The Lovaas, and related ABA, studies are amongst the most frequently discussed of autism topics. They attract criticism both rational and irrational, amateur, professional, and pseudo-professional, informed and ill informed. One of the knocks against the Lovaas studies is that they purportedly were based on study groups which did not represent lower functioning autistic persons. Lisa Jo Rudy of the About Autism Spectrum Disorders site has attempted to dispel this myth:
"Ironically, one of the myths about the 1987 study is that children did well because a high-functioning sample group was used. However, in his study, Lovaas reported that 17 out of 19 patients scored in the mentally retarded range on IQ tests.
In the 2005 replication study, 10/23 children were nonverbal prior to treatment. In the 2006 replication study, all subjects had “developmental delays comparable to other children with autism”. Thus, in early intensive behavioral treatment studies, every effort is made to create a representative sample of children diagnosed with autism rather than one skewed with learners who have a normal IQ or are already verbal."
Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9.
Smith, T., Groen, A. D., Wynn, J. W. (2000). Randomized trial of intensive early intervention for children with pervasive developmental disorder. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 105, 269-85.
Sallows, Glen O. & Graupner, Tamlynn D. (2005). Intensive Behavioral Treatment for Children with Autism: Four-Year Outcome and Predictors. American Journal on Mental Retardation,110 (6), 417-438.
ABA, and Lovaas, deserve the critical examination they receive. The Lovaas initiated ABA revolution in autism treatment is successful in part because it is data based and can withhold such critical examination. Any claim for efficacy must be based on evidence not philosophy. So too criticism should be based on the evidence, facts and careful, rational, analysis. Ill informed, predisposed hostility to ABA, and the Lovaas studies, can only cause harm to autistic children in need of effective treatment and educational assistance.