Autism Reality

Autism & HBOT – Hyperbaric Oxygen Is NOT An Evidence Based Treatment for Autism

I have blogged previously on Hpyerbaric Oxygent Treatment as a treatment for autism. At this point in time HBOT is NOT considered to be an evidence based treatment for autism. There is a study going on which MAY or MAY NOT change that fact but for the present, as the authorities reviewed in the Chicago Tribune indicate, there is NO evidence to support the effectiveness of HBOT in treating autism.

Parents turn to long-shot therapy for autism

By Kirsten Scharnberg
Tribune national correspondent
Published April 23, 2007, 7:48 PM CDT

HONOLULU — Kalma Wong has tried almost everything for her two autistic children: special diets, intense behavioral therapies, flying in experts from the U.S. mainland at exorbitant costs.

Some efforts have yielded modest success. Others have done next to nothing.

But like many other parents of the more than 500,000 children that the Centers for Disease Control estimates to be autistic in the U.S., Wong has vowed to keep trying until she pinpoints the treatment that most helps her kids.

Her latest attempt is one of the most long-shot therapies yet, a protocol some doctors praise but that others declare to be a waste of time that gives desperate parents false hope and exploits them financially.

It is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a treatment in which pure oxygen is delivered to patients confined to pressurized chambers for an hour a day for several weeks. The theory is that the extreme doses of oxygen essentially the same kind of treatment that has been used for decades to cure divers with decompression illness will spur dormant or damaged neurons in the brain to become reinvigorated or even transformed.

In the case of children with autism, considered the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. today, the new treatment is claimed to have produced some stunning results: transforming non-verbal children into fluent speakers; helping children hypersensitive to outside stimuli become calm enough to attend public schools; changing kids once adverse to any personal interaction or touching into affectionate toddlers.


Markley said she has treated more than 30 autistic children with HBOT and “every single child of those 33 had consistent quality-of-life improvements.” The improvements, she said, were more pronounced in kids most afflicted by the characteristics of autism: the repetitive behaviors and the impairments in sensory perception, social interaction and communication.

Critics argue that no studies have been done that use scientific models such a double-blind testing. They caution that the treatment has been tried only on a handful of children affected with autism nationwide, not nearly enough to draw valid conclusions.

“They are making extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence,” Iyama said.

Evidence is exactly what supporters of HBOT are hoping to get in the coming months. Beginning in May, the Honolulu clinic, along with some 20 hyperbaric oxygen clinics across the U.S., will launch a formal study into how autistic children respond to the therapy. A total of about 400 children will be included, and the results are to be evaluated by the National Institutes for Health.

Other studies are under way that HBOT proponents are closely watching. One of the biggest is a federally funded study on the effects of HBOT on children with cerebral palsy that is under way at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

One group watching the outcomes of these studies is the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, a non-profit group of doctors that investigates scientific claims linked to HBOT. Thus far the group has been skeptical of using HBOT to help neurological conditions such as autism or cerebral palsy.

“If we just had the evidence we’d be happy to support it. But it just isn’t there,” Dr. Donald Chandler, executive director of the UHMS, has said in statements regarding the therapy….

April 24, 2007 Posted by | autism treatment, Chicago Tribune, evidence based treatment, HBOT, Hyperbarid Oxygen Treatment, parents | 3 Comments

ABA Helping Nick a 4 Year Old Autistic Boy

The Times-Tribune of Scranton PA has a good article about autism and how autistic children are helped with Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. Parents who actually use ABA therapy to help their children are probably aware that ABA is practiced with a positive reward system, with tasks broken down into constituent elements and successful task completion rewarded. But parents who are still trying to sort out rhetoric from reality when deciding how to help their children cease negative, injurious behavior and develop positive skills and behaviors might be dissuaded by the fears and prejudices of those who are emotionally opposed to ABA or who themselves have had no actual experience with it in helping their child grow and develop. The political ideology of the anti-cure, anti-treatment, movement will also be intimidating to some parents, some of whom may not be aware of the hundreds of professional studies supporting the effectiveness of ABA in treating and educating autistic children. The Times-Tribune article is written in straight forward non-technical language and parents trying to decide what is the right thing to do for their children should be encouraged to read it.

The article tells the story of 4 year old Nick who is learning at the Friendship House’s Northeast Regional Center for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders which treats autistic children and youths from 18 months to 20 years. Children receive 30 hours a week of rigorous therapy based on up to date research but the essence of the therapy is ABA delivered with positive reinforcement to encourage success.

The center’s approach relies primarily on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), in which the standard learning methods for a child are broken up into “the tiniest possible bites,” said the center’s clinical director, Chris Remick.

“I think it’s one of the now proven ways of improving treatment of children with autism,” said Thomas Challman, M.D., a neurodevelopmental pediatrican at Geisinger Health System in Danville specializing in autism. “It’s got a good scientific basis.”

The article describes how ABA is used with 4 year old Nick:

Every couple of minutes, Ms. Bienick lays down a new set of index cards containing things — colors, numbers, family members — Nick has to identify entirely by pointing, given that he doesn’t speak. From there, he completes a puzzle, practices the hand movements to the kiddie favorite “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and matches sounds with their corresponding objects.

Each time Nick gets something right, Ms. Bienick offers an ample dose of encouragement.

“Awesome, Nick, give me five!”

“Good job, Nick!”

“Very good!”

When the demonstration ends, Nick, 4, goes over to a computerized device and presses a button with a cup above it. Ms. Bienick promptly gives him a drink.“

The children also engage in group play and interaction. Positive reinforcement, not aversives or abusive treatment, is a key ingredient:

Positive reinforcement on behalf of the teacher, or direct service provider (DSP), is another crucial component of ABA methodology, Ms. Remick said.

“If it’s not motivating, they’re not going to do it,” she said.“

Some of the more ludicrous critiques about the use of ABA therapy which circulate on the internet are based on decades old aversive methodology no longer in general use. Parents should listen to other parents who, like them, are charged morally and legally, with doing the best they can for their children, and to the actual ABA clinicians who practice ABA therapy not the ideologues who bear no responsibility or accountability for the consequences of their efforts to dissuade parents from using proven ABA therapy to help their autistic children.

Or, they could do as the anti-ABA ideologues say and listen to autistics themselves. Not the high functioning internet guru anti-cure autistics. They should listen to 4 year old Nick.

March 14, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, autism education, autism treatment, evidence based treatment | Leave a comment