Facts vs. Fads
In the day and age of quick fixes and desperate need for solutions, many individuals are taking the opportunity to promote treatments as effective (for autism, weight loss, infertility, etc.) without adequate research or support. Some are trying to "get rich quick" and others may simply be sharing information without checking the facts. This page is dedicated to the discussion of facts vs. fads with an emphasis on characteristics that will help YOU distinguish between science and pseudoscience.
10 Questions to Distinguish Science from Pseudoscience
1. What is the source?
2. What is the agenda?
3. What kind of language does it use?
4. Does it involve testimonials?
5. Are there claims of exclusivity?
6. Is there a mention of conspiracy of any kind?
7. Does the claim involve multiple unassociated disorders?
8. Is there a money trail or a passionate belief involved?
9. Were real scientific processes involved?
10. Is there expertise?
Evaluating Claims to Avoid Pseudoscientific &
Unproven Practices in Special Education
Unproven Practices in Special Education
Dr. Jason Travers, BCBA-D (2016)
"...when special educators are presented with claims about interventions, they should consider whether a sufficient body of highly rigorous scientific evidence warrants belief. And if they are unconvinced by the evidence, or if evidence indicates it will not be effective, avoid using the intervention."
Pseudeoscientific Therapies: Some Warning Signs
1. High "success" rates are claimed.
2. Rapid effects are promised.
3. The therapy is said to be effective for many symptoms or disorders.
4. The "theory" behind the therapy contradicts objective knowledge (and sometimes, common sense).
5. The therapy is said to be easy to administer, requiring little training or expertise.
6. Other, proven treatments are said to be unnecessary, inferior, or harmful.
7. Promoters of the therapy are working outside their area of expertise.
8. Promoters benefit financially or otherwise from adoption of the therapy.
9. Testimonials, anecdotes, or personal accounts are offered in support of claims about the therapy's effectiveness, but little or no objective evidence is provided.
10. Catchy, emotionally appealing slogans are used in marketing the therapy.
11. Belief and faith are said to be necessary for the therapy to "work."
12. Skepticism and critical evaluation are said to make the therapy's effects evaporate.
13. Promoters resist objective evaluation and scrutiny of the therapy by others.
14. Negative findings from scientific studies are ignored or dismissed.
Facilitation Communication - Rapid Prompting Movement (RPM)
Q: Do you agree with the proposed position that FC should not be used? A: Facilitated Communication is a harmful and hurtful practice, in that is rooted in #pseudoscience. While we all want to see individuals communicate, more harm than help is done if what is being communicated is not the voice of the individual. Pseudoscientific approaches prey on our ability to hope and dream. It capitalizes off the needy, weak, desperate, and hopeful. Let's do our community and these individuals a solid by sticking with science and standing for empirically-based, scientific treatment options.
Q: Do you have any comments about the FC definition? A: It should be changed to read, "manipulating the body of others to (intentionally or unintentionally) influence the narrative of the individual being manipulated". FC is an attempt to give a "voice" to individuals who are primarily non-vocal communicators. There is a significant difference between stabilizing someone's hand (using a device or prop) versus (intentionally or unintentionally) controlling the outcome of the conversation. Facilitated communication should be renamed "forceful accusations and insinuations".
Q: What impact, if any, do you think the proposed position statement on FC will have on your work or the work of others in supporting communication? A: It is important to clarify the ineffective and harmful nature of FC and RPM. Our time, energy, and resources should be dedicated to further advancing effective, evidenced-based interventions for individuals with communication and speech and language difficulties.
Additional feedback: Thank you for taking a strong stance against pseudoscientific approaches which prey on the vulnerability of clients and consumers.
Feedback is still being sought: https://www.asha.org/peer-review/Proposed-ASHA-Position-Statement-Facilitated-Communication/
In general, this website is about behavior analysis, which is a scientific problem-solving approach aimed at producing socially significant behavior changes for the purpose of improving quality of life for individuals, families & communities. As you may be aware, the largest application of behavior analysis in current society is with individuals with autism or related disorders. Seeing as there are numerous fads and fictions surrounding the causes and treatments of autism, I consider this page an appropriate place to occasionally discuss such issues. I have worked in the field of behavior analysis for 15 years and in education for nearly all of my life. I have encountered numerous families who have struggled with the decision to vaccinate their children. I feel mainly because of falsified and nullified "research" by Dr. Andrew Wakefield (who lost his license to practice) and the promotion of such claims by people in the spotlight (like Jenny McCarthy), the decision of whether or not to vaccinate has been one based on opinion versus scientific evidence. I will acknowledge that there can be risks related to vaccines (as with all medications, foods, and items we consume, ingest or insert into our bodies), particularly for individuals with autoimmune deficiencies. However, my experiences --and the research-- suggest that these cases tend to be the exception, not the rule.