Monday, July 19, 2010
Mr. O' Brien,
Thank you for sharing this story and for informing your readers about the existing level of support for applied behavior analysis. Ireland's Department of Education is making some dangerous and unfounded assumptions. Acting upon these assumptions will harm children, squelch progress, and lead to generations of soon-to-be-adults with autism who will require significant life-long services. The Department of Education should consider the following:
1) All autism treatments are not created equally. There are currently hundreds of treatments, most of which have never been empirically tested. Applied behavior analysis already has substantial scientific support carried out over decades by a multitude of researchers across the world. This level of support overshadows the support that exists for any other treatment.
2) "Eclecticism" is a euphemism. It sounds wonderful, but may deliver nothing of value for the learner. For many, it suggests that intervention would be flexible and easily tailored to each student; however, this may not be the case.
3) Some of the interventions cited in the article fall under the umbrella of applied behavior analysis. More specifically, PECS was developed by a behavior analyst, is based on behavior analytic principles, and targets a very specific skill set.
A truly eclectic model cannot be implemented. Here is why. An eclectic model requires that providers can choose from an array of proven methods based on specific student characteristics. In other words, there are published guidelines suggesting what type of treatment would be best suited for what type of student. We are not there yet as a field.
Some educators given license to be "eclectic" will do what they want, what they like, what is easiest, what is cheapest, and what they already know. Replace "autism" with "childhood leukemia" and no one would be happy with that scenario. We must focus upon what has been proven to work.
I suggest that the Department of Education table this proposal for five years and determine then if proponents of other methods have demonstrated positive outcomes in peer-reviewed journals. At that point, comparative research can look at student profiles and responses to different treatment. In other words, adopt a science-based approach to decision-making.
Until that day comes, I urge the key decision makers in Ireland to invest in what has already been shown to be effective, through both published research throughout the world and documentable outcomes by centers that use real data to demonstrate gains. Competent behavior analysts are well equipped to individualize treatments.
It is the Department of Education's responsibility to ensure that the children of Ireland are well prepared for adulthood and to become as capable as possible. Impeding these 12 ABA schools from continuing to do just that would be nothing short of educational malpractice.
David Celiberti, Ph.D., BCBA-D
President of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Read More at http://www.irishtimes.com/.../1224274659597.html