Although ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis, is supported by five decades of research encompassing thousands of studies, confirming its effectiveness as an autism intervention, the anti-ABA activists continue to rail against ABA. Meanwhile autism continues to see the growth of totally non-evidence based therapies. Some of the stuff is dangerous although some does offer good old fashioned fun, with its therapeutic value, for autistic children. One of the more interesting developments is the use of rats, not as objects of scientific study, but as therapy for children with autism.
The Children's Therapy Center of Washington Hospital in Peters uses rats, as therapy pets, to interact with autistic children. As reported at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Rats are bringing out best in kids with autism":
"Clients giggle and grin as they interact with Moe and Larry, two tiny therapy animals who are well-behaved and affectionate and who the children call "the pets" or "the little puppies."...
The long, skinny hairless tails are dead give-aways, at least for adults, who know what these therapy pets are -- rats.
"Oh yes, many people, including me, had reservations about working with rats," said Ms. Pollock, who is the center's facilitator for pet-assisted therapy. But Moe and Larry and their owner, Drue Tepper, 18, have won over almost everyone during weekly therapy sessions that started in March 2007.
Henry Cicconi, 6, of Canonsburg, has been working regularly with the rats for about 14 months now.
"When Henry started here, he didn't talk. Now he calls the animals by name," said his speech therapist, Lisa Haines."
Maybe the American Academy of Pediatrics will have to revise its "Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders" to add a section on Rat Therapy. In the meantime I think we well stick with ABA for Conor. And activities like swimming and hiking. Rats? I think we will wait for the double-blind, randomized, control study results to come in.