The article is devoted to the question whether evidence-based practices (EBPs) are sufficient for educating students with autism. Supporters of this statement insist on basing educational practice on scientific evidence of its effectiveness. At the moment there are 24 practices that meet the research criteria. Their opponents note that research often takes years to complete and evaluate while children with autism are losing crucial learning time. Moreover, the number of therapies identified by the Interactive Autism Network with the help of parents is much higher. To date, almost 400 different therapies are used and seen as effective. Nevertheless, both the parties agree that research in this field is still active.
Educational policy in the United States requires teachers and school systems to implement scientifically proven practices. However, there are no universally agreed-on standards by which to identify a practice as evidence-based, although the field is moving in that direction. Researchers affiliated with the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) describe a procedure for determining whether focused intervention practices have sufficient evidence to be deemed EBPs. Firstly, they provide a definition of EBPs used with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Thus, EBPs denote methods that have been vetted through quantitative research revealing cause-and-effect relationship; the latter is most desirably demonstrated through participation of a control/comparison group or replicated single-subject research. Secondly, they describe a process for identifying EBPs through reviewing the research literature and establishing criteria for the amount of evidence needed to qualify as an EPB. Thirdly, Odom et al. have identified 24 practices that meet the research criteria and have described procedures for selecting EBPs appropriate for addressing specific IEP goals for learners with ASD. Finally, the authors use the research methods from the studies to develop step-by-step guidelines, implementation checklists and web-based modules for educators and other practitioners. The authors emphasize that these 24 are not a final set of EPBs. They acknowledge that some promising techniques might not yet have been fully researched and explain how teachers can develop their own evidence base, by gathering data and evaluating the success of interventions.
On the contrary, authors of the book Cutting-Edge Therapies for Autism mainly focus on medical issues and are trying to prove that the point of view that autism is an incurable lifelong condition is wrong. They draw our attention to the fact that autism is the country’s fastest-growing medical emergency. Unfortunately, its etiology is still not defined. It may be caused by fluoride in tooth paste, chemicals in foods, stress, vaccines, antibiotics, and the list goes on and on. One more frightful fact is that between 2002 and 2006 occurrence of autism has increased by 57%. If we do not take any actions, by 2046 almost half of all U.S. children will be diagnosed with autism. The authors also note that regressive autism greatly contributes to such rapid growth. Some researchers even assume that it may be a different disorder or a combination of several disorders that can be easily cured. Hence, the authors call states and federal government for action. For example, Dr. Christopher Walsh, Ballard Professor of Neurology, says: “I would like every kid on the spectrum to have not “autism” but a more specific disorder. By isolating the genes involved and understanding their functions, researchers can begin to develop particular treatments aimed at particular disorders.”
Researchers also believe that the government should mandate insurance coverage for extensive genetic testing before any definitive diagnosis can be given and provide children with the best medical care available, including full coverage for any treatment that is recommended by a specialist in any specific underlying medical condition. Otherwise costs will only escalate, as untreated children become adults who need to be cared for by the state. A long-term approach will ultimately save money and will undoubtedly lead to at least some children being cured. While insurance companies, states and federal government are unwilling to act, authors urge parents to take action. They remind that no 2 kids have the same exact set of symptoms or respond to the same combination of therapies. Thus, each child’s treatment plan needs to be unique, taking into consideration the specific symptoms the child exhibits, the results of tests administered, and the observations of child’s doctors, therapists, teachers, and parents. They also present an array of treatments for parent consideration, many of which have not undergone rigorous trials; and emphasize that many currently accepted methods began as nontraditional therapies before they were validated by extensive research.
All things considered, I can conclude that there is little controversy between the parties. The authors agree that autism is a complex disorder of unknown etiology. Though there is no cure for autism and research in this field is active, it is essential to begin effective therapy as early as possible. But the authors affiliated with the NPDC insist on implementation only those practices that meet particular research criteria.