Thursday, August 04, 2005

Discredited Autism Treatment Proponent Installed at Syracuse...

From the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH), a branch of the Council for Secular Humanism...

Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health's
Statement Criticizing Syracuse University's Appointment of
Facilitated Communication Promoter Dr. Douglas Biklen

The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH) reacts with disappointment and dismay at Syracuse University's appointment of Dr. Douglas Biklen as Dean of its School of Education.

Dr. Biklen has long been the world's foremost proponent of facilitated communication (FC), a thoroughly discredited technique that purportedly allows mute and otherwise linguistically impaired children and adults with autism to communicate. FC has also been used among individuals with other severe developmental disabilities, brain injuries, mental retardation, and serious communication impairments. The rationale underpinning FC, which has been refuted by the scientific community, is that infantile autism is primarily a disorder of movement, not of cognition or social relatedness. These individuals, Dr. Biklen asserts, do not suffer from severe intellectual or interpersonal deficits. Instead, their movement deficits ostensibly render them incapable of speaking, leaving outsiders with the erroneous impression that they are cognitively impaired. Hence, with the help of a facilitator holding and guiding one of their hands, FC-assisted individuals can supposedly type complete sentences on a computer keyboard or letter pad.

Yet numerous carefully controlled and peer-reviewed studies provide extensive and convincing evidence against FC. These investigations demonstrate that the seeming success of FC is due to facilitators' unintentional control over the individual's hand movements - the well known "ideomotor" or "Ouija board" effect. Indeed, the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association on Mental Retardation, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association for Behavior Analysis, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the New York State Department of Health have all issued policy statements advising against the use of FC for autism. Surprisingly, the Syracuse University press release announcing Dr. Biklen's appointment, which discusses his central role in popularizing and disseminating FC, makes no mention of the large research literature debunking this treatment. Their press release also neglects to mention the widely heralded 1993 PBS Frontline documentary, "The Prisoners of Silence," which provided a devastating refutation of Dr. Biklen's claims regarding FC and autism.

Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against FC, Dr. Biklen has continued to promote it widely and uncritically in numerous venues. In addition, he has continued to dismiss the substantial body of negative findings regarding FC from controlled studies. Disturbingly, FC has been associated with numerous uncorroborated allegations of sexual and physical abuse against the family members of children with autism, some of which have resulted in the separation of parents from their children. Moreover, by first raising and then dashing the hopes of thousands of parents of children with autism, Dr. Biklen and other proponents of FC may have done grave harm to mental health clients and to the reputation of clinical practitioners. Dr. Biklen's efforts are particularly troubling given the availability of applied behavior analysis and related treatment approaches that have demonstrated promise in controlled studies for ameliorating the cognitive and emotional difficulties of individuals with autism.

CSMMH does not doubt Dr. Biklen's good intentions, nor does it question his enthusiasm, administrative skills, or his personal commitment to the plight of individuals with autism and other serious developmental disabilities. In addition, CSMMH does not question the right of Syracuse University to appoint Dr. Biklen to the position of Dean, nor does it question Dr. Biklen's academic freedom to continue to publish articles and books supportive of FC. Nevertheless, along with academic freedom comes the responsibility for scientific rigor and an acknowledgement, rather than dismissal, of findings that consistently contradict one's claims.

By placing Dr. Biklen in charge of a major school of education at a prestigious institution of higher learning, Syracuse University is undermining the nationwide movement to place the fields of education and educational psychology on firmer scientific footing. Whether intended or not, Syracuse University is also sending a clear signal that it is not firmly committed to embracing evidence-based approaches to understanding and treating cognitive and emotional disorders. Their appointment of Dr. Biklen as Dean is a major step backward in the vitally important effort to promote science and combat pseudoscience in mental health care.

Signed by:

see first comment for all the names; 'twas too long for this already long post!

2 Thoughts:

Blogger Doug said...

Ronald Acierno, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Medical University of South Carolina

Bill Ahearn, Ph.D., BCBA
Director of Research
New England Center for Children
Southboro, MA

James Alcock, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Department of Psychology
Glendon College, York University
Toronto, Canada

George S. Baroff, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Psychology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Board Chairman
Quackwatch, Inc.
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Douglas Bernstein, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of South Florida

Barry L. Beyerstein, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University, Canada

Jay S Birnbrauer, Ph.D.
Honorary Fellow in Psychology
Murdoch University
Perth, Australia

Lynn Brandsma, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia

John Winston Bush, Ph.D.
New York Institute for Cognitive and
Behavioral Therapies
New York, NY

Anthony Castrogiovanni, Ph.D.
Pyramid Educational Consultants
Olivebridge, NY

Susan Clancy, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Psychology
Harvard University

James Coyne, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania

Michael Eberlin, Ph.D.
Clinical and School Psychologist in Private
Commack, NY

Howard D. Eisman, Ph.D
Executive Director
New York Institute for Cognitive and
Behavioral Therapies
New York, NY

Howard N. Garb, Ph.D.
Chief, Psychology Research Service
Wilford Hall Medical Center
Lackland Air Force Base
(The views expressed in this statement are those of Dr. Garb and are not the official policy of the Department of Defense or the United States Air Force.)

William I. Gardner, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor
Rehabilitation Psychology Program
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brandon Gaudiano, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Psychiatry & Human
Brown Medical School

Laraine M. Glidden, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Psychology
St. Mary's College of Maryland

Gina Green, Ph.D.
Adjunct Faculty Member
Department of Psychology
University of San Diego and North Texas
State University

James Herbert, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director of Clinical
Department of Psychology
Drexel University

Terence Hines, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Pace University
New York

Ray Hyman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Psychology
University of Oregon

Donald Klein, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry,
New York State Psychiatric Institute
Columbia University

Russell J. Kormann, Ph.D.
Project: Natural Setting Therapeutic
The State University of New Jersey

Paul R. Lees-Haley, Ph.D., ABPP
Independent Practice
Huntsville, AL

Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D.
Editor, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology,
Emory University
Atlanta, GA

Steven Jay Lynn, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY

Donald H. McBurney, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Pittsburgh

Elizabeth A. Meadows, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology

Central Michigan University
Jon C. Meccarello, Ph.D.
New York State Licensed Psychologist
Rochester, NY

Jean Mercer, Ph.D.
Richard Stockton College, NJ

Michael B. Miller, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Epidemiology
University of Minnesota

Raymond G. Miltenberger, Ph.D.
Jordan A. Engberg Professor
Department of Psychology
North Dakota State University

Robert Montgomery, Ph.D.
Adjunct Faculty, Department of Psychology
Director, Autism Spectrum Program
Georgia State University

Timothy E. Moore, Ph.D., C. Psych.
Professor and Chair, Department of
Glendon College, York University
Toronto, Canada

James A. Mulick, Ph.D.
Pediatrics and Psychology
The Ohio State University

William T. O'Donohue, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology,
University of Nevada, Reno

Loren Pankratz, Ph.D.
Oregon Health Sciences University

Anthony R. Pratkanis, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology,
University of California, Santa Cruz

Raymond G. Romanczyk, Ph.D., BCBA
Professor and Director
Institute for Child Development
Binghamton University
Binghamton, NY

Gerald Rosen, Ph.D.
Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry
University of Washington, Seattle

Donald K. Routh, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology
University of Miami

John Ruscio, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Psychology Department,
Elizabethtown College

Wallace Sampson, M.D., F.A.C.P
Editor, Scientific Review of Alternative
Professor of Medicine, Emeritus
Stanford University

Sally Satel, M.D.
Psychiatrist and Author
American Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.

Henry D. Schlinger, Ph.D.
Departments of Psychology
California State University, Los Angeles
and Northridge

Howard C. Shane, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
Department of Otolaryngology
Harvard Medical School

Andrew A. Skolnick, M.S.
Executive Director
Commission for Scientific
Medicine and Mental Health

Sara S. Sparrow, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita and
Senior Research Scientist
Yale Child Study Center
Yale University

Robert L. Spitzer, M.D.,
Professor, Department of Psychiatry
New York State Psychiatric Institute
Columbia University
Carol Tavris, Ph.D.
Social psychologist, lecturer, writer
Los Angeles, CA

Bruce Thyer, Ph.D.
College of Social Work
Florida State University

Timothy R. Tumlin, Ph.D.
Psychologist, Independent Practice
Burr Ridge, IL

Stuart Vyse, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Connecticut College

James M. Wood, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Texas, El Paso

Thursday, August 04, 2005 3:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Skolnick said...

Doug began his post with an identification error. The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH) is not a branch of the Council for Secular Humanism. CSMMH and the Council for Secular Humanism are two of a number of branches of the Center for Inquiry, an independent educational organization affiliated with the State University of New York at Buffalo. CSMMH is concerened with the promotion of science-based medicine and mental health practices and is not involved in any way in religious or theological debates.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 4:43:00 PM  

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