Monday, November 2, 2009

NAC National Autism Report

I am still coming to grips with the National Autism Center's 2009 report on effective treatments for autism. The group is very influential, but it is a self-interest group made up primarily of behavior analysts. The executive director, Susan M. Wilczynski, Ph.D., BCBA, is a certified behavior analyst (think ABA-style therapies), as are the bulk of the project team that designed the study and reviewed the research articles. I question the impartiality of this study.

Here is my main beef: Articles were only considered for review if they were specifically about autism. From an OT perspective, that leaves out the bulk of our research since the research we do is broad and includes children with many disorders. Our research typically works with specific symptoms rather than patient groups. So when the NAC study looked for effective treatments for motor skills, they did not include the considerable wealth of research performed by OTs and PTs. In fact, the study's outcome did not see the need for OT intervention. Somebody missed something, I think.

And there is a parallel case for considering the area of sensory processing research. There are many, many studies in this area. If you look at my last blog entry, you will see that children with ADHD and anxiety have many of the same symptoms as children with autism. So again, our research covers, as it must, broad groups of children.

Now ABA treatments, on the other hand, were all developed specifically for children with autism, and so the study appears to be biased in favor of this treatment research. But unfortunately other psychology-based treatments such as Floortime and P.L.A.Y. (also developed for children with autism) did not make it through the study review process in as good a standing. Their treatments were found to be "emerging". I hope that this is not yet another case of "convenient" study design.

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