Friday, February 5, 2010

Tyler Cowen on Temple Grandin

In a recent blog post, Tyler Cowen (GMU website) discusses his interview with Temple Grandin and his thoughts on autism. I have a vested interest in autism therapies and research and liked the post. I particularly agree with Tyler's ideas on therapy:
Grandin supports some varieties of intensive behavioral therapy for autistics. Many research papers support those same therapies but those papers do not generally conduct an RCT (randomized controlled trial) and furthermore many of the said researchers have a commercial stake in what they are studying and promoting. In my view we don't know "what works" but my (non-RCT-tested) opinion is that giving autistic children a lot of fun things to do -- fun by their standards -- and a lot of information to study and manipulate, gives the best chance of good outcomes. (In any case "spontaneous improvement" is considerable, so anecdotally many therapies will appear to work when they do not; nor is there a common control for placebos.) Many of the behavioral therapies seem quite oppressive to me and if we don't know they work I am worried that they are being overpromoted. Grandin has in some ways the intellectual temperament of an engineer and I am worried that she has not absorbed the lessons of Hayek's The Counterrevolution of Science.
There is an HBO movie coming out on Temple Grandin later this week.

No comments: