Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Weak Autism Intervention Journalism from the New York Times

The New York Times is not exactly a "go to" resource for well informed, objective discussion of autism interventions.

In October 2008 it presented a slanted article on DIR/Floortime. In that article the guest author praised DIR/Floortime as a new modern improved form of autism intervention without mentioning the lack of scientific evidence in support of of the DIR/Floortime approach. The article also made  unsubstantiated derogatory comments about ABA as "rote learning".

With its coverage of the recent ESDM study the NYT has done it again.  In an article today Raising I.Q. in Toddlers With Autism Tara Parker-Pope praises the results of the Denver ESDM study of a group of 48 autistic toddlers  "showing substantial gains in I.Q. and in listening skills after two years of therapy".  This time the NYT makes no derogatory reference to ABA.  Instead while praising the ESDM approach the NYT fails to mention that the  approach employs principles of Applied Behavior Analysis as set out in the AAP journal Pediatrics article:

"Forty-eight children diagnosed with ASD between 18 and 30 months of age were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: (1) ESDM intervention,which is based on developmental and applied behavioral analytic principles and delivered by trained therapists and parents for 2 years"

For reasons that are not clear the NYT simply has a hard time when it comes to being objective about ABA as an autism intervention.  Given the large readership and influence of the NYT that is most unfortunate.

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1 comment:

Regina Claypool-Frey said...

That's not an unreasonable criticism Harold, since ESDM is a synthesis of Denver Model AND Pivotal Response training (PRT) - a behavior analytic model.

From the NYTimes article,
"...Sure. A traditional way might be to say the word “ball.” The child is sitting at the table, and the adult holds the ball and says: “Say ball. Say ball.” If the child makes a sound that’s kind of like ball, they hand them an M&M or juice or a cracker. They do it again. “Say ball.” They want the child to say it a little more clearly. If they do, the child receives a reinforcement. If not, the ball goes away for a minute. If the child says something like “ba,” they get the reward..."

That's a pretty straightforward PRT procedure, and if one is going to split hairs, mand training (Verbal Behavior-speak). If the "reward" is not a "reward", as in the kid doesn't want or give a hoot or holler about the "ball", it would be more "tact" training (more Verbal-Behavior-speak) and the "reward" of something the child actually wants and increases future frequency of behavior would be functioning more as a reinforcer.

I agree - weak, and somewhat misleading. The analysis, and in this case, behavior analytic models of analysis, matter.