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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Recovery in Arizona

The Arizona Republic reports:

Results from a Phoenix study of a behavior therapy designed to cure autism give hope to thousands of Arizona families and could revamp special education in the state's public schools.

But the costly price tag could keep the treatment out of reach for many families. And the state's budget crisis could mean implementation is years away at the school level.

The Center for Autism and Related Disorders says it has cured six of 14 autistic children who participated in a $5.4 million, state-funded study in the Phoenix area.

CARD, a nationwide private treatment and research organization with a program in Phoenix, received the state money for a three-year study to determine whether its intensive behavior therapy could cure young children who had been diagnosed with autism.

Doreen Granpeesheh, CARD founder and executive director, announced the results at a news conference Thursday in Paradise Valley.

"We were able to achieve normal functioning for 43 percent of our children - 43 percent are recovered," she said.

It is unfortunate that the story speaks of a "cure" -- a term that does not appear in the CARD news release, which instead speaks of recovery. The distinction is crucial. Cure suggests that the underlying condition is gone. But there is as yet no cure for autism, and CARD is not claiming one. Recovery is about achieving a normal level of function in spite of the underlying condition. In other words, it's a "work-around." In this case, the work-around proved highly effective, but until someone develops a medical intervention, the brains of people with autism will differ from the brains of typically developing people.

Also note that recovery is not a new concept. See the work of the late Ivar Lovaas, particularly his 1987 study.