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Friday, August 11, 2017

Better Business Bureau v. DeVos Company

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.
As previous posts noted, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a stake in Neurocore, a "brain training" company. U

At International Business Times, Josh Keefe reports that DeVos actually increased her stake in the "brain training" outfit called Neurocore and that the BBB is going after it.
The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended this week that Neurocore “discontinue its testimonials.” The NAD said a review of the company’s claims, and their supporting evidence, led it to conclude that “the advertiser’s evidence was insufficiently reliable to substantiate the strong health-related advertising claims.”
According to the NAD, these claims include statements such as, “81% of children who come to us on ADHD meds and complete our program are able to reduce or eliminate their use of medications upon program completion,” as well as claims that Neurocore services produced a “25% reduction in reported symptoms on the autism evaluation checklists.”
The problem with the company’s claims, according to the NAD, is that they relied on a study of their own patients and those patients’ self-assessments.
Advocates for students with disabilities including autism were especially alarmed by DeVos’ connection to Neurocore — a company that claimed its treatments produced a “25% reduction in reported symptoms on the autism evaluation checklists.”
“We have a lot of evidence-based treatments that actually do help children with autism,” Fred Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center, told Spectrum News, a news site dedicated to autism research, in February. Volkmar said that DeVos’ awareness of treatments seemed to be limited to the one that “has not yet been shown to be effective.”