UPDATE: Nature Publishing Group now appear to have removed the links criticised in this post and the page looks to be much improved (although see the additional criticism at LBRB)
Publishing’s Publishing Group’s (NPG) Scitable has previously been a fairly good example of accessible online science information. However, as Kev has noted, Nature’s NPG’s autism Scitable is well below their usual standard:
who thought it necessary to link to no less than three anti-vaccine links on the home page of this….blog? Wiki? Two links to Autism Speaks whose controllers recently attended a DAN! conference and one link to ARI itself.
Nature also links to Thoughtful House (the US autism clinic where Wakefield was based) when “Explaining the rise of reported cases”. Classy.
Particularly interesting – ‘interesting’ in the banging-head-on-desk-sense of the world – is the Autism Research Institute document they link re the Nutritional Treatment of autism Continue reading
I was delighted to see that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint of mine about Dore’s advertising. I complained about an advert referring to “help with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Asperger’s”. The ASA has reviewed the evidence Dore submitted to support their claims, and found that:
the evidence was inadequate to support claims to treat those [Aspergers Syndrome and dyspraxia]. With regards to dyslexia and ADHD, we did not consider that the studies were sufficiently robust to support the treatment claims for those conditions, and we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies).
I am delighted that the ASA has made such a firm ruling. Continue reading
Sigh. John Hopkins in the Times has given Scott Quinnell substantial opportunity to plug the Dore treatment for specific learning difficulties (which Quinnell has now invested in). Quinnell is a former rugby international, and his current support of Dore does not change the fact that there is not good evidence that Dore works.
Quinnell states that
I want to help children and adults overcome dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, autism and Asperger’s…I want to be able to help people not to be what they were before.
If he does want to help people with learning difficulties, there are so many more things that he could do. Promoting expensive ‘miracle cures’ – without good evidence that they work – is not helpful. Neither is the negative approach of seeking to have people “not…be what they were before”.
Many people with learning difficulties develop extremely effective coping strategies (in the article, Quinnell says he is/was dyspraxic; nonetheless, he was able to do remarkably well at sport). Providing appropriate support for people with learning difficulties is much more valuable than promoting non-evidence-based miracle cures.
The Times does give brief mention to the criticisms of Dore. However, these are not given nearly enough weight: the fact that expert psychologists specialising in the field have been scathingly critical of Dore is rather more relevant than the fact that a former rugby international (with a financial interest in Dore) says it works. However, the focus of the article is very much on Quinnell’s views; Hopkins does not even both to include a quote from any of Dore’s critics.
One would hope that a responsible newspaper would offer more evidence-based coverage of learning difficulties. The Times itself has noted some of the problems caused when Dore went into liquidation: it should be aware that plugging such ‘miracle cures’ is not risk-free. I have previously argued that
‘miracle cure appears not to work’ stories are seen as far less newsworthy than ‘miracle cure saves children and cute fluffy bunnies’ stories
It also appears that ‘miracle cure endorsed by celeb’ stories may be more newsworthy than ‘miracle cure still doesn’t work’ stories. That is a pity.
I was interested to see this clip on YouTube: apparently broadcast 26/6/09*. The interviewer gives Scott Quinnell ample time to plug Dore for the treatment of dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism and Asperger Syndrome. There are a number of important issues that the segment fails to cover. Among other concerns:
– There is no mention of the lack of good evidence that Dore is effective, or the high cost of the programme.
– There is no mention that Dynevor, which now owns Dore, was established by Quinnell (the interviewer actually introduces Quinnell’s involvement in Dore as ‘charity work’, although Quinnell makes clear that Dore is a business).
– There is no mention that Dore UK went into administration last year (something that prospective clients might want to know about, before they hand over their money). Continue reading
In June 2007, as the Autism Omnibus Hearings were in progress and the initial test case was being heard, Patrick Holford contacted his mailing list and asked them to sign a petition in support of Dr Andrew Wakefield. Although it doesn’t look like he ever signed the petition, it is clear that he influenced other people to sign, people who directly cited him as instrumental in the decision not to vaccinate children against preventable diseases.
Dr Carmel O’Donovan, Andrew Wakefield’s wife, recently emailed around asking for signatures in support of him. However, it seems that there is another petition, this one grandiosely and desperately asking people to sign up to We Support Andy Wakefield (Tiny URL’d). Age of Autism rather half-heartedly just reproduces the blusterous call for an enquiry (Tiny URL’d) and, without any trace of irony, condemns “the censorship of science” and the competence of Brian Deer in his remarkable investigative journalism.
We offer an annotated version of the petition: all links have been added by us and our text additions are in italics. Continue reading
A quick break from your usual Holford coverage, to note how excited I was when I saw Wynford Dore claiming a number of breakthroughs in understanding and treating of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). However, when I followed the link he gave – expecting to find an article in a journal like Nature Neuroscience or The Lancet – I found an article in, um, that well-known medical journal The Leamington Courier. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with local papers – but they’re not peer-reviewed, and not exactly where one expects to break the news of one’s great research achievements.
Naturally, an article in a local paper doesn’t give the detail that one would want about methodology etc. However, among other things, The Leamington Courier notes that only 56 children with diagnoses of ASD (or, as The Courier tactfully puts it “diagnosed as suffering from autism”) have been through the programme. Continue reading
The Dore programme is an interesting ‘cure’ for all kinds of things: as Dorothy Bishop puts it, “Dore Achievement Centres are springing up world-wide with a mission to cure cerebellar developmental delay, thought to be the cause of dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and Asperger’s syndrome. Remarkable success is claimed for an exercise-based treatment that is designed to accelerate cerebellar development.” Sound great, doesn’t it. Except, as Bishop shows in a new journal article, this is not supported by good evidence and it is therefore the case that “the claims made for this expensive treatment are misleading”. While academic journals are normally pretty restrained, this is about as close as I’ve seen to a thoroughgoing fisking in a journal article: Dore, and their research, are really pwned here. Given that – according to Ben Goldacre in the Guardian – a course of Dore treatment costs around £1,700 (and takes a load of time) I’d want much better evidence of efficacy before splashing out.
Dore is certainly well-promoted. Google “Asperger’s Syndrome” and it brings up an advert for Dore’s “Proven Long Term Drug-Free Solution Relieving the Symptoms of Aspergers”. Google “dyspraxia” and an advert informs one about Dore offering a “Proven Long Term Drug-Free Solution Relieving the Symptoms of Dyspraxia”. Google “dyslexia” and an advert promotes Dore as a “Proven Drug-Free, Exercise Based Dyslexia Remedy”. As a slick Dore promotional DVD puts it: “Now Dore Centres are able to offer real hope to those in despair” due to suffering from ‘learning disorders’. This includes Asperger’s Syndrome, which Dore’s UK site describes as “a problem associated with poor social behaviour.” Dore is apparently “suitable for those with high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism” (are any alternative treatments nowadays not marketed as suitable for people on the autistic spectrum?).
This marketing might make Dore seem appealing. Bishop notes that, “Although most of the promotion of the treatment is based on personal testimonials, these are backed up by research. Dore pointed to a study showing that treatment led to a nearly fivefold improvement in comprehension, a threefold improvement in reading age, and a 17-fold improvement in writing.” Sounds good, right? But the quality of the research was pretty dismal. Continue reading