Saturday, September 17, 2011

Autism Treatment Claims: The "Revolutionary" Brain Balance Program

I was somewhat startled  to read a September 16, 2011 promotional release  for a Brain Balance Program center opening in Pennsylvania that claims to be a "revolutionary" treatment for a variety of developmental delays including ADHD, Dyslexia, Asperger’s, Tourettes, OCD, Asperger's and Autism. The Business Wire advertisement/news release Revolutionary Treatment for Developmental Delays Comes to Philadelphia is Bold and Brash and Boasts that contrary to popular belief autism and the other listed developmental delays can be cured ... via the "revolutionary" Brain Balance Program: 

"What’s going on? Dr. Joseph Schneider, director of the new Brain Balance Center in Springfield, PA, asks a more direct question, “What’s going wrong?”
A widely held, but erroneous belief is that there is no cure for these problems, combined with well-meaning teachers and other professionals using academic approaches, may actually be contributing to the soaring statistics of new diagnosis.”
Parents are repeatedly told that these neuro behavioral and neuro academic dysfunctions can get better but they will never disappear. Not surprising considering that the methods that doctors, psychologists and behavioral specialists use to diagnose and treat these conditions have not changed in over 50 years.
“I can tell you that they CAN disappear. They do disappear. And I have fully documented proof that more than 1,000 children to prove it. It is called the Brain Balance Program, a revolutionary, non-medical approach that effectively corrects the hemispheric imbalance between the right and left sides of the brain,” say Schneider with unbridled enthusiasm."
It seems almost surrealistic, with all the intense debates about autism treatments, from the solidly evidence based like ABA to the ridiculously absurd like swimming with dolphins,  to see a promotion for a "revolutionary" autism treatment program marketed with "unbridled enthusiasm".  It almost seems like the owners of this proprietary treatment want someone to heap scorn and ridicule on their claims.

On autism treatments I am very small "c" conservative.  I wait for credible authorities like the US Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics to review the research literature and offer guidance on what constitutes evidence based effective autism treatments. I am NOT telling other parents what to do with their financial resources or their child's precious development time. I am simply saying I want to see reviews by credible authorities  before I gamble my son's development, and possibly his well being,  on "revolutionary" treatments.

The unbridled enthusiasm of the co-owner of a proprietary treatment doesn't do it for this autism parent. 


Jim said...

Agreed. I first became aware of brain balance through this blog posting:

I know a chiropractor who really feels he can make a difference in my daughter's standard of living through this technique, so I read this post and it helped me make my "no thank you" decision.

Sandra K. said...

My son and daughter have both gone through the Brain Balance Program. In my city they aren't as brash to say cure. They say that they minimize the disorder hopefully to the point that it isn't testable.

My daughter's anxiety....gone (in two weeks). Learning issues much less severe after about 2 months. My son's emotional issues much better. School issues are non-existent.

You can say what you want without ever going through the program or seeing the results. I've seen them first hand, and they are incredible.

Thank you Brain Balance. You wonder why we get so excited. We get so excited because this program has changed my children's and my family's life forever....without using drugs.

Anonymous said...

Sandra K.-I wonder how severe your childrens' autism actually is. If there are no school issues then I have to wonder if they were extremely high functioning to begin with. Getting very tired of parents of kids who are barely on the spectrum trying to tell people how easy it is. If your daughter's anxiety was "gone" in two weeks then I honestly doubt if she was even autistic to begin with.

Unknown said...

I am dismayed that you would wait for some "credible" organization to make a statement of proof. Your son isn't waiting---he is growing up. I think it is the duty of parents to leave no stone unturned. I was also dismayed to read one parent doubt the degree of impairment of another's child. While it is true that there are different answers for different children, it doesn't diminish that something worked for someone. Even within a treatment protocol, degrees of improvement can vary. If the Brain Balance Center has 1,000 kids to back up their claims, let's verify those 1,000 kids and celebrate their success.

Please remember that anecdotal evidence PRECEDES any need for research. Let's also remember the political and financial culprits behind endorsements from certain organization---culprits which I do not believe are rooted in the best interest of our children.

Anonymous said...

I read several testimonials from the parents of children who apparently found this to be some miracle cure. They were ALL kids with ADD, ADHD, or Apserger's. It is clear that full receptive and expressive language is needed as well as a very high cognitive function for this program.

Donna, as a professional you are irresponsible to tell parents to basically try everything and anything, even if it is clear lower functioning children wouldn't qualify for this therapy. Should parents just hand their money over to anyone? It is disturbing that seems to be what you are recommending.

Unknown said...

Dear Donna, thank you for your opinion but I don't need a lecture promoting the virtues of anecdotal evidence. I understand that anecdotal evidence is considered the weakest form of evidence with literally any treatment or intervention enjoying anecdotal support.

I have not waited and twiddled my thumb while my son developed. I have obtained ABA intervention for him as soon as I could and I have advocated, with other parents, for government provided ABA early intervention here in New Brunswick, Canada. The program which provides the training for delivery of that intervention has been reviewed positively by Eric Larsson and David Celiberti. We have also had substantial success in advocating for trained education assistants working with autistic students in local schools.

Your abandonment of evidence based approach to autism interventions is disconcerting to me. You must be aware of professional literature which notes that non evidence based interventions which have plagued autism treatment can waste family financial resources and the child's precious development time. In some cases they can directly cause harm to the child.

Your comments suggest that you assume that there are in fact 1000 success stories attributable to the program without independent verification.Are you yourself involved with the Brain Balance Program?

Liz Ditz said...

Hi Harold. Thanks for this post on Brain Balance (another example of the fleecing of the autism community...and ADHD and dyslexia and...)

Harriet Hall MD at Science-Based Medicine published a post about Brain Balance

The short version: no research base; biologically implausible.

Steven Novella MD (a neurologist) also published a post critical of Brain Balance

Quote: This notion takes a small slice of our understanding of brain function, completely out of context of our broader understanding, and elevates it to a position not warranted by the evidence. It then bypasses the clinical studies that would be necessary to document a specific application of this theory, and makes direct clinical claims. In short – it bypasses the long process of research, clinical studies, peer review, and replication and goes directly to a franchise..

There have been a number of other critiques, especially in online parents groups, but these two are a good start.

Autism News Beat said...

Brain Balance had a booth at the AutismOne conference last May.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother of an autistic son, age 9. I just started the Brain Balance program. Prior to this, he has been in speech therapies, occupational therapies, 1-1/2 years of ABA therapy, biomedical intervention and lots of tutoring. We started the brain balance program only 2 weeks ago to help develop his reading and computation comprehension skills. I don't appreciate posts like this... coming from a woman and a mother who has an autistic child and who is unwilling to try anything to help her child unless the Surgeon General says it's OK. You talk about it like you would be gambling your son's future away, but you are doing exactly that by doing nothing.

Unless it is a therapy that is physically harmful, such skepticism about cognitive exercizes to help stimulate your child's thought processes is close minded.

I don't know if Brain Balance is revolutionary or will do miracles in the life of my child.

ButI am willing to try it if there is even the smallest bit of improvement by doing so. But to do nothing is not acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add to this discussion. I notice all those opposed are always those who have never tried. I notice the supporters are those whose children have been through Brain Balance. I am a vendor to this company. After what I have seen I have called and signed my son up today. He will be evaluated next week. Try doing the research on those who have attended. I think you'll find few to none who are disappointed. I would guess you would find NONE who say they saw no difference at all. I personally have seen AMAZING results in at least 2 kids and have googled plenty of testimonials from other parents whose children have gone to know what I need to do for my son. Let's be logical...the "norm" when it comes to the medical community would be threatened that there could be something better for autistic children. They exist..because I have family members who would...but how many doctors would really say, "I don't know enough about it to comment." I think for the most part many parents have tried so many things and have just given up hope. Following the know it all critics leaves them less vulnerable to more heartbreak. ...sad

Ran said...

Brain balanced program really helps many people especially parents to their young. I also agree to Mr. Scheneider. He has his strong belief that brain balanced does not only get case better but erase and CAN disappear. Try this site: this may also help you!