Michelle Dawson tweeted that she would give a talk at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta last month. I am very familiar with her work online, and like a lot of what she has to say. What would it hurt?
I arrived early, one can never be too certain what kind of traffic one is going to run into in Atlanta proper. Interestingly, I heard a group of 3 workers sashay out of the elevator and declare they were "not attending THAT meeting, NO WAY." You could tell they were the workers, and not the psychiatrists because there were 3 together, they didn't wear glasses or ponytails, their opinions were unguarded... and...well, their clothes didn't scream Neiman Marcus.
Because I am early, I figure I might as well stir up some trouble. There is a waiting room where parents are with their children waiting to be seen by the docs. I mess with their kids, give the parents hope, and see the glint in their eye that says these professionals could be full of shit. All I want is for them to question. One mother admits she likes her son better without drugs, another soaks up the idea that her kid might not be as serious as she's been led to believe. My work here is done. Both, I hope, are better advocates for their children. I have to admit, 2 out of 3 kids, I couldn't tell who was the autistic one in the family where 2 to 3 children accompanied the parents. Some kids just have "the look", you know, where they appear very unsettled in this world. Instead of treating behaviors, it'd be nice to treat the "too intense world". That paradigm shift would have to be useful...
Yesterday, I could remember 15 distinct personalities, but there could have been up to 20 people in the room. Three were self-confessed autistics, another I would guess was; one was a psychiatrist, one was an educator. Two seemed activist, as was one listening in, teleconference wise. Two came with Michelle, who is very diminutive, but has a big presence. One man from Atlanta was obviously responsible for Michelle being there, and his two children, one with autism, were also around the facility, though not in the room. He looked like a psychiatrist, but he was a computer person. I asked.
So far as I know...one psychiatrist. Not from the facility. He wanted to help the people who came to his practice with adult autism. He said so. He also had professional ties to the Marcus Autism Center. He was there to learn.
The Marcus Autism Center is behaviorally oriented, from my understanding. Thus...the picture of Daniel in the Lion's den.
Before I look over my notes, I'd like to give my impressions of Michelle. Two or three times she spoke of things being hurtful to autistics "because they are human." That this would have to be expressed is sad. Really sad. Those were powerful words coming from her mouth, considering it's supposed to be HER who has zero empathy (ala Simon Baron-Cohen).
She very graciously took questions after the talk, but she had so much to cover that she asked they be held. I'm glad she did that. It allowed her thinking on the matter to seep in, not interrupted by divergent tracks. She described her reasoning, why she felt the science on intervention was very, very poor in a way that most scientific fields would not allow without criticism and dismissal. The Shamans of Psychiatry (my words, not hers) were getting away with shoddy experimental designs that would not survive the rigours of science in other fields. (Why? )
Her talk was laser focused. She had one idea...shoddy science. She had done her homework, and from 1000 studies regarding the efficacy of ABA, given the reasoning she carefully elucidated beforehand, she came up with 6 reasonably careful studies. ONE, and only one, met all the criteria. One thousands studies, one of them admirable. So much for "all the research points to" in ABA.
The last way in which Ms. Dawson most impressed me was with a profound thought she put out there...almost a gauntlet thrown down: We have before us now a tremendous opportunity for study. This is the FIRST generation that we have the chance to see the effectiveness of intervention. Post participation in intervention studies, adults who received interventions in the past have not been followed. If we begin now we can rectify that anomaly. Why we haven't is unconscionable.
To be continued...hopefully, from my notes.