Update: Ethics and autism research

Last week I wrote about an Associated Press release which stated that Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a prominent and well published researcher and expert of emotional and developmental disorders, was conducting research on children, under five, at risk for or diagnosed with autism, in which half the children will receive intensive treatment while the other half receive no treatment.

Dr. Greenspan wrote to me this week and indicated that, although the AP report is out there, it is completely inaccurate. He is not conducting (nor would he ever conduct) studies on children at risk of or diagnosed with autism in which no treatment was offered. Furthermore, his research is not on IBI (ABA) therapy at all — but on his own approach to treating children with autism — an approach called the DIR/Floortime Approach, which is, as he notes and as you’ll gather if you read his publications, very different from IBI therapy.

I’ve actually read his book called The Child With Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth and it is an excellent read. It’s a very unique approach to engaging children with autism and if you’re interested in this topic, it is well worth reading.

Dr. Greenspan’s current research involves examining videotapes of children with autism to see if there “are any clues in pre-diagnosis tapes that would help children and families begin building healthy foundations at even earlier ages.” He also has published studies on the progress of autism and the factors that contribute to the way that autism progresses. Finally, he is providing consultation for researchers in Canada at the Ethel and Milton Harris Research Center at York University, who are conducting work on Greenspan’s Floortime approach as well.

Interestingly, at the most recent meeting of the Interdisciplinary Council for Developmental and Learning Disorders (founded by Greenspan and his colleague Serena Weider), they had a panel session looking at the education of children with autism from an ethical perspective, led by Glenn McGee (Editor-in-Chief, AJOB). This is good news. Dr. Greenspan and I both agreed that a panel discussion on ethical issues in the conduct of research on children with autism would be an interesting and very timely contribution to their next meeting.

Here is another of Dr. Greenspan’s publications:

Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate, and Think

~ by Nancy Walton on December 5, 2008.

One Response to “Update: Ethics and autism research”

  1. My understanding, admittedly gained mainly from conversations with Michelle Dawson, is that to date, none of the behavioural interventions aimed at autistic children have had any real, major or lasting effect.Autistic children are far too easy a target for researchers, who seem mainly focused on their own career paths.You can dress it up in whatever ethical, moral, legal garb you want, it’s still using our kids as lab-rats.

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