Thursday, February 02, 2012

ABA Benefits for Autism: Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) Educates LA Times Alan Zarembo

The attached letter was written by ASAT Board member Sabrina Freeman Ph. D., and Secretary Florence DiGennaro Reed, Ph. D., BCBA-D to the LA Times Alan Zarembo who did such a poor job (in my humble opinion) reporting on autism issues in a recent LA Times series.  In the letter Freeman and Reed attempt to educate Zarembo about the scientific, evidence based benefits that ABA has been demonstrated to bring to autistic children.  

I don't know if a superficial mainstream media reporter is capable of  understanding the information presented in the letter or if he would make the effort to understand.  I applaud ASAT for trying to break through Zarembo's self constructed brick wall of ignorance and educate him about the evidence basis behind ABA, an intervention that has helped so many autistic children. 

ASAT Responds to LA Times Story “Families Cling to Hope of Autism Recovery”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear Mr. Zarembo:

We are writing to you regarding your article entitled, “Families Cling to Hope of Autism Recovery” (the Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2011). We appreciate your time and effort in highlighting the work of Dr. Lovaas and the larger field of applied behavior analysis. We especially appreciate your advocacy of science as the means to evaluate the effectiveness of any treatment.

While you acknowledge some positive benefits of applied behavior analytic treatment, your emphasis ignores a large body of research indicating that children who receive Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) benefit significantly relative to those children who do not receive EIBI. We ourselves acknowledge that there are gaps in the science of autism treatment, including EIBI; however, we respectfully disagree with your presentation of the outcomes. We are unaware of other treatment protocols that have been studied and replicated to the same degree as EIBI. Unfortunately, many other treatments are marketed as “cures” without evidence of benefit. As such, EIBI represents best practices for people with autism. While you rely on the AHRQ report in your article, we wish you had also highlighted that treatments based on the principles of applied behavior analysis have been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General,1 National Institutes of Health,2 the National Research Council,3 the National Standards Report4 published by the National Autism Center, and others. 5Although we agree that additional research is needed to develop and refine EIBI and other science-based approaches, your article leads readers to conclude that the high cost and burden of a forty hour-a-week requirement to replicate the positive outcomes from the scientific literature is too high a cost for society. We advocate for research funding to identify aspects of treatment that are most important for improving function. Until that time, though, children with autism deserve access to high quality treatments based on our current understanding of science.

The science of applied behavior analysis and its application to autism treatment are often portrayed inaccurately in the media. Unfortunately, we believe your story contributes to further misunderstanding and misconception. The potential risk is that caregivers will delay pursuing empirically-supported, effective treatment. We suggest that rather than advocate denial of effective autism treatment, we should acknowledge the true state of science in autism intervention and advocate for access to effective treatment by families. It is important for parents and caregivers to access accurate information regarding autism treatments so that they may make wise decisions for their children. For more information, please visit

Sabrina Freeman, Ph.D.
Board Member, Association for Science in Autism Treatment

Florence D. DiGennaro Reed, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Secretary, Association for Science in Autism Treatment

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1999). Mental health: A report of the surgeon general. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health.
Strock, M. (2004). Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). NIH Publication No. NIH-04-5511. National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MD, 40 pp.
National Research Council (2001). Educating children with autism. Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
National Autism Center (2009). National Standards Report. Randolph, MA: National Autism Center.
New York State Department of Health (1999). Clinical practice guideline: Report of the recommendations. Autism/pervasive developmental disorders, assessment and intervention for young children (age 0-3 years). Albany, NY: NYS Early Intervention Program.


Cameron said...

Two years ago. My little girl(five now) was banging her head. Today I watched her cut out a diamond shape out of construction paper during ABA therapy. That clinches it for me. Thanks Harold.

Stranded said...

My son has received ABA treatment (of which there exist many modes of delivery and you apply the tools that work for that particular child) - he was non verbal at 3. And well, you just have to follow our blog posts to see him now. He is still autistic and he will remain so, but he has developed a love for learning and pursuing his interests thanks to the teaching he has received. Who wouldn't want to give their child that?