Son Rise: A Miracle of Love - Autism pseudoscience from 1979, now in India
#1
This movie is being shown to Indian viewers on the MGM channel. It might not seem like a big deal, until you consider that it is one of the earliest pseudoscientific propaganda films made about autism. The film is based on the life of a child called Raun Kaufman who was supposedly cured of autism by an unconventional home treatment his parents developed. To date no scientific evidence exists for these claims, and in fact a 2006 study demonstrated that the "treatment" can actually have negative effects. Many have doubted if Raun Kaufman was actually autistic to begin with. Of course, the parents of the child went on to make a career of it, writing a book about it and starting an institution promoting the pseudoscience. The movie was made soon, and there has even been a BBC documentary about it (which I'm unable to find online, wonder why).

Anyway, I'm really annoyed that this propaganda pseudoscience film is being shown to Indian audiences today, especially as autism rates are on the rise in India. I plan on writing to MGM, but I doubt it will make a difference. Unless, of course, many of us write...
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
(29-Oct-2011, 01:38 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: Anyway, I'm really annoyed that this propaganda pseudoscience film is being shown to Indian audiences today, especially as autism rates are on the rise in India. I plan on writing to MGM, but I doubt it will make a difference. Unless, of course, many of us write...

Your wish is our command, Oh Four-Star General of Freethought!
(Maybe we should call Prof. Nayak the 'Field Marshall of Freethought' !)

Do provide an address/contact-form where we can submit our concerns. Unlike this one-off, for larger-scale petitions to media-houses, we can consider using PetitionOnline. Anyway, here's my draft.

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Dear Sir/Madam:

I was recently informed by friends residing in India that your channel's broadcast schedule features the 1979 movie, 'Son Rise: A Miracle of Love'. I present below for your consideration some reservations about the broadcast of this movie, based on the prevailing scholastic consensus on autism therapies, along with a humanitarian concern about limiting the airtime available to charlatanry which can have injurious consequences you would not wish to have the slightest, most indirect role in occasioning.

The only scholastic consensus, if we may call it that, on the efficacy of the treatment evangelized for by the movie, is that there are no grounds to ratify the treatment and that the results are inconclusive at best, hence not warranting its recommendation over other treatments that have acquired more evidentiary support. The therapy and its protocols do not seem lend themselves to the bare minimum requirements of testability, as found by the investigators of a 2006 peer-reviewed article in the Journal 'Autism'. The investigators note: "Although it proved possible to produce a profile of intervention use, findings indicated that the programme is not always implemented as it is typically described in the literature. The study also highlighted methodological challenges likely to be encountered in any future evaluation of this and similar interventions for autism." (Reference: K. R. Williams,The Son-Rise Program® intervention for autism: Prerequisites for evaluation Autism January 2006 10: 86-102). Besides, even the 'enhanced family experience' which is one of the promises of the therapy, has been called into question by this 2003 study published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. Quoting from the study: "Few relationships were found between family effects and patterns of intervention use, although there was a strong connection with parental perceptions of intervention efficacy." (Reference: Williams, K.R. and Wishart, K.C., The Son-Rise Program intervention for autism: an investigation into family experiences, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research 2003, vol. 47 (4-5) (185 p.))

As for treatment options available for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), the sad reality is that while interventions like those above have no demonstrable efficacy, other interventions of a pharmacological nature have associated adverse effects which limit their use to patients with severe impairment or risk of injury (Reference: McPheeters ML, Warren Z, Sathe N, Bruzek JL, Krishnaswami S, et al. (2011) A systematic review of medical treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics 127: e1312–1321). This awareness imparts to us a social responsibility to cease and desist from the dissemination through any media of unfounded popularization of what, pending evidence, can only be considered on par with quack therapy.

While your channel's broadcast choices are your prerogative, the information summarized above maybe sufficient for you to reconsider broadcasting the said movie, mindful of its repercussions on viewers, possibly including families with autism patients, for whom the false hopes peddled by this movie can effectively amount to a very costly deception.

Your sincerely,
Arvind Iyer
Department of Biomedical Engineering,
University of Southern California

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