Friday, March 06, 2009
March 5, 2009
Dear Ms. Lafsy:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) in response to your March 4th article entitled, "Can a DVD Teach Kids with Autism to Understand Emotions?". While I am grateful for the attention paid to autism and the focus on Baron-Cohen's promising direction in the field, I wanted to draw your attention to a misleading statement which might be either a typographical error or possible confusion of the author. Please review the following quote from the article:
Many parents are focusing on physical methods of treatment, such as medications and special diets, and some are even coughing up thousands—to the point of taking out second mortgages and emptying savings accounts—on often controversial and possibly risky treatments such as applied behavioral analysis, chelation, and hyperbaric oxygen chambers. But a method that has gained significant support from researchers and parents alike is behavioral therapy, or the study and analysis of autistic behavior with an eye toward offsetting key symptoms of the disorder.
The first sentence suggests that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a "controversial" and "possibly risky" treatment. In fact, ABA is the only treatment for autism with empirical support. As a result of overwhelming evidence of its effectiveness, ABA is endorsed by health officials, such as the Surgeon General, as well as education officials, such as the New York State Department of Education.
In contrast to the first sentence, the next sentence describes "behavioral therapy" as a research-based treatment. This is a term that is often used colloquially to describe ABA. While this probably suggests that the first sentence was an error, a mother new to the diagnosis of autism for her child might read this article and conclude that ABA is potentially harmful. This robs the child of her best chances for growth.
To remedy this situation, we respectfully request that you publish a correction clarifying that ABA is a safe and effective treatment for autism spectrum disorders.
If you or the author has further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I'd be happy to speak with you and provide any information that you might need. Also, I encourage you to review our website at www.asatonline.org.
Thank you again for your commitment to raising autism awareness.
Beth Glasberg, Ph.D., BCBA
Association for Science in Autism Treatment