OSHU’s Eric Fombonne demonstrates in his July analysis of the efficacy of Applied Behavior Analysis the bizarre contortions required of behaviorists when it comes to autism. Start with this paragraph.
The evidence base for evaluating the efficacy and effectiveness of comprehensive ABA interventions in autism is still thin (table 2) although there was a remarkable increase in the number of randomised, well-controlled clinical trials in the last 15 years. Among the many questions that remain to be addressed are: Do the statistically significant benefits reported in some trials translate into clinically meaningful and sustained long-term benefits? What are the critical ingredients of each comprehensive ABA intervention? In which sequence should they be employed? Which type of ABA programme works best for which child? What could be learnt from systematic cost-benefit analyses that have not yet been performed? Is response to ABA associated with long-term functional and structural positive changes in neuronal circuitry?
It’s immediately followed by a table, “Strengths and limitations of comprehensive ABA interventions.” The table itself is immediately followed by the following.
Thus, much remains to be learnt but ABA interventions are, today, the most evidence-based intervention available to improve the outcome of autism.
Emphasis mine, in both instances.
Despite admitting that the evidence is “thin” and then relating all the myriad ways in which we don’t know if such behaviorist methods have any real or meaningful success, Fombonne nonetheless claims that ABA et al are “evidence-based” treatments.
One final note. You’ll notice that in his list of known-unknowns Fombonne leaves out the one that actually-autistic people themselves prize pretty highly: do such treatments in fact damage the autistic person?