Debunking Alternative Therapies


By: Heather Chandler
With recent articles about ABA therapy not being “enough” for Autism treatment circulating, many parents are turning to alternative therapies to teach their child(ren) with Autism. I caution parents to do extensive research when making these decisions. There are lots of promises being made, but the science just doesn’t support many of the claims. While there are certainly many disciplines in the area of special needs, relatively few have peer-reviewed, scientific data to support their methodology. One therapy that does have decades of scientific support is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The United States Surgeon General has endorsed intensive ABA for individuals with autism, stating “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.”

It is well accepted that the most utilized treatments for children with Autism (speech therapy, occupational therapy, and special education) are most effective when ABA technologies are incorporated. Fortunately there are a growing number of special education professionals, including teachers, speech and language pathologists, and occupational therapists, pursuing training and certification in the field of ABA. This is an exciting trend in the field! However, this can be all the more confusing for parents as they scour the internet looking for the best providers. One tip is to take a look at Autism Speaks’ website as well as the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. Both of these sites will reveal a list of providers for Autism treatments and ABA.

In your quest for Autism treatments for your child, be wary of the aggressive marketing campaigns of alternative therapies. Often the more aggressive the marketing, the less scientific evidence there is to support their claims. These therapies bank on the emotional experiences of parents who have found themselves feeling hopeless and desperate for a “cure”. They often market how “simple” it is to “cure” your child’s autism. Do not be deceived by false hope. Always look at therapies with a skeptical eye. Do your research, ask for the data, and ask for the scientific evidence to support their claims.