In The Politics of Autism, I write:
The conventional wisdom is that any kind of treatment is likely to be less effective as the child gets older, so parents of autistic children usually believe that they are working against the clock. They will not be satisfied with the ambiguities surrounding ABA, nor will they want to wait for some future research finding that might slightly increase its effectiveness. They want results now. Because there are no scientifically-validated drugs for the core symptoms of autism, they look outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine and FDA approval. Studies have found that anywhere from 28 to 54 percent of autistic children receive “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and these numbers probably understate CAM usage.
Sheri Fink, Steve Eder, and Matthew Goldstein report at The New York Times about Betsy DeVos's stake in a controversial company that claims to help with autism.
Neurocore has not published its results in peer-reviewed medical literature. Its techniques — including mapping brain waves to diagnose problems and using neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback, to treat them — are not considered standards of care for the majority of the disorders it treats, including autism. Social workers, not doctors, perform assessments, and low-paid technicians with little training apply the methods to patients, including children with complex problems.
In interviews, nearly a dozen child psychiatrists and psychologists with expertise in autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D., expressed caution regarding some of Neurocore’s assertions, advertising and methods.
“This causes real harm to children because it diverts attention, hope and resources,” said Dr. Matthew Siegel, a child psychiatrist at Maine Behavioral Healthcare and associate professor at Tufts School of Medicine, who co-wrote autism practice standards for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “If there were something out there that was uniquely powerful and wonderful, we’d all be using it.”
Over the past year, the Federal Trade Commission has begun to crack down on some companies promoting the successes of brain training programs for treating a variety of problems.
Last January, Lumos Labs, the creator of Lumosity games, agreed to pay a $2 million fine over advertising claims that said its educational-oriented games could help children perform better in school by targeting specific areas of the brain. A few months later, the F.T.C. imposed sanctions on the developers of the LearningRx “brain training” programs for advertisements that claimed its product could “permanently improve serious health conditions” like A.D.H.D., autism and dementia.