Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageApplied behaviour analysis can empower people with autism to make socially significant changes in their lives. Dubova via Shutterstock

The economic costs associated with autism spectrum disorder run at £32 billion per year in the UK, more than heart disease, stroke and cancer combined. For children with autism this includes special education services and the costs of their parents not working as much in order to care for them. In the UK, costs for adults are even higher and include residential care or supportive living accommodation and limits on the work they can do according to their abilities.

The science of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) has been shown to have significant success in helping people with autism who ask for help. This evidence-based practice can also help reduce the associated economic costs.

This science involves the systematic use of behavioural principles to help those diagnosed with autism make socially significant changes in their behaviour. In doing so, individuals and families are provided with new opportunities for making personal choices. For example, ABA has enabled families to holiday together for the first time.

Currently, 41 States in America have enacted new laws to ensure that ABA is available under health insurance. By contrast, the body that advises the NHS in England and Wales, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, concluded that it could not find any evidence to support ABA and therefore could not make a recommendation about it.

Similarly, Research Autism argues that:

Because there are many different interventions, programmes and techniques used to help individuals with autism which incorporate the principles of applied behaviour analysis it is not possible to provide a ranking for applied behaviour[al] (sic) analysis as a whole.

Spread of misinformation

This gulf in perspectives between Europe and the USA can be explained by the lack of available training in ABA in Europe and the fact that professionals without appropriate training perpetuate the misinformation that has then shaped government policies on autism.

This is not to say that progress in the USA has been straightforward – but there have been more professionals trained in ABA in the USA who could correct the sort of misinformation that has impeded uptake of the science in Europe.

The supporting evidence for using ABA is routinely reported incorrectly in Europe. For example, a report in the Autism Europe newsletter that references 70 years of research in autism is devoid of reference to the extensive body of evidence that has informed decisions in the 41 US states where ABA is supported.

imageApplied behaviour analysis has helped families of children with autism go on holiday together for the first time.Thomas Hawk/flickr, CC BY-NC

In the UK and Ireland, misrepresentations of behaviour analysis are also rife in government reports and in the media. ABA has been branded “controversial” and accused of promoting a “normalisation agenda”. Using insights from the science of behaviour analysis, critics argue, should be discouraged for fear of silencing the autistic voice and forcing people to change their behaviour so as to conform.

Classic propaganda techniques, such as distortion and fabrication, have been used to portray ABA as a “cult” and have been used to chastise those who dare to correct misrepresentation. The result is that a whole science has been marginalised.

ABA scientists and practitioners are not guilty of anything except increasing our awareness of principles of behaviour and showing how to apply them for the benefits of others. But the accusations made against them are the equivalent of accusing physicists of coercing people to “stick to the Earth” because of research they conduct on gravity.

A more honest approach when dealing with the findings from any scientific endeavour is to reflect on the challenge of how best to use the principles that have been uncovered. Where autism limits choices people can make, the focus of ABA is on skills development and thus empowerment. But this is only possible when there is appropriate investment to make the science available.

Ethical impact

The damage wrought by misinformation is far-reaching and difficult to counter. A former Northern Ireland minister for education is on record as saying that ABA was “one of many commercially available interventions for children with autism". This statement is a clear indication that the minister has been misinformed about ABA. This raises serious ethical questions in relation to ministerial advisers operating outside of their area of expertise.

Another opportunity to correct one of these errors of misinformation was lost when Northern Ireland’s minister of health, social services and public safety admitted that no professional body specialising in behaviour analysis has ever been consulted about the nature of ABA.

Why shouldn’t parents be trained in a science that has produced remarkable results? This is the question that parents have been putting to governments in other countries as well. Unfortunately, in the UK, misinformation and the associated caricatures of ABA form the basis of government strategies and policies, with implications for how to deliver care services and parent/staff training.

Perhaps things will only change in the UK when the judiciary steps in at the behest of parents to stop the questionable academic and ethical integrity that currently misinforms policy makers. The opinions expressed by parent groups suggest that this day is fast approaching.

Mickey Keenan has previously received funding from the European Union's Lifelong Learning Programme, Leonardo, to develop an online training resource in behaviour analysis (see www.stamppp.com). He is affiliated with The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies (www.behavior.org).

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/science-that-could-improve-the-lives-of-people-with-autism-is-being-ignored-39951

Writers Wanted

Why is it worth playing at an online casino?

arrow_forward

What is Self-Education? + 4 Ways to Improve Yourself

arrow_forward

Importance of Regular Auto Repairs

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable

InteliCare triple winner at prestigious national technology awards

InteliCare triple winner at prestigious national technology awards Intelicare wins each nominated category and takes out overall category at national technology 2020 iAwards. Company wins overal...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

Arriba Group Founder, Marcella Romero, wins CEO Magazine’s Managing Director of the Year

Founder and Managing Director of the Arriba Group, Marcella Romero, has won Managing Director of the Year at last night’s The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards. The CEO Magazine's Ex...

Lanham Media - avatar Lanham Media



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion