That's Snake Oil for You

The Chicago Tribune has a great story on how DAN! and other organizations use valid science to justify their "treatments" for autism. The sad fact that parents trust these quacks worries me. It's also why I am not going to continue down the autism research path after I complete the dissertation.,0,2618338


  1. As I often do for stories of this type, I’m keeping a running list or index of pro- and con- blog posts. This post is on the list.

    The list is here

    For readers new to the world of biomedical treatment, it is worth noting that a number of bloggers who are affected by autism are pro-science and pro-vaccine. They repudiate the world of "Age of Autism", Generation Rescue, and "Defeat Autism Now!"(DAN!). I will mention a few (in no particular order) the group blog LeftBrain/RightBrain, Natural Variation, Countering Age of Autism, Autism News Beat and Club 166. There are many more.

  2. I am very interested in your thoughts. Many parents don't know what to do with their child, especially if their child is middle or lower functioning.

    They will do anything to help their child. It's hard to know how to navigate all these therapies.

  3. I have spent the last few years immersed in current research and have found nothing in any major peer-reviewed journal in support of *medical* interventions unless there is an underlying medical condition comorbid to the autism disorder.

    However, there are articles indicating various educational and behavioral therapies do have results, and those results increase dramatically based on how early the therapy starts. And, while earlier is always ideal, there are studies showing that even starting later can have positive outcomes.

    Medical treatments, as the Trib article accurately notes, simply have not been validated in nearly 40 years of various studies. Anecdotal evidence or research by a proponent is not considered rigorous -- especially when some proponents have questionable credentials (like the mail-order Ph.D mentioned by the Tribune).

    I understand parents wanting to seek a solution, and I know they will no matter what I or anyone else writes. I encourage parents to research behavioral and educational therapies and to compare the credentials of those providing such therapies. It does matter, when we look at measurable outcomes. You can improve the life of both the child and the family with some therapies, but those supported by the most research are not medical treatments.

    I had speech therapy, reading therapy, and independent time with learning specialists in the K-12 system. I have had adverse reactions to various medications and take nothing other than a daily vitamin; I'm over 40 and slightly iron deficient according to my last physical.


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