Friday, May 11, 2007

How many hours is forty hours?

For those interested, my first-author poster at this year's IMFAR (International Meeting for Autism Research) has been posted on the No Autistics Allowed website.

That would be this poster:

Dawson, M., & Mottron, L. (2007, May). How many hours is forty hours? Range of treatment intensity in Lovaas (1987). Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research. Seattle, WA.

You can find it as a pdf linked to this page. This page also provides the full text for the excerpts of Leaf's testimony. These excerpts aren't clear on the small pdf of the poster, unlike on the original ppt version (if anyone wants the ppt version, they can write to me).

It is such an unconventional poster that I'm pretty sure we were all surprised it was accepted for IMFAR. The information we put forward raises a lot of interesting questions at multiple levels. One of the most basic questions for me was, does this kind of information belong in a venue like IMFAR? Is it autism research? The answer was yes (at least so far). This leads to more questions, about what to do with the information we have, and about what may or may not be accurate information in this case.

We don't, e.g., know who's right, or how many hours forty hours is. But for now it remains a possibility that if accurate information had been provided by Lovaas and colleagues going back 20 years, re treatment intensity in the experimental group in Lovaas (1987), then the subsequent behaviour analytic research in autism may have looked somewhat different than it does now.

Setting aside all the uncertainties and unknowns (in the absence of accurate information from the authors in question), it seems that there should be agreement on one point. Accurate information may not always serve the many vested interests of scientists, service providers, advocacy groups, politicians, and lobbyists. But accurate information always serves the real-life interests of autistics. Then it's a matter of deciding on priorities.

IMFAR was overwhelming, as usual (this was also the first IMFAR where I was involved in more than one presented study as an author), and this year I have a variety of post-IMFAR deadlines to make things a bit more challenging. I hope I'll eventually blog something useful about IMFAR 2007, once the haze clears and the dust settles.

26 comments:

David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

Looking forward to reading that poster properly...

Lovaas '87 was a shabby piece of work at best and the basis of a campaign of lies at worst.

For demonstrating that alone, I respect you (regardless of whether you actually believe that or not).

Autism Reality NB said...

"Lovaas '87 was a shabby piece of work at best and the basis of a campaign of lies at worst."

At least you don't pretend to be a balanced objective commentator about autism and autism interventions Mr Andrews. I will give you credit for being straightforward about your hostility toward ABA and not trying to hide it behind a facade of professional objectivity.

Alyric said...

That's very interesting. Kudos to the folks at IMFAR, who seem to know how the scientific method works. Next question - whether the data will be forthcoming or not.

I've known some researchers who have never handed over the raw data and they're still functioning 'researchers' and authors, but that's in the feminist social studies arena.

kristina said...

Am also looking forward to hearing your "report" on IMFAR. One wonders about that "magic" number of 40 hours and the 40 hour work week----just a coincidence?

Ms. Clark said...

Frank Klein pointed out (like 3 or 4 years ago) that he suspected that 40 hours was meant as a convenience for keeping the therapists employed.

Michelle, have you had any comments from behaviorism researchers or anyone who might be able to wrest the data from the death grip of Lovaas et al...

bunch of phonies. That's my unprofessional opinion. Autism Reality NB is looking nervous, I see.

I look forward to more info about your work and IMFAR.

David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

"At least you don't pretend to be a balanced objective commentator about autism and autism interventions Mr Andrews. I will give you credit for being straightforward about your hostility toward ABA and not trying to hide it behind a facade of professional objectivity."

You what?

I actually have no hostility to behavioural analytic work. What I do have is a marked hostility to poor research, poor practice and faulty reporting of the study.

The study cited was absolutely riddled with problematic issues (and Michelle Dawson has - very much to her credit - dealt more than adequately with at least many of them).

It seems that you need to learn to read what people actually say, rather than what you wish they were saying.

As for being balanced, yes I am. A very balanced commentator on things, actually... unlike, oh, someone like Harold Doherty... do you know that chap? Hasn't a clue how to do science, apparently. Michelle's response to his foray into the IQ issue in Lovaas' study.

Actually... just in case you are in fact as foolish as your response seems to indicate, I'll let you in on something: I know that AR-NB is just a blogger name for the person I just mentioned... Mr Doherty, you need to learn to read what is there, not what you want to be there. Did your schooling never leave you with that bit of knowledge?

concerned heart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michelle Dawson said...

"Concerned Heart" was deleted for being off-topic, non-informative, and at the level of spam (yes, I've seen this before).

Re the 40hrs/wk, my (wild) guess is that it doesn't have to do with the typical work-week. It may genuinely be the average hrs/wk of treatment in the experimental group in Lovaas (1987). Or it may not be. The premise that autistic children must spend most of their waking hours in ABA programs in order to learn does have theoretical importance/prominence in the behaviour analytic literature.

Hi Ms Clark... Nope, no one's offered me accurate data on a platter (or offered to fetch it for me). I did spend some time--before IMFAR--speaking with various ethics people (including a behaviour analyst) about what I should or shouldn't do with the information I have.

David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

"'Concerned Heart' was deleted for being off-topic, non-informative, and at the level of spam (yes, I've seen this before)."

I looked at the site... I'm thinking that it was a deliberate attemptto wind you up.

mike stanton said...

Congratulations on the poster. There is too much poorly designed autism research that needs to be called to account.

jypsy said...

Frank Klein pointed out (like 3 or 4 years ago) that he suspected that 40 hours was meant as a convenience for keeping the therapists employed.

That actually came out of a conversation (email) Frank and I had in 2001.

ballastexistenz said...

Actually I think the idea was arrived at independently by a number of people, too. I know that was my first thought when I saw "40 hours a week," I don't remember when though. And I've heard similar sentiments from lots of autistic people over the years.

jypsy said...

No doubt. I was just referring to Frank's first referrence.

Anonymous said...

Michelle:
I think you are so damaging to so many children. Why did you choose to involve yourself in the Auton case? Parents have the right to choose which treatment they would like for ttheir child. How did you figure into that....I thought you were simply a mailman.
How does one go from being a mailman to a presenter at an Autism conference.
We can discuss, the validity of the research all day, but my questions remain...
1. What qualifis you to presume to know what appropriate intervention is? Ironically, you believe you know more then Dr. Leaf.
2. How did you get involved in the Auton case?
Jen

Michelle Dawson said...

Hi Jen,

1. IMFAR accepted my poster (just trying to stay on-topic here). And I haven't mentioned knowing more than Dr Leaf.

2. I applied for intervenor status, and was accepted over the objections of both parties (the parents and the government).

The real question is, why are autism advocates unwilling or unable to make their demands for services accurately (including with respect to the science), ethically, and respectfully?

All autistics live the consequences of the public discourse about autism, and of decisions made about autistics at the level of research, education, public policy, the law, etc.

I know it's shocking to some autism advocates, but while there are many prejudicial barriers, there is no law (yet) against letter carriers and disabled people, including autistics, contributing to autism research.

David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

To Anonymous,

Michelle said: "The real question is, why are autism advocates unwilling or unable to make their demands for services accurately (including with respect to the science), ethically, and respectfully?"

I'd reiterate that question myself.

And add this one: what is wrong with Michelle getting involved in this work? You didn't exactly come up with anything substantial to say that she shouldn't... you just went on a 'shoot the messenger' attack (ad hominem).

Michelle is absolutely accurate in her observation that the barriers to autistic participation in decisions made about our own lives are prejudicial. I say that as both an autistic and as a practitioner-researcher psychologist.

Anonymous said...

Michelle and David:
I have reviewed your comments. I guess my concern is this, Michelle your occupation now lists you as a "researcher" how did you get there?
I think that it's great as an individual with autism to be involved in the cause, but before an individual speaks on behalf of MY child they damn well better be qualified. The fact that you have autism and are interested in the disorder does not grant you the right to "speak on behalf" of others who gfrankly, do not want or need you to do so.
You claim to know so much about behavior and the treatment of autism (ABA) yet, your credentials speak otherwise.
I have known Ron Leaf for several years, my son was fortunate enough to receive treatment from him (Autism Partnership) for almost 6 years. My son is now in a fully included and in second grade.
His speeach and language skills are WNL as are his acedmics and his social skills are almost there.
When Ron started working with him, he was non verbal and his chief source of entertainment was head banging and hand flapping, do you realy want to raise the quality of life argument?
You can speak for yourself, all day long, BUT I think you did far more harm then good to the other children who will not benefit from the services my son has.
Jen

Michelle Dawson said...

Hi Jen,

Let's see--again, trying to stay on-topic:

1. You seem to be opposed to my quoting Dr Leaf's Wynberg testimony in a study which was accepted as an IMFAR poster. I have no idea why. Maybe you could complain to the IMFAR organizers?

2. You're also saying that accurate information is bad for autistics--that we are harmed by accurate information. I'm going to disagree with you on that.

3. You're saying that I claim to "speak on behalf" of your child. Please show me where I did that.

4. I qualify for "Full Membership" in INSAR.

5. See my previous response, re the actions taken by autism advocates (who are deciding the future of all autistics in Canada), and the startling fact that all autistics live the consequences of legal, public policy, political, etc., decisions made about autism.

David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

"4. I qualify for "Full Membership" in INSAR."

(Quoting Michelle, but for Jen's benefit)

"Full Membership

For full membership, an individual must have a graduate degree from an accredited university,"

Which I have...

"have publications in peer reviewed journals related to autism research, and/or have external funding for autism related research."

Which I have... including my being an associate international editor for one such journal.

"In addition, an individual may have other scientific credentials that they wish to submit to the membership committee for review."

Does being a postgraduate student's M. Ed. thesis supervisor count?

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I was curious if questioning credentials was a fruitful enterprise? I would have thought that it might be more productive for folks to spend more time addresssing the "arguments" presented.

Michelle, have you approached Dr. Lovaas and associates with the issues presented in the IMFAR poster?


Dave C.

Michelle Dawson said...

Dave C wrote, "Michelle, have you approached Dr. Lovaas and associates with the issues presented in the IMFAR poster?"

Yes (not Dr Lovaas, but one of his associates). I did this some time before IMFAR 2007.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,

Did the associate that you spoke with offer any clarification? Will the actaul measures of the spread with regard to "hours" be made available by the primary research team? Does it exist or are they all currently speaking to this issue based on 20 year old memoies of the spread and the actual data is "lost to time"?


Dave C.

Michelle Dawson said...

Hi Dave C.,

My original query was responded to by general information about treatment intensity in the ABA literature as a whole. My second query was not responded to.

You asked, "Does it exist or are they all currently speaking to this issue based on 20 year old memoies of the spread and the actual data is "lost to time"?"

See the poster itself (link is in the blog post you're commenting on) for the possible current availability of the relevant data. Also, the study reported in Lovaas (1987) and McEachin et al. (1993) started in 1970 (and ended in 1984).

Anonymous said...

Hi again Michelle,

It is disappointing that the range (hours) has not been made available by the primary. Leaf's testimony is not sufficient in my opinion...to qoute the mantra that many line therapists iterate I say "show me the data" (by which I mean that I sure wish the range data would be provided... perhaps in a published letter or followup erratum).

Dave.

Michelle Dawson said...

Hi again Dave C.,

Can I suggest (again) that you look at this poster:

Dawson, M., & Mottron, L. (2007, May). How many hours is forty hours? Range of treatment intensity in Lovaas (1987). Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research. Seattle, WA.

There is a link to it in my original post. You can then see what kinds of conclusions were drawn (and what suggestion was made) on the basis of what available evidence.

Ettina said...

On a tangent, I've actually met Ron Leaf. He claimed I couldn't criticize his treatment after attending an all-morning talk about it by him, but he could tell that either I'd been treated or I was misdiagnosed as autistic from a brief argument with me.
He also claims that depression is a behavior.