Ethical Considerations of Autism Treatment
As parents and professionals we want to insure that we are providing the best available treatments for our children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or other developmental disabilities. Selecting a treatment can be an extremely overwhelming task; there are numerous available treatments from which to choose. Although many treatments use scientific terms, behavioral terms, testimonials and/or expert claims, they may not be founded on science.
The scientific basis is an extremely important factor to consider when selecting an autism treatment. As Board Certified Behavior Analysts we are ethically mandated to recommend and provide treatment that is scientifically supported and the most effective.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board Ethical Guidelines:
- Treatment/Intervention Efficacy
-“The behavior analyst always has the responsibility to recommend scientifically supported most effective treatment procedures. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society.” - Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2013)
-“Clients have a right to effective treatment (i.e., based on the research literature and adapted to the individual client). Behavior analysts always have the obligation to advocate for and educate the client about scientifically supported, most-effective treatment procedures. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society.” - Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2014)
What does it mean to be scientifically supported?
- Researched based treatments
- Treatments tested for effectiveness
- Measurably effective through data collection
- Intervention results able to be replicated
(Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007)
With all of the treatment options available it is surprising that there is only one valid approach, and committing to one therapeutic approach seems difficult for some (Bailey & Burch, 2011). However, Applied Behavior Analysis treatment, as provided by Carolina Center for ABA and Autism Treatment is the only autism treatment approved by the U.S. Surgeon General and when delivered at 25-40 hours per week, is considered the most effective intervention within the autism community (Surgeon General, 1999; Reichow et al., 2012).
Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Dr. Jon Bailey and Dr. Mary Burch traveled the country conducting ethics workshops for behavioral practitioners. As reported by the attending professions, the second most cited area of ethical concern related to the behavior analyst’s responsibility to recommend scientifically supported and most effective treatments (Bailey & Burch, 2011). Choosing scientifically supported and effective treatment for our loved ones is a significant issue that requires parents and professionals to research treatments and often seek professional help in order to resolve.
Bailey, J. & Burch, M. (2011). Ethics for Behavior Analysts. Taylor & Francis.
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (1987). Applied behavior analysis. Columbus: Merrill Pub. Co.
Reichow, B., Barton, E., Boyd, B., & Hume, K. (2012). Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, 10.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999.