Questionable Motives

November 23, 2009

An article on autism that gets it right

Filed under: CAM,Criticism,Media,Medicine,Science — tildeb @ 2:34 pm

Laboratory tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted. And though some parents fervently believe their children have benefited, the Tribune found a trail of disappointing results from the few clinical trials to evaluate the treatments objectively.

Studies have shown that up to three-quarters of families with children with autism try alternative treatments, which insurance does not usually cover. Doctors, many linked to the influential group Defeat Autism Now!, promote the therapies online, in books and at conferences

From: Autism treatments: risky alternative therapies have little basis in science

Alternative therapies amount to uncontrolled experimentation on children, investigation finds

When you’re done, a commentary on this article can be read over at Neurologica.

Also, (T)he myth that vaccines cause autism has led to ideas. Dangerous ideas, and not because they “challenge” medical orthodoxy. These ideas are dangerous because they have direct consequences for children with autism. These consequences take the form of subjecting children to unscientific treatments that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst, sometimes even life-threatening. Read the rest of this commentary over at Science-Based Medicine.


  1. The second installment of the series is up

    Autism treatment: Science hijacked to support alternative therapies, Researchers’ fears about misuse of their work come true,0,6519404,full.story


    Pardo’s study is just one example. In May, the Tribune reported on another questionable use of research. A geneticist and his son who promoted treating children who have autism with a testosterone inhibitor had based their protocol, in part, on the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, a psychopathologist at England’s University of Cambridge who has explored the role of the hormone in autism.

    Yet Baron-Cohen told the Tribune that the idea of using the drug this way “fills me with horror.”

    Pardo said that since his paper came out he has received many questions about unproven autism treatments. He is particularly haunted by inquiries regarding powerful immunosuppressant drugs usually used on organ transplant patients, calling the idea “completely wrong.”

    Said the researcher: “People are abusing science for the treatment of autism.”

    As I often do for stories of this type, I’m keeping a running list or index of pro- and con- blog posts. This one’s on the list.

    The list is here

    Comment by Liz Ditz — November 23, 2009 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

  2. For readers new to the world of biomedical treatment, it is worth noting that a number of bloggers who are affected by autism are pro-science and pro-vaccine. They repudiate the world of “Age of Autism”, Generation Rescue, and “Defeat Autism Now!”(DAN!). I will mention a few (in no particular order) the group blog LeftBrain/RightBrain ( Natural Variation ( Countering Age of Autism ( Autism News Beat ( and Club 166 ( There are many more.

    Comment by Liz Ditz — November 24, 2009 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

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