Study Claims Children Can Recover From Autism
Last week, the results of a study on early intervention for children on the autism spectrum were released. The study, performed by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), followed 14 young children receiving intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) over the course of three years. Although there are many varieties of early intervention, ABA is the type of treatment most often recommended by professionals, and the kind of therapy my own son received immediately after his autism diagnosis at age two.
According to their press release, the CARD study showed improvement in all of the children who participated, and claims 43% of participants “no longer display clinical symptoms of autism.” The message from the study is: with the right interventions, children can recover from autism.
This seems like good news, and in many ways it is. ABA is considered by many to be the best approach for helping kids on the spectrum. This study shows that the investment of time and money spent on therapies for our kids does pay off. In addition, data from studies like this one may help the fight to get insurance companies to pay for ABA therapy, often rejected on the basis that it is “experimental” in nature. (My own insurance company claims on its website that ABA is the recommended course of action after an autism diagnosis but does not cover autism services.) Furthermore, this data may give parents more influence over schools to provide ABA services as part of an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
I am wary, however, of studies with claims that seem too good to be true. I am not going to scrutinize the research methodologies used in this case, although it is easy to note that there was a small sample size and the press release makes no mention of either a control group or children who received other, non-ABA therapies. My concern, rather, is what conclusions we draw from these results. For example, one parent involved with the study said “My daughter is now recovered from autism.” But is this true?Continued on the next page