Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The autism research rogues gallery

Unfortunately, I don't have time or room to post all their photographs. So this isn't a proper rogues gallery--more like a rogues list.

This would be a list of researchers whose names appear on published or in-press peer-reviewed journal papers which find cognitive strengths in autistics, that is, which report data showing that autistics perform significantly better than non-autistics on various tasks or tests.

As I wrote in my first post here, autism advocacy is the widespread effort to make the world as free of autism--that is, of autistic people--as possible. According to autism advocates, autism research must support their autism advocacy needs and agendas. Otherwise, it should not be conducted much less reported. Researchers whose research designs (whether they like it or not) result in autistics outperforming non-autistics are therefore a bunch of rogues. We should be ashamed of ourselves for cluttering up the peer-reviewed literature with findings that are not going in the right direction.

Only authors of papers reporting data involving groups (autistics versus non-autistic controls matched in various ways) are included in this rogues list. Some researchers appear in the authorship of only one such paper; others appear in several. Here are the rogues:

Aldridge, Alcantara, J.M. Anderson, M. Anderson, Applebaum, Arguin, Barber, Baron-Cohen, Barrett, Bauman, Belleville, Bender, Bernard, Berthiaume, Bertone, Beversdorf, A. Bonnel, A.M. Bonnel, Brindley, Burack, Butler, Caron, Chawarska, Chen, Cherkassy, Chouinard, Cottington, Crucian, M. Dawson, de Jonge, Driver, Durkin, Egel, Enns, Faubert, Felopulos, Findling, Finn, Foxton, Frith, Gallun, Gernsbacher, Gilchrist, Griffiths, Hamilton, Happé, Heaton, Heilman, Hermelin, Hughes, Iarocci, Imhoff, Jarrold, Jelenic, Jemel, Jiminez, Joliffe, Just, Kamio, Kana, Keillor, Keller, Kemner, Klin, R. Koegel, Lahaie, Langdell, Lawson, Leekham, Lockyer, Lopez, Maley, Maybery, Ménard, Minshew, Mitchell, Moore, Morasse, Mottron, Nadeau, O'Brian, O'Riordan, Peretz, Pellicano, Plaisted, Pring, Prior, Okada, Rainville, Raymeakers, Robaey, Rodgers, Ropar, Roeyers, Rutter, Sakihama, Saksida, Saumier, Scheuffgen, Sears, Shah, Sheppard, B.W. Smith, Soulières, Spong, Stauder, Steinmetz, Stewert, Stone, Sweeney, Tager-Flusberg, Toichi, van der Meere, van Engeland, Volkmar, Weisblatt, Wheelright, Yamamoto, Young, Youngstrom

This is a very incomplete list--it's more or less off the top of my head. And in deference to ubiquitous and anti-scientific autism advocacy prejudices re autistic savants, I've left out the entire savant and hyperlexia literatures, which would add considerably to the above rogues. I've left out studies which have been presented at major research conferences, but have not yet been published--which means that well-known names (in autism or other fields) like Ullman, Mostofsky, Joseph and Strauss have for the time being been spared rogue status. If I had more time, I'd list all the rogue researchers' rogue universities, and I'm sure anyone versed in autism research can spot the knight--as well as the famous behaviour analyst--among the rogues.

I've also left out the problem of the impressive heap of findings in the peer-reviewed literature showing autistics performing as well as their non-autistic controls.

Autism advocates making sweeping "autism reality" assumptions about the functioning levels, "severity", etc., of the autistic participants whose strengths were advertantly or inadvertantly revealed by the rogues will be displaying their own unfamiliarity with the published literature in autism.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Intake IQ in Lovaas (1987)

I'm grateful to Harold Doherty for providing me with a distraction from being pulverized at the Tribunal. Mr Doherty is doing science again, with the usual autism advocacy standards. This time, Mr Doherty takes on a "myth" about the intake IQs of the experimental group in Lovaas (1987).

So let's look at those intake IQs.

I'm not going to launch into a lecture about deviation vs ratio IQs. This is a relevant issue here, but it can largely be circumvented by using the measure Lovaas (1987) used at intake, the PMA (prorated mental age), and its derived ratio IQs. All the sources I cite are peer-reviewed journal articles with Ivar Lovaas in the authorship, and the information I provide can be verified from these articles.

Using the reported PMA in Lovaas (1987), the mean intake IQ in the experimental group is 63. This is an average score in the "mildly retarded" range.

In the "Method" section, Lovaas (1987) also reports that, at intake, 2 experimental group children were in the normal range of intelligence (IQ 70 or more); none was in the "mildly retarded" range (IQ 50-69); 7 were in the "moderately retarded" range (IQ 35-49); and 10 were in the "severely retarded" range (IQ 20-34). None was in the "profoundly retarded" range (IQ of less than 20). Dr Lovaas also reports that this distribution of IQ scores is "identical to that for Control Group 1".

But--even if you assign the normal range children an IQ of 100--I haven't been able to find any report of the range of ratio IQs for the whole experimental group--and also assign all the other children to the highest possible scores in their respective categories (7 children with 49 IQ; 10 children with 34 IQ), this does not even approach a group average of 63. Instead, the average is 46.

It is statistically improbable that all those kids had, at intake, the highest scores within their assigned ranges, and it also looks impossible for the two normal range children to have ratio IQs as high as 100 (this would be inconsistent with reported deviation IQs; McEachin et al., 1993). But even this exercise in trying to produce the highest possible average intake IQ falls well short (17 points) of the reported average.

In the "Results" section, Lovaas (1987) reports that at intake, there were 10 children in the "moderate to severe range", as opposed to the 17 ("moderate" plus "severe" children) reported earlier in this paper.

Smith et al. (1993) report that 5 of the 19 children in Control Group 1 in Lovaas (1987) were "high-functioning", that is, had an IQ of 70 or more at intake. This contradicts the account in Lovaas (1987), where it is reported that only 2 of the 19 children in both the experimental group and Control Group 1 had IQs in the normal range (70 or more). Smith and Lovaas (1997) report a total of 9 children (experimental group and Control Group 1) who have IQs of 75 or more. If this figure is correct, and if 5 of these children were indeed in Control Group 1 (assuming none of the kids with IQs over 70 had IQs under 75...), then 4 must have been in the experimental group. This leaves open the question of whether the experimental group might have included more than 4 children with IQs of 70 or more.

Smith et al. (1997) correctly report that all children with ratio IQs of less than 37 were excluded from Lovaas (1987). That is, none of the experimental group children in Lovaas (1987) was in the "severely retarded" range at intake. This is contrary to what is stated in Lovaas (1987), where it is reported that 10 children--the majority--are in this range.

Lovaas and Smith (1988) add that the average intake IQ of the 9 children who achieved "normal functioning" in Lovaas (1987) is "slightly under 70". In fact it is 70 (69.7), which would be considered (just) in the normal range. And "in the normal range" is another way to say "high-functioning".


Lovaas (1987) does not include any autistic children whose intake IQs are in the "severe" and "profound" ranges. The average experimental group intake IQ is in the "mild" range, and the average for those children who achieved normal functioning is (just) in the normal--"high functioning"--range. And the distribution of intake IQ scores is incorrectly (and inconsistently) reported in Lovaas (1987).

These are data I absorbed long ago and carried around for a long time. Only when I saw Mr Doherty's latest foray into science was I reminded to cough them up. Autism advocates who use websites as authoritative sources miss all the fun (and avoid all the hard work) of looking at data from primary sources. As usual, any factual criticisms are welcome--and if anyone can find (I'm sure it's right in front of me somewhere...) a reported range of ratio IQs (not deviation IQs) for the full experimental group in Lovaas (1987), you'll be awarded a trip to that Tribunal hearing (or maybe not).


Lovaas, O.I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9.

Lovaas, O.I., and Smith, T. (1988). Intensive behavioral treatment for young autistic children. In B.B. Lahey, and A.E. Kazdin (Eds.), Advances in Clinical Child Psychology, 11. New York: Plenum Press.

McEachin, J.J., Smith, T., and Lovaas, O.I. (1993). Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioral treatment. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 97, 359-72.

Smith, T., & Lovaas, O.I. (1997). The UCLA Young Autism Project: A reply to Gresham and McMillan. Behavioral Disorders, 22, 202– 218.

Smith, T., McEachin, J.J., & Lovaas, O.I. (1993). Comments on replication and evaluation of outcome. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 97, 385–391.

Smith, T., Eikeseth, S., Klevstrand, M., and Lovaas, O.I. (1997). Intensive behavioral treatment for preschoolers with severe mental retardation and pervasive developmental disorder. American Journal on Mental Retardation 103, 238-249.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Verbatim: Matthew Belmonte's hidden abilities

Matthew Belmonte spent four years working with Simon Baron-Cohen in Cambridge, and is now at Cornell. This passage, reflecting on priorities and presumptions rampant in autism research, is from a 2004 review.

It is quite remarkable and difficult to fathom that we currently have more functional imaging data about how the autistic brain processes a face or a theory of mind than we do about the way it processes, say, location, colour, orientation, or spatial frequency; at what level of processing do the perceptual and cognitive abnormalities begin? It is also important to recognise that absence of behavioural performance or functional activation does not necessarily imply incapacity of the corresponding brain subsystems. Rather, an apparent lack may be due to failure to engage an intact capacity. The proper stimuli or experimental paradigm can bring out such hidden abilities.


Belmonte, M.K., Cook Jr, E.H., Anderson, G.M., Rubenstein, J.L.R., Greenough, W.T., Beckel-Mitchener, A., Courchesne, E., Boulanger, L.M., Powell, S.B., Levitt, P.R., Perry, E.K., Jiang, Y., Delorey, T.M., & Tierney, E. (2004). Autism as a disorder of neural information processing: Directions for research and targets for therapy. Molecular Psychiatry, 9, 646-643.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

IMFAR 2007 abstracts

The 2007 International Meeting for Autism Research (Seattle this year) schedule for oral and poster presentations has been posted here. I'm involved in three studies at IMFAR this year. Here are the abstracts for two of them:

Pervasive Developmental Disorders Specialized Clinic, Rivière des Prairies Hospital, University of Montreal

M. Dawson, L. Mottron

Background: 40hrs/wk of one-to-one treatment--the reported intensity of ABA-based intervention received by the experimental group in Lovaas (1987) and McEachin, Smith and Lovaas (1993)--is a benchmark in autism research.

Objective: To compare accounts of hrs/wk received by the experimental group in Lovaas (1987) and McEachin, Smith and Lovaas (1993).

Method: We compared detailed 2004 sworn legal testimony from a behavior analyst (Leaf) directly involved in treatment of 10 of the 19 experimental group children reported in Lovaas (1987) and McEachin, Smith and Lovaas (1993), to descriptions in published articles authored by Lovaas, Smith and/or McEachin.

34 published descriptions of hrs/wk in the experimental group authored by Lovaas, Smith and/or McEachin, report 40hrs/wk with no range; 4 descriptions (including 1 in both Lovaas, 1987, and McEachin, Smith & Lovaas, 1993) specify 40hrs/wk was a minimum (e.g. "40 hours or more per week", "more than 40 hours"); 7 specify an average of 40hrs/wk, including the only account by Leaf; 3 specify "normal functioning" children received 40hrs/wk; 1 is ambiguous; 2 specify "approximately" 40hrs/wk; and the rest are unqualified. Leaf testified (from Wynberg et al. v. Ontario; Leaf, pp. 16687-16692 [Compendium, Vol. II, Tab 23, pp. 692-697]) under oath that 40 hrs/wk was a group average; range in the experimental group was 18 to "in the 50 range" and that 2 of the 9 "normal functioning" children received 18 hrs/wk which diminished over time.

Conclusion: Leaf's testimony questions the influential premise that high intensity of treatment in Lovaas (1987) was essential in achieving "normal functioning". In the current absence of ABA controlled trials correlating treatment intensity with outcome measures, and considering the landmark status of Lovaas (1987) and its follow-up, we suggest that accurate data re treatment intensity and its relation with outcome measures be provided by the authors.

Sponsor: CIHR

Université de Montréal

L. MOTTRON, I. Soulières, M. Dawson, M. Gernsbacher

Background: Recent findings of discrepancies between intelligence in autism as measured by Wechsler and Raven's Progressive Matrices (Dawson et al, in press) lead to the reconsideration of established relations between variables characterizing the autistic phenotype and intelligence level reached.

Objectives: To establish how early developmental milestones and cross-sectional adaptive level predicts the intelligence level measured by various instruments, including the Raven's Progressive Matrices.

Methods: All measures were extracted from the socio-demographic data of Rivière-des-Prairies Hospital's database, which contains diagnostic and cognitive information on approximately 200 ADI and ADOS-G positive autistics. Correlations were computed between age at first words/phrases-word and other ADI items at age 4-5 and subtests, subscales and global Wechsler intelligence level (WISC-III and WAIS-III), Raven intelligence level, and Vineland adaptation level in school-age children and adults.

Results: Age at first words/phrases was not significantly correlated with intelligence level achieved later in childhood or adulthood, whether measured with Wechsler Scales or Raven's Progressive Matrices. Furthermore, ADI scores (social, communication and repetitive behaviours) was not significantly correlated with intelligence in adulthood.

Conclusion: The age at which first words or phrases are spoken by in autistic children does not predict intelligence level achieved later in childhood or adulthood. Also, ADI scores, often taken to index the so-called "severity" of autistic symptoms, does not predict cognitive outcome in adulthood.

Sponsors: CIHR

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Autism advocacy at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

My Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case resumes hearings tomorrow. We previously (in 2006) had eight hearing days. Ten more are now scheduled. This is the first autism-related case to be referred for a hearing to the CHRT.

The referring body is the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which investigates complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act. I had a previous case at the CHRC involving the same Respondent (my employer, Canada Post), which was rapidly settled in my favour. But the current case has proceeded extremely slowly and arduously. Before it was finally referred to the CHRT (three years after the complaint was signed), my current case had involved two investigations (this is unusual), as well as two formal written apologies to me from the CHRC, one from the Chief Commissioner's Office. I frequently encountered autism advocacy views in those I had to deal with at the CHRC. This twice had the effect of killing my case, and twice I had to make formal within-CHRC complaints, which were found to be justified.

At the CHRT, the CHRC is also acting as a party in my case, meaning that these hearings involve three parties--Canada Post, my employer; the CHRC; and me. Are you confused yet? You should be.

At the CHRT, the CHRC is supposed to represent the "public interest". This raises interesting questions in the area of autism. In my case, the CHRC has largely been adversarial. This is not surprising, given that the "public interest" in autism is in Canada defined by autism advocates. According to the jurisprudence resulting from autism advocacy, autistics are not even human (unqualified for "membership in the human community"), and therefore do not have human rights, unless we have undergone unlimited ABA/IBI starting very early in life. As autism advocates argued successfully in both the Wynberg and Auton trials, only through ABA/IBI can autistics become human, and acquire the rights guaranteed for all non-autistic Canadians. An issue at the CHRT is whether ABA-deprived autistics are human.

I am representing myself at the CHRT. I am a truly appalling lawyer, when it comes to saying things in hearings. I can write an argument if I have a lot of examples to work with. In this case, I produced a mediation brief and a statement of particulars without really knowing what either was or what they should consist of. But I am at a total loss when it comes to speaking in a hearing. It doesn't help that I've been treated like a spectator rather than a party. It is extremely difficult just to be a witness. I am the only witness on my side of the case. I do not know how to call witnesses at the CHRT, which has idiosyncratic and arbitrary (made up as you go along) rules that diverge from more standard forms of litigation, and could not find out from anyone.

Human rights lawyers in Canada, including those few with experience at the CHRC and CHRT in disability issues, have supported or represented autism advocates in ABA-related litigation. They are not interested in helping an autistic to argue that ABA-deprived autistics are human, and contribute to society because we're autistic, not in spite of this.

Many issues in this case have been decided already, and I am not sure if I should continue. I am quite sure that the decision in this case will be harmful to autistics. Its only advantage will be that it will reflect "autism reality", that is, the overwhelming success of autism advocates in disseminating false and pejorative information about autistics, in spreading fear and dread of autistic people (this being a central issue in my case), and in ensuring that autistics are unquestioningly regarded as undeserving of recognized standards of science and ethics (including professional ethics).

One of many issues involved is accommodation. I asked to use a simple accommodation I had used previously at work. In spite of this accommodation costing Canada Post nothing (in time, trouble, or money), and in spite of it having been granted without question previously, it was this time refused.

This should be an easy issue. This was not an accommodation that could cause Canada Post "undue hardship"--the legal criterion that allows an employer or service provider to refuse accommodation. However, I asked to be accommodated in the CHRT hearings in similarly easy ways, and this has been refused by the CHRT member hearing my case. This member (the CHRT equivalent of a judge) characterized my requests as unreasonable. An employer can't be ordered to behave better than the CHRT. So a de facto decision re accommodation has been made, and that decision is that even easy, cost-free accommodations for autistics can and should be denied as being unreasonable.

The absence of the simple accommodations I asked for has caused chaos in the hearings. For example, I'm not allowed to communicate in text. So when I was unable to speak, I had to leave the room. Any attempt to make the hearings possible to endure has been, and no doubt will continue to be, judged as my being unreasonable or rude. I do not expect to be able to finish the remaining 10 days of hearings in this situation, but I will at least show up.

The de facto decision re accommodation, and my own extreme incompetence in this arena, are far from the only problems which are likely to result in a harmful decision. Others include the CHRC investigation process being a CHRT-protected haven for human rights violations. I don't have the time (or the brains, right now) to fully explain this here, but this fact alone (a respondent is free to grossly violate the rights of a complainant, in ways that can put the complainant in danger, with impunity so long as this is within a CHRC investigation) means I will never make a CHRC complaint again.

But the major problem is that the CHRT condones and embraces autism advocacy.

The CHRT has a Code of Conduct for its members (judges), which states,

it must be recognized that members of the Tribunal have been appointed because of their experience, expertise and interest in, and sensitivity to, human rights.

This requirment--for expertise in and sensitivity to human rights--is stated in the law itself (Canadian Human Rights Act). One of the CHRT's current members (judges) is Michel Doucet, who is from New Brunswick. Mr Doucet was first appointed to the CHRT (by the federal cabinet) in 2002.

In 2001, Mr Doucet made statments in the media, supporting the Auton trial decision. He was commissioned by Autism Society New Brunswick to write a report about this decision and the rights of autistics, among other things. This report appears to have been funded at least in part by the now-defunct Canada Court Challenges program, and is (or was) available free from this government body. I first found out about this report in 2002, when my then-MP received a copy, and copied me with a letter she wrote in consequence to the health minister. I knew the name of the report's author, but I did not, until this past summer, connect the Michel Doucet who wrote this widely-distributed report with the Michel Doucet who is a current CHRT member.

You can find Mr Doucet's report here.

It is prime autism advocacy, uncritically quoting and embellishing on the Auton trial decision, equating autism with cancer and AIDS, and claiming, as was claimed in Auton, that autistics are doomed and just naturally belong in institutions unless we receive Lovaas ABA from an early age. Mr Doucet's embellishments include giving the behaviour analyst Glen Davies (PhD, not MD) status as a "medical expert". This is in the context of Dr Davies' statement that it is wrong to provide autistics with support when a treatment which promises to "recover" or "cure" half of us is available. Mr Doucet repeats this statement twice.

Mr Doucet's rationale is seen in his distortion of the the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Eldridge case. Here is what Eldridge says:

Persons with disabilities have too often been excluded from the labour force, denied access to opportunities for social interaction and advancement, subjected to invidious stereotyping and relegated to institutions [...] This historical disadvantage has to a great extent been shaped and perpetuated by the notion that disability is an abnormality or flaw. As a result, disabled persons have not generally been afforded the “equal concern, respect and consideration” that s. 15(1) of the Charter demands. Instead, they have been subjected to paternalistic attitudes of pity and charity, and their entrance into the social mainstream has been conditional upon their emulation of ablebodied norms [...]

Here is Mr Doucet's distortion, complete with the kind of offensive language ("afflicted" etc.) which is featured in his report:

The history of people afflicted with autism in Canada is largely one of exclusion, marginalization and institutionalization. They have been denied access to opportunities for social interaction and advancement and have been subjected to invidious stereotyping and in more cases than other relegated to institutions. This historical disadvantage has to a great extent been shaped and perpetuated by the notion that autism is not a medical condition and that treatment for autism is not a medically necessary service. As a result people who suffer from autism have not generally been afforded the equal concern, respect and consideration that s. 15(1) demands. Individuals who suffer from autism have been subjected to paternalistic attitudes of pity and charity and that their entrance into the social mainstream has been denied.

In both quotes, I've added emphasis in blue. Mr Doucet argues that autistics are sick, and it is the failure of society to recognize that autism is a disease (just like cancer) and must be gotten rid of via "medical" treatment (that is, Lovaas ABA) that constitutes the denial of the human rights of autistics. His very selective distortions of Eldridge show that he has no problem with the "medical" treatment he promotes having the stated purpose of requiring autistics to "emulate able-bodied norms". In Mr Doucet's report, autistics are not like the disabled people described in Eldridge, who have rights and value and dignity and humanity as disabled people. No, autistics are just sick. We are indeed abnormal and flawed (afflicted and suffering), and only "medical" treatment requiring us to emulate healthy, non-autistic people can save us from our tragic doom. Mr Doucet's views resonate with the entirely negative views of autism and autistic people that Canada Post has embraced and acted on.

Mr Doucet is not hearing my case, but his publicly available work represents what the CHRT considers to be expertise in and sensitivity to the human rights of autistics. It is unreasonable to expect an employer to behave better than the CHRT.

I've found it striking how many people have not been able to see the problem, which would be obvious if the issue weren't autism. Possibly, the problem is that you cannot imagine this happening in any other area. You cannot imagine a lawyer who writes a report full of false and pejorative statements about gay people being appointed to the CHRT, so it becomes very difficult to imagine the consequences were such a member appointed, no matter whether this member heard cases having to do with homosexuality. It is the standards of the CHRT that are displayed when members are appointed and have their appointments renewed, as has Mr Doucet. If the CHRT embraces (as expertise in and sensitivity to human rights) grossly false characterizations of and prejudicial stereotypes about homosexuals--or autistics--there is no way for the CHRT to hold an employer accountable for holding identical or equivalent views--in my case, autism advocacy views--and acting on them.

Canada Post has, after all, done what Mr Doucet and so many in Canada are applauded for doing--including applause from Canada's government--in this era of autism advocacy. They have joined the fight against autism.

[NOTE: The eminent Canadian autism advocate and lawyer, Harold Doherty, has blogged about this case. The information he provides is, predictably, inaccurate and misleading.]