremental progress and advancement of knowledge through an accumulation of controlled studies carried out by a broad array of researchers.
By highlighting the limitations of ABA you may inadvertently mislead the wary reader to assume that ABA-based interventions for individuals with ASD are wholly ineffective due to “limited research.” This would be a disservice, given the state of ABA science as it relates to ASD intervention. For example, consider that:
1. Of all available interventions for core and related features of ASD, approaches based on ABA have received the most extensive research.
2. Almost all reviewers conclude that early intensive behavioral intervention, based on ABA, has been shown to be effective in increasing IQ and adaptive behavior. Both of these variables are closely associated with school success and subsequent independence.
3. Some reviewers also conclude that other ABA interventions have been shown to be effective in teaching a wide range of specific skills. For example, the Picture Exchange Communication System and Pivotal Response Treatment often help children begin to communicate or expand their language skills. Peer-mediated social skills training and video modeling are useful for increasing interaction with other children. A variety of ABA teaching strategies can reduce problem behavior.
Though randomized controlled trials with a large number of participants is usually considered the “gold standard” of treatment research, it is noteworthy that single subject design research methodology, a hallmark of ABA, provides well-controlled strategies for investigating the effectiveness of interventions. In clinical practice, behavior analysts typically employ systematic data collection and analysis in order to detect and document change in carefully defined treatment goals.
Families are encouraged to ask marketers of ASD treatments (ABA-based or not) direct questions about their products or services, including:
(1) “What is the scientific record of this intervention and can you provide a research article that provides evidence of potential effectiveness?”
(2) “What are the specific goals in mind for my family member?” and
(3) “What are the objective treatment goals and how would any progress be measured?”
Buyer beware! Vague or avoidant answers may very well be a sign of baloney.
Families affected by ASD deserve objective appraisals regarding the scientific status of interventions when promoted by practitioners, as well as when reviewed by members of the media. Provision of accurate information is a critical first step in the difficult process of making treatment choices.
Daniel W. Mruzek, Ph.D., BCBA-D and Tristram Smith, Ph.D.
Board Members, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Read More at http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/.../janetmeydam