The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a advisory statement warning the public against the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for Autism 22 August 2013. The action, which also notes concern about other unproven uses of HBOT, apparently was predicated on the FDA’s receipt of multiple complaints from consumers, and it is consistent with long-standing concerns about this therapy that I have raised here on EBD Blog: 17 October 2008, 21 March 2009, 17 August 2009, 12 November 2009, 18 November 2009, 21 November 2009.
Continue reading ‘US health agency warns against use of HBOT for Autism’
Phil Plait, who is known for his “Bad Astronomy” Web presence (and let’s not confuse that with astrology, which is bad, forsooth!), hit the Internet with a critique of Jennifer “Jenny” McCarthy’s appointment to host a television show. Over on his Slate blog, Mr. Plait (he has a Ph.D. from the university where I teach, so I could say “Dr.” but we refer to each other as “Ms.” or “Mr.” in this neighborhood) provides what I might describe as something close to a blistering indictment of the appointment:
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this post, but here we are: The daytime talk show The View has indeed hired Jenny McCarthy as a co-host. I wrote about this last week, alerting people to the possibility, and now it’s now been confirmed. She’ll find her spot on the program this fall.
Continue reading ‘Bad Astronomy on bad TV programming’
According to Robert T. Carroll at the Skeptic’s Dictionary, several people associated with facilitated communication have been working with Professor Rosalind W. Picard of the Affective Computing research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. In “Facilitated Communication Infiltrates MIT’s Media Lab,” Mr. Carroll reports about Professor Picard’s connections with supporters of what he says is now called “supported typing.”
Why would MIT’s Media Lab be involved with something that is clearly a discredited pseudoscience?
MIT’s Media Lab’s involvement with FC goes back several years.
A private FC conference occurred in May 2008 involving Douglas Biklen, Head of the FC Institute, Rosalind Picard, Head of the MIT Affective Computing Group, Margaret Bauman of the Massachusetts General Ladders Program (a long time FC advocate; she tried to get the New England Center to use FC in the early 1990s; she just got $29 Million from Nancy Lurie Marks a major, major FC supporter), Martha Herbert of Harvard Medical (supports the view that autism is a movement disorder, justifying FC)…That meeting seems to have been designed to establish liaisons between FC advocates in the Media Lab, the Ladders Program at Massachusetts General, the Syracuse FC Institute [now the Institute on Communication and Inclusion], and the University of Buenos Aires (i.e., Daniel Orlievsky), and cannot be unconnected to this upcoming event in July.
Mr. Carroll has much more on this. Given the problems with FC, one must wonder what a prestigious institution such as MIT would gain from such a connection. Is it possible that the researchers are legitimately investigating FC?
What about other developments from this lab? How valuable are they? One can’t dismiss them simply by association. Does this bracelet that seems to capture galvanic skin response and feed it wirelessly to computers actually have much value? Tracking GSR across time does look interesting to me. What clinical applications might emerge? Will they be beneficial?
You can read Facilitated Communication Infiltrates MIT’s Media Lab in its entirety on the Skeptic’s Dictionary.
The sugar-makes-kids-hyper hypothesis is still false. Dan Willingham stuck another fork in it. Roasty-toasty. All done. Fizzle.
Now, I’m not advocating a high-fructose, feed-’em-soda-and-sweets diet, to be sure. It’s just that folks need to disabuse themselves of the popular myth that children’s levels of behavioral activity are governed by consumption of sucrose (whether from sugar cane or sugar beet).
Professor Willingham, who pops bubbles with the best of them, lanced this one in his guest post, “The Answer Sheet: How sugar really affects kids.” The evidence is basically the same as what I covered in the mid 1990s under the title “Sugar High?.”
Over on Countering Age of Autism, Kim Wombles has an extended post about research on facilitated communication. She’s not just gathered together the evidence that is familiar to those who have followed the science, but also engaged in discussion in the comments section of the post. Take a look at Facilitated Communication: A Review of the Literature. While you’re there, check many of her other sensible and clear posts.
Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan, the Chicago Tribune reporters who have provided exemplary examinations of unsupported therapies for Autism, continued their series of stories on the topic with a piece entitled “Autism: Kids Put At Risk” in the Los Angeles Times. In this briefer (though still well-researched) article they devote most of the coverage to examining the physicians who prescribe chelation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, anti-testorsterone drugs, mega-doses of vitamins, and many other unproven regimens and other doctors who have serious doubts about the consequences, including the safety, of such therapies.
Read “Autism: Kids Put At Risk.” See the related articles “On shaky ground with alternative treatments to autism,” “Four autism treatments that worry physicians,” “Chelation based on faulty premise,” and “Autism therapies can get undeserved credit.” Also, see related EBD Blog posts about the investigative journalism of these writers: Dangerous therapy and Baseless, risky therapies for Autism
Writing for MSNBC, Brian Alexander provided a thorough examination of the history and devastating consequences of some facilitated communication (FC). After making quick reference to the case of Rom Houben that has been in the news recently, in “Dark shadows loom over ‘facilitated’ talk: Opening minds or telling tales? Michigan family torn apart by abuse claims,” describes the wrenching effects of facilitated accusations of sexual abuse on the family of Aislinn Wendrow.
On Nov. 27, 2007, just a few days after returning to school from Thanksgiving break, 14-year-old Aislinn Wendrow created a shock wave by saying her father had “banged” her. Aislinn didn’t say it, exactly; she typed it on the keyboard of a digital device with the help of Cynthia Scarsella, her facilitator and an employee of Michigan’s Walled Lake school district.
The Wendrows’ story is not news; the charges against the parents were dropped in September 2008. Mr. Alexander intertwines the story of the Wendrow family’s nightmare with FC with the story of how FC was developed, adopted, challenged and found wanting, and yet is still being promoted. It’s an example of good journalism.
Link to “Dark shadows loom over ‘facilitated’ talk.” For more about the case of Mr. Houben, see “Deserving a careful test” on Spedpro. For more about the case of the Wendrows, see L. L. Brasier’s “Parents cleared in sex case file suit: Our autistic kids suffered, they say” from the Freep.