Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Dear Ms. Sacks:
Thank you for taking the time to help educate people about what it is like to have a child with autism in your article entitled "Swinging the Outcome" (http://www.contracostatimes.com/education/ci_16906297?nclick_check=1). We believe, however, that it is important for parents to be able to make informed decisions about interventions, and not rely on subjective descriptions of alleged intervention success.Currently, swing therapy is a purported "treatment" that is lacking in empirical support.
You stated: "One way to control sensory output is for the child to swing, much like children do at the playground. Swing therapy helps build muscle control, balance and stability as it calms the nervous system and promotes receptivity to learning, research has shown." What research is referred to in this statement? At this time, no scientific evidence has been found to support this claim.
In a recent study by Watling & Dietz (2007), the effects of sensory integration on undesired behavior and task engagement were studied using a single-subject research design.The study revealed that there were no immediate effects of this intervention on either of the dependent variables across the four boys with autism who participated.
In addition, you reported that "...a wide range of therapeutic approaches give (sic) children with autism a chance at a better life." This claim is actually contrary to current scientific evidence. Howard, Sparkman, Cohen, Green, and Stanislaw (2005) found that when children received an eclectic intervention approach compared to an intensive behavioral approach, the children in the intensive behavioral treatment (IBT) group made greater gains than either of the two eclectic groups.Specifically, after intervention, the children in the IBT group scored in the normal range on a number of dependent measures (e.g., cognitive, non-verbal, communication and motor skills). By contrast, the children in the two eclectic groups scored in the normal range only inthe area of motor skills post intervention.
Unfortunately, the perpetuation of interventions that have no scientific basis often results in parents spending their time, energy and hard-earned money engaging their child in unsubstantiated treatments.Not only is this a financial and emotional strain on the family, but it may also preclude the child's participation in other scientifically-validated interventions, such as those grounded in applied behavior analysis. We hope that in the future you might consider publishing articles on science-based interventions for autism for the benefit of your readership.
For further information regarding the numerous interventions for autism and the current state of research, please visit:http://asatonline.org/treatment/treatments_desc.htm and http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/affiliates/reports.php.
Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D.,
Vice President, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Anya K Silver, M.A., BCBA
Media Review Committee, Association for Science in Autism Treatment