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Science, Fads, and Applied Behavior Analysis

By Thomas Zane, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Institute for Behavioral Studies at The Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies, Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, Massachusetts
Little Star Center Advisory Board member

Autism is known as a “fad magnet” because of the plethora of treatments available to treat the condition (Jacobson, Foxx, & Mulick, 2005).  Because of the varying levels of believability and evidence supporting many of these treatments, there is a need to be skeptical about any particular autism intervention until some minimal level of quality evidence exists showing that the particular treatment has demonstrated positive results. Most professionals adhere to the methods of science and scientific inquiry as the standards against which the quality of treatment evidence is judged.

Ideally, by universally adhering to common criteria for acceptable empirical evidence, professionals across disciplines would study a phenomenon and all arrive at the same conclusion as to its “truthfulness” or veracity. A conclusion about, say, the efficacy of an autism treatment would be that much more powerful given the adherence to the scientific method by professionals from varying disciplines all examining the same treatment from different perspectives.

Such a professional model is illustrated by Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT) and how professionals from different disciplines examined it and made a judgment about whether AIT should be promoted to consumers.

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