Monday, August 23, 2010

Evidence Based Autism Treatment: What the New York Times Didn't Say About Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas

The New York Times has now published an  obituary on the passing of Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas.  It is generally a fair commentary if understated in describing his positive  impact on the lives of autistic children.  The NYT summary of Lovaas therapy doesn't  really seem to get it though, doesn't  really seem to understand  why so many people, parents and authorities, seek  Lovaas ABA therapy for autistic children despite the cost:

Though Lovaas therapy can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, parents of autistic children clamored for it. In 1995, Dr. Lovaas founded the Lovaas Institute, based in Los Angeles, which trains teachers in his method. Today, thousands of children throughout the United States and abroad are receiving Lovaas therapy.

The NYT fails to demonstrate that it  fully understands why  the Lovaas method  is so widely sought and applied by parents and others interested in actually helping autistic children .... the evidence base in support of its effectiveness. The NYT makes no mention of the  numerous credible health authorities, including the office of the US Surgeon General, that  reviewed hundreds of ABA studies and concluded that it is the only evidence based effective intervention for helping autistic children.  

Dr. Lovaas more than anyone else advanced the evidence based approach to helping autistic children that has made ABA the intervention that so many parents "clamor" for as the NYT puts it somewhat condescendingly.  The evidence in support of the Lovaas ABA method is what persuaded so many parents that it was the treatment on which to wager their children's precious early development time.  The evidence in support of  ABA is what assisted parents in Canada and the US in advocating for the provision of treatment for their autistic children.  

The New York Times can not bring itself to say outright what many parents  and public health authorities  know ... that Dr. Lovaas  was one of the very few who have actually helped autistic children. 


Mom on a Mission said...

These are my thoughts exactly! thanks for posting this Harold.

Autism Mom Rising said...

Yeah, it is so often implied in print media, however subtly, that we parents are desperate and will try anything. Perhaps there is some truth in that for some parents. Yet, it doesn't take a good chunk of us long, to get about the business of focusing on the few clearly established things proven to help the largest number of kids.

All I know is that my kid is obsessed with ABA, VBA, table work of any kind. Adores the therapists. Gets mad on weekends because they are not coming. Then some kids never get used to the structure, hate it, don't respond. Its interesting.

Disability Rights Ireland said...

It does appear that the Times were stingy in their recognition of Dr. Lovaas contribution to the development of evidence based interventions for people with disabilities.But it probably reflects an ignorance in society generally about the need for evidence based interventions.
As a parent of a child with autism I didn't realise that advocating for one's child equated to 'clamoring', the authors choice of verb suggests a personal dislike for parents who are vocal in advocating for their child's needs, perhaps the author would have preferred it if parents and children suffered in silence?