Thursday, March 04, 2010

Autism Jabberwocky Questions Michelle Dawson's Understanding of Evidence Based Medicine Concept

Autism Jabberwocky one of the best, and best written, autism blogs on the internet features an excellent commentary  which highlights an apparent lack of understanding by anti-ABA ideologue Michelle Dawson of the concept of evidence based medicine.  As explained by MJ at Autism Jabberwocky in Michelle Dawson Writes A Letter.
"Evidence-based medicine is the idea that all medical decisions should be based on the best scientific evidence that is available.  The concept is really very straightforward. You take the results that research has provided, rank them according to the quality of the information, and use that ranked evidence to decide what the best course of treatment is."

Making medical decisions as to appropriate treatment based on the best available evidence seems simple enough to grasp.  It is an eminently practical concept.  People can not just wait  decades  for perfect research  studies to be conducted under perfect conditions (which may never occur).  They have to make  treatment decisions based on the best evidence of safe and effective treatment  available at the time they are confronted with a medical condition requiring treatment.

It is one thing for Michelle Dawson, researcher, to hold out for an ideal and perfect study that may never happen.  It is another thing altogether for parents trying to help their autistic children overcome their disorders and live the fullest, happiest life they can. They have to make decisions to help their children based on the state of knowledge at the time.

MJ summarizes concisely and accurately the status of ABA as an evidence based, effective treatment for autism disorders and the curious nature of Michelle Dawson's apparently irrational opposition to ABA: 

"One of the few treatments for autism that does have a solid evidence base is ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis).   While it is not guaranteed to work for everyone, the available evidence shows that it can be an effective tool to help teach children with autism and is almost universally recommended.

That is, with the exception of the universe of Michelle Dawson.  As I have pointed out before, Ms Dawson has a real problem with ABA. She seems to have an almost irrational obsession with proving that ABA is somehow unethical or immoral to use on children with autism. She would tell you that she has ethical concerns and that there is very little evidence that ABA works.  However, Ms Dawson is almost universally alone in her opinion."

Michelle Dawson is not completely alone though.  Her anti-ABA views are shared by her collaborative colleague Professor Morton Ann Gernsbacher.  Gernsbacher's anti-ABA views have been scathingly reviewed by Professor Edward K.  Morris of the University of  Kansas who commented on the harm caused by Gernsbacher's misrepresentation of ABA:  A Case Study in the Misrepresentation of Applied Behavior Analysis in Autism: The Gernsbacher Lectures.

Michelle Dawson has spent her post Canada Post career  trying to tarnish the public perception of ABA as an effective, beneficial autism treatment. To my knowledge she has never explained what autism treatments, if any,  do meet with her approval.

Fortunately  the serious and credible reviews of autism interventions that have been done over the past decade and a half do not appear to give her views, or those of her colleague Morton Ann Gernsbacher,   any weight or mention.

Bookmark and Share


M.J. said...

Harold, thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Harold, ms Dawson is not alone in her beliefs. As a parent that did full on aba, it was useless for us.

Unknown said...


That is too bad. But that is not the point.

Under the evidence based approach, a treatment is not ranked on how it works, or does not work, in one case. A treatment is ranked based on the evidence in support of its effectiveness. In your case you say it didn't work. In many other cases studies have found that ABA is effective. There have been many studies and many credible reviews that have found that ABA has helped many autistic children overcome serious deficits.

Ms Dawson refuses to accept any evidence which contradicts her beliefs.