How likely is it that until he came out with a few words, the boy had actually been silent? Didn't he make any vocalisations at all?
His mum then explains that in fact, "He has tried saying Spongebob before, but nothing clear. He has been trying for a long time, but he has properly said a word now."
So, it's not really accurate to claim that he finally "broke his silence" is it?
I was wondering why they were reporting on this family, what was so newsworthy? It's nice to read about children making progress, but not exactly surprising. Autism is, after all, a condition associated with developmental delay, not stasis.
The true purpose of the piece, it transpires, is to promote the National Light and Sound Therapy Centre in London, provider of Auditory Integration Therapy. This is an unproven, unregulated and expensive nostrum, one of the the many claimed, with merely loads of positive testimonials in place of evidence, to help autistic people. Notice however, the header of their web site, and the words, "A registered NHS provider."
Oh it makes me cross when taxes are spent on rubbish like that instead of evidence based therapies.
The (presumably) free advertisement run in this major national newspaper continued, telling how the boy's parents;
...recently took him to the National Light and Sound Therapy Centre in London, where he underwent twice daily light and sound therapy sessions. The therapy involved listening to music through headphones while the light therapy exposed him to different colours from a light box.That ends the article. I'm sure he is a lovely boy with wonderful parents, but it wouldn't do their AIT business any favours to say anything else. I don't know much about AIT, but a quick Pubmed search showed up a few reviews that didn't credit the technique with evidence of effectiveness. An Autism Hub blogger wrote a series of posts on AIT a while back, including this one. I wasn't surprised to see the technique criticised in a Quackwatch article on autism therapies and autism researcher Professor Patricia Howlin wrote an interesting article about the very same London centre which is available on the NAS website. On a positive note, she wrote that the centre's staff,
His mother said: "Every day I was saying to Jamie, look it is blue today or look it is purple. Then he pointed at a door and said purple. I was really shocked and I kind of froze. I just wanted to scream and shout and tell everyone, it was so emotional." Mrs Jenkins said her son could not now stop saying 'purple' and 'mumma'. "He does say purple a lot now. It is definitely his favourite word," she said.
Zelda Landau, director of the centre, said: "He was a delightful little boy and his family was very loving. He got on very well from the first minute."
make it clear that there can be no guarantee of success, for any child, and parents are positively encouraged to find out all they can about the Centre before they actually pay the money for their treatment. There seems to be a genuine concern for children and their families and a wish to provide as much support as possible.
But she also noted that none of the staff (at the time of her visit) had any training in autism, and her article continued;
None are trained in audiometry, psychology, or language therapy although the Centre has access to advice from an audiometrist and a qualified nurse who works locally. A speech therapist may also be called in for a consultation.
The most damning part of her account follows;
The Centre's literature indicates a somewhat dismissive attitude to evaluation, noting that "parents don't really want to know how many double-blind trials have been done, how many years the children have been monitored following treatment or what other factors might influence the results". As noted above, the assessments that are carried out are not standardised in any way and are, on the Centres own admission, highly subjective. There are no before and after measures, even of an impressionistic kind, and no standard audiometric assessments although discussions with audiologists outside the Centre indicate that in their view it is necessary to have an audiogram to validate the claims that AIT actually reduces the sound sensitivity. There are no data to indicate which children seem to respond best to therapy and which children do not; nor which conditions are most amenable to therapy.Also, Prof. Howlin said that the standard cost of two weeks of this therapy, in 1996, was £1250. For most people, the high cost of travelling to and spending two weeks in London would bump that up yet higher.
The Telegraph article was what I'd expect for a small regional newspaper, desperate to fill it's pages with stories of the local person doing something out of the ordinary.
Why on earth did they feel it was appropriate to present a wholly uncritical view of AIT? I wonder how many vulnerable parents, swayed more by a lack of hope and an uncritical acceptance of testimonial over evidence, will part with cash to try the silly sounds and light show with their child. They'd be better off (in my opinion) going on a proper holiday and if they really want to do something amazing for their child, make part of the holiday about something the child is really interested in, be it trains, John Deere tractors, roller coasters, Monet's paintings or windmills. I bet they'd get plenty of words from their children too. Like I've said before, there is no need to believe in miracles.
(Photos from stock.xchng.)