Wednesday, February 04, 2009

CNN Provides Some Autism and ABA Reality

I have been a frequent critic of CNN's coverage of autism disorders, particularly what I saw as Dr. Gupta's fawning over, and multiple interviews with, Amanda Baggs, a person whose autism disorder characteristics many parents do not recognize in their own autistic children. I have to admit though that with Teen's family transformed after autism intervention CNN has shown some of the real challenges, tantrum behavior, self injury, family disruption, that can result from autistic disorders.

Just as important CNN has also covered an intervention by an Applied Behavior Analysis therapist. The story of how ABA helped the Bilson family and their autistic daughter should be must reading for ill informed opponents of ABA. Hopefully Dr. Gernsbacher, Dr. Mottron and their mentor Michelle Dawson will visit the site and try to approach it with an open mind. Their ideological opposition to ABA for autistic children has not been helpful. Hopefully they are still capable of learning.

Full marks to CNN for this autism reporting.

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Lisa Jo Rudy said...

But - Harold - $20,000 per week?!! Or maybe it was only $10,500...?? Honestly, that seems a bit over the top.

I also had to wonder what was up with this family? Why would they allow their daughter to root through her siblings' rooms, grab stuff off the shelves at stores, and so forth? I mean, even without formal ABA training, those seem like fairly obvious issues to address.

What kinda freaks me out about this particular program is that ONE WEEK with Rick Shroder completely changed the way these folks thought about their daughter. Yet they are clearly well-off, smart, educated people with an autistic child.

Is it actually possible they'd never heard of ABA, or had no idea how to hire or access an ABA therapist over all those years?

Lisa (

Unknown said...


Some autistic children have more challenging behaviors than others and "addressing" the issues is not always that easy.

As for the cost, it does seem high but many costs in the US for health care seem high to me. Americans spend far more per capita on health care than Canadians and yet do not live as long and have higher infant mortality rates according to CIA web site information.

With respect, you appear to want to obscure this documented example of severe autism challenges being addressed successfully by ABA. Instead of conveying to your readers the benefits that ABA can have for autistic children as demonstrated here you seem to be looking for something negative. If I am wrong then I apologize but it looks like you just can't straight out acknowledge the benefit of ABA.

Anonymous said...

The cost is most certainly inaccurate...there is NO ABA home program, or private program that I know of, no matter how intensive, that costs $1 million dollars/year/student (that "20,000" x 50 weeks). If you know of such, point it out, but I am willing to bet that it cannot be done.

It might freak Lisa out, but the simple fact is that this family had significant issues that were resolved to the positive by the help of the agency, professional and methodology. Talking about what they might have done or "should" have done, without knowing all the facts involved beyond this story, seems pointless and speculative. It's a given that this less than 10 minute newsstory was an abbreviation of the entire sequence of events.

What seems to be to the point to me is that they realized, for whatever reason, that they did not have an effective strategy for working with their daughter, and sought help to learn these strategies and skills...which worked. Full stop. Better late than never, and that it happened within a week is the icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

But Lisa, we can't let that get in the way of the evaluation of what Applied Behavior Analysis can do. It is a lot of money and we know it is worth it. Fortunately there are options other than that company, and even better, some public services available across North America.


Anonymous said...

I had some more time this evening to do some checking and found this post from the Autism Partnership blog discussing the CNN program, and addressing the cost.

FWIW, this intervention was for a specialized crisis intervention (RES-Q), and not a typical home program. They also discuss in the blog and on their website how their efforts to provide access to families and reduce the cost of receiving the agency's services.

Autism Partnership Blog post:
$20,000--Are You Crazy??
Feb. 4, 2008