Monday, November 17, 2008

AutismPro Still Promoting But Where Oh Where Is The Evidence It Works?

I have commented on several occasions on this site about AutismPro, the Internet based autism "resource" usually after reading the latest PR release, about what an innovative product it is or what an excellent business opportunity it is. This past week the Daily Gleaner featured AutismPro, again, in its nbbusinessjournal section.

Virtual Experts Clinics, which developed the AutismPro product, has stated in the past that it uses several different autism "interventions" which range from interventions that are "somewhat" ABA based, a well researched effective evidence based autism intervention, to some interventions with no evidence basis of their effectiveness. Although respected autism expert Dr. Jeannette Holden, an advisor to VEC, had indicated two years ago that trial studies of the product were being run the results of those studies have not, that I have seen, been made public.

There is a need for autism support services in New Brunswick schools but those services should not be based on unproven Internet products. Premier Graham committed to funding training for 100 Teacher Aides a year for 4 years at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program. The second of two classes of that 4 year commitment is currently proceeding and hopefully the full 4 year commitment will be honored. UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program provides the quality and integrity to ensure that autistic children in New Brunswick schools, including Conor, my 12 year old son with Autistic Disorder, assessed with profound developmental delays, receives a real education.

There is much pressure on Education Minister Lamrock to abandon Premier Graham's commitment. Some of that pressure comes from CUPE Local 2745 and its President Sandy Harding who insist that unqualified, untrained aides with greater seniority have the right to work with autistic students in place of the UNB-CEL Autism trained aides.

Some of that pressure also comes from VEC Inc which has worked with some senior education department officials to promote AutismPro as an internet based training tool which would have permitted the Department of Education to train teacher aides in house, with no entrance requirements for the autism training, work at your own pace training requirements and no completion exams. The in-house training would have been overseen on a project basis by an about to retire Director of Student Services who would have been able to , "double dip", to draw a pension while earning a salary as the project manager.

Hopefully Premier Shawn Graham will continue to honor his commitment to train 100 teacher aides per year for four years at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program. The UNB-CEL AIT Program has been subjected to external review and received a very positive evaluation by Dr. Eric Larsson of the Lovaas Institute:

"The current AITP is a remarkable and thorough program that has been developed to an exceptional level of quality in the context of limited resources. The province-wide model is one that many other provinces should adopt, as it carries with it many cost-effective features. The curriculum content requires little modification".

Hopefully the results of studies assessing the effectiveness of AutismPro in educating autistic children will be publicly disclosed at some point. And hopefully those studies will have been conducted using ethical, objective and professional standards. We know that VEC Inc is effective at Promoting AutismPro but is AutismPro an effective tool for educating autistic children?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Harold for explaining this out so clearly. I totally agree with you, as we have been suspicious of this for a long time.
VEC/Autism Pro I still believe is not what it is supposed to be, and I hope the Dept. of Education does not retract it's commitment to the UNB-CEL training.
I have long feared the Dept pf Education does not make good sound decisions at times. Some of their officials DO NOT have best interest of autistic students first. We must keep them accountable...and we will.

Dawn Bowie