I was intrigued by the section in lecture (and the video posted on the course website) about behavior therapy for autism. The idea that some children graduated from these programs completely "normal" seemed, to me, unlikely. I wondered if these "star students" genuinely did not have autism anymore after treatment, or if they still had some subtle autistic qualities despite vastly improved language and social skills. ABA would still be awesome if it succeeded at that, and anyway I'm leery of overemphasizing "normality" (to paraphrase Temple Grandin's mom, "different" is not "less").
I wonder, though, if ABA is really so effective, why do I get the impression that people generally don't see it as the standard of care for autism? It seems like people still try so many things, even wacky and dangerous things, to "help" their autistic kids. Is it because the evidence isn't quite there for ABA after all? Does it just take too much time and money, so most parents of autistic kids can't afford it? Is it inadequately publicized?
I surveyed a few websites I thought ought to be reputable, to get a feel for what the scientific authorities thought of ABA. Here are some of my findings:
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH):
"There is no single best treatment package for all children with ASD." The article mentions ABA as being "widely accepted as an effective treatment."
PubMed Health :
Regarding ABA: "This program is for younger children with an autism spectrum disorder. It can be effective in some cases....These programs can be very expensive and have not been widely adopted by school systems. Parents often must seek funding and staffing from other sources, which can be hard to find in many communities."
This site doesn't mention ABA specifically, but does say of behavioral treatment, "Though children don't always outgrow autism, they may learn to function well with the disorder."
As far as I can see, the consensus is that ABA is highly recommended as a treatment for autism, but it isn't necessarily seen as the best in all cases. Nevertheless, ABA and other intensive early-childhood therapies seem to offer a lot of hope for these kids; if not always for normalcy, then at least for a better life. I guess the question of why the vaccine-blaming movement remains so influential will remain a mystery to me.