Monday, November 26, 2012
Thank you, Jordan Gass-Pooré, for your November 18, 2012 piece on sensory integration therapy (SIT). The Association for Science in Autism Treatment’s Media Watch initiative monitors mainstream media to identify published information about autism and autism treatment, and we provide critique where needed, as well as our praise to journalists writing objectively and providing accurate information. Our intent is to abate misinformation and promote evidence-based treatment, a goal you have contributed to with your article.
Sensory integration is not a new proposition; indeed, it has been marketed in various forms by practitioners for decades. Yet the scientific community does not recognize it as an effective treatment due to the absence of scientific validation. Nonetheless, SIT continues to be promoted as therapy for autism, with a high prevalence in clinical circles and in the media. By writing about the results of Professor Russell Lang’s study, you have helped spread a word of caution about SIT to parents and professionals looking for effective treatments and committed to evidence.
Your message was brief and objective, and I highlight your choice of quote by Mark O’Reilly, a co-author and professor at UT: “We’re not saying (sensory integration therapy) doesn’t work. It lacks scientific evidence.” His statement illustrates the scientific honesty with which the researcher presents his findings, by emphasizing the boundaries of his review; it demonstrated that if scientific standards are applied to evaluate SIT as a therapy, we are not able to conclude that this treatment approach is an effective way help people with autism. In our opinion, if a practitioner or marketer claims that a strategy or set of strategies is effective as a therapy, it is his or her responsibility to demonstrate effectiveness using sound scientific methodology. This principle is especially important in this period of economic strain on family income and school district budgets. Thank you for translating science and bringing essential information into the reach of people with autism and their families.
Daniela Fazzio, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Board Member, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
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