Battle of the Pseudosciences

In category ADHD & Autism, In The News

The folk from Autism Awareness Australia have complained on their public facebook about this article in the SMH on a story about Horse Boy, claiming it is pseudoscience. A bit of the pot calling the kettle black, perhaps. 

I’m not sure that anyone is claiming that Horse Boy is a science. It’s a story about what worked for one boy. It’s also a story about parents being watchful and flexible, observing what seems to work for a child and going out of their way to do more of it.

Like “Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney” (here), Horse Boy is a very personal account.

Both stories would provide lots of material for scientific investigation into this complex thing we are calling autism. Both challenge the idea that lack of outward signs of ability means that a child is inherently disabled. Both emphasis love, acceptance, and respect for the child.

On the other hand, Autism Awareness Australia claims to provide the scientific truth about autism. Their literature is an odd mix of scientific jargon, emotive rhetoric, and persuasive marketing strategies. But it is their attempts to discredit and silence discussions about autism from different perspectives that most shout pseudoscience to me.

There are many ways to reflect on human relationships and interactions. Personal anecdotes, literature, drama and poetry have been used for centuries. They are not science and don’t claim to be, yet they can inspire ideas and reveal truths.

The fields of psychiatry and the various forms of psychology are newer but are now well-established in our society. Other academic fields including communication studies, discourse analysis, linguistics, speech pathology, cultural studies, philosophy, and politics all offer useful perspectives and insights. Even history and geography can have a place in explaining changes over time and differences between regions.

Within these academic fields the range of sciences extends from what are generally called the hard sciences to the social sciences. The discourse of any of these needs to be understood within their individual frameworks. This is never more apparent than when the term “evidence-based” is used as though it were a simple term. What warrants the label “evidence-based” in one field would not necessarily pass muster in another field.

Cherry-picking research and citing genuine sources to support your assertions are standard tactics of pseudoscience.

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