Autism is demonstrated by emotional detachment, ritualistic behaviors, isolation and the rejection of interaction, restricted play with toys and peers, low IQ, aggression and self injurious behaviors, absent or abnormal speech, and the onset of these behaviors in infancy.
Medical therapies have not proven effective in treating autism, and many people rate people with autism with a poor prognosis and little hope for recovery. However, the following reviewed article gives an overview of an intensive study and treatment of autism which was conducted over several years. The results of this study are amazing, offer hope to families with children with autism, and support the idea of the true ability of professional to treat autism effectively.
In reviewing Lovass’ 1985 study of children with autism, it is important to note that he did a very detailed and commendable job in performing his research.
Lovass had outside professionals select two very similar groups of toddlers, who were firmly diagnosed with autism, one group acting as a control and the experimental group receiving special treatment. The toddlers in this longitudinal study were observed and treated from about age 3 to about age 6. The treatment group had trained professionals working with the children and their families for 40 hours per week for 2 or more years.
At the end of the study, it was shown that the experimental group of children had improved dramatically, 47% gaining normal functioning, as opposed to only 2% of the control group. It is obvious that studies and experiments such as this can lend valuable insight into modern research of autism.
The details of this long term and in depth study give a good overview of how the research with the children was developed and carried out. Although all of the children were randomly selected by professionals outside of this study, they were split into two groups often according to the desires of the parent and other ethical situations.
However, the behavioral qualities between the control group and experimental group, about 20 children in each group, were initially very similar. After the experimental group received special care for over two years, professionals visiting the home, school, and community and training the parents for 40 hours per week, the children in the experimental group excelled by leaps and bounds over the control group.
The experimental group of children was exposed to speech therapy, play therapy, educational initiatives, behavior modifications, and supportive professional care for both the children and their families, while the other group of children did not receive this kind of extra treatment.
In reviewing the methods, data, and conclusions of this study, it is certainly promising to believe that the experimental group of children could have excelled so much, with a 45% increase in IQ over their counterparts who did not receive treatment.
The most commendable aspects of the study are the fact that it was longitudinal and conducted over a period of time, that random selection was possible for the initial group, and that such good therapy was provided to the children, enough to truly see their life prognoses change radically for the better.
However, in reviewing this article, it would be remiss to not voice the ethical concerns. The fact that children and families were purposefully selected to receivetreatment while others were denied is certainly a cause for concern.
Also, the initial group of total children was not very large, and perhaps larger samples of children would provide for more conclusive research. While it brings hope to the health and wellness community that children can be treated effectively for autism, a large scale study with even higher ethical standards would best support the claim that these children can overcome some of their difficulties through modern therapeutic measures.
Lovass, O. (1985). Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children. University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved on 6/4/09 from http://www.sceap.com/pdf/Lovaas.pdf.