Monday, May 11, 2009

In Response to Harold Doherty

I am responding to Harold Doherty's post here, because Mr. Doherty has been known to edit and censor comments on his own blog.

It is important to note that I am not describing Deborah Fein's study as “fictitious,” I am describing Mr. Doherty's version of it as fictitious. The description in Mr. Doherty's original post does not appear to match any presentation made by Dr. Fein at IMFAR 2009. Mr. Doherty has picked up phrases from media reports, such as “years of intensive behavioral therapy,” and made them an actual part of Dr. Fein's study/presentation, when in fact it appears there is no basis for doing so. He then uses this pseudo study as “evidence” in support of the effectiveness of applied behavioral analysis (ABA). Dr. Fein appears to have provided no such evidence.

Mr. Doherty is correct in that Kristina Chew appears to have made the same assumptions about Dr. Fein's study as Mr. Doherty has. Ms. Chew, on the other hand, has not been so adamant about employing such assumptions as “evidence.”

I think Michelle Dawson has the best advice for all of us. Drawing conclusions from media reports and abstracts is a dangerous business. I will admit to some frustration about the general inaccessibility of much autism research, but it still behooves those of us who wish to participate in the autism debate arena to make sure we have as much accurate information at our disposal as is reasonably possible.

That said, I stand by my original assessment: Mr. Doherty's description of a particular ABA/recovery study does not appear to match any such study. Mr. Doherty is free to provide a link to that study if he really wishes to engage in “evidence.”

[Update 05/16/2009: Be sure to read these observations and informative discussion from someone who actually attended Deborah Fein's presentation at IMFAR.]


Steve D said...

Hi Alan -
I thought you might find it interesting that you're not the only one taking the position that the Fein study has no mention of ABA.

Alan Griswold said...

Hi, Steve! Yes, I saw Kev's post earlier this evening.

As Michelle Dawson has rightly noted (on the TMOB board), the contents of Dr. Fein's study (including any mention or non-mention of ABA) are pretty much opaque to folks like you and me. In trying to match Mr. Doherty's description yesterday, I went through pretty much all the abstracts of the various presentations Dr. Fein was involved with at IMFAR, and thus was able to get a "rough" sense of what Dr. Fein's studies are about, but that's far from a definitive approach.

And to be fair to Mr. Doherty, the press reports do seem to be particularly bad in this case. Indeed, I'm not sure why there needs to be a press report about an ongoing, generally unavailable study -- it just leads to the kind of confusion and misinterpretation we are seeing here.