On conflicts of interest in autism research: Interview with Kristen Bottema-Beutel and Micheal Sandbank

In this episode, I talk with Professors Kristen Bottema-Beutel and Micheal Sandbank, who have done a systematic review and meta-analysis of 151 group design studies of interventions for young autistic children. For this work, Dr. Sandbank was awarded the Young Investigator Award in 2021 from the International Society of Autism Research. Drs Bottema-Beutel and Sandbank have also done further studies into conflicts of interest (COIs) in autism research. Among their findings are that COIs are prevalent in several areas of autism research. They also found that ABA researchers, who frequently had conflicts of interest, reported these conflicts as rarely as 2 percent of the time.

We discuss what conflicts of interest are, the teams’ findings and some of the implications for autism research going forward.

Listen to the audio at the link below or on Stitcher or iTunes here.
Read the transcript, below audio file.

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Transcribed by Julie-Ann Lee: Transcript_Noncompliant_Bottema-Beutel and Sandbank

Bios

Photographed for Boston College by Caitlin Cunningham

Kristen Bottema-Beutel is an Associate Professor in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College. Her research focuses on social and language development, and social interaction dynamics in autistic children and youth. She is interested in pairing qualitative and quantitative methods to better characterize autistic communication and sociality, and in developing community-based strategies to support meaningful engagement of autistic students. More recently, she has explored metascience topics such as researcher ethics and research quality in intervention research for autistic children. Dr. Bottema-Beutel is the director of the autism specialization at LSEHD, a program that prepares future special educators to support autistic students.

Micheal Sandbank is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Special Education at The University of Texas at Austin. She researches social communication and language interventions for young children with disabilities. Dr. Sandbank is the lead researcher on Project AIM , a scoping systematic review and meta-analysis of group design studies of interventions for young children on the autism spectrum. She was awarded the Young Investigator Award in 2021 for this work, from the International Society of Autism Research.

Links

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Sandbank, et al. Research Review: Conflicts of Interest (COIs) in autism early intervention research – a meta‐analysis of COI influences on intervention effects

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Bottema-Beutel, et al. Adverse event reporting in intervention research for young autistic children.

Journal of American Medical Association-Pediatrics. Sandbank, et al. IBI Intervention Recommendations for Children With Autism in Light of a Changing Evidence Base

The role of private equity and lobbying in ABA funding: Talking with investigative journalist John Summers

A portrait photo of a white male with short brown hair, blue shirt and brown coat
John Summers

John Summers’ recent expose in The Nation looks at the relationship between private equity companies and the autism service Applied Behaviour Analytics (or ABA) in Massachusetts, where he lives.

In this episode, John and I talk about the business of ABA and the problematic industries built around autism. His analysis is incredibly key to understanding this industry. Don’t miss it!

Listen to the episode at the audio link below or on Stitcher or  iTunes here.

Read the transcript below the audio file.

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Transcript by Julie Ann Lee: Transcript_Noncompliant_John_Summers

Biography: John Summers is Founder and President of Lingua Franca Media, Inc. He has a Ph.D. in intellectual history and has written, taught and presented extensively on topics in culture and history. His recent expose in The Nation looks at relationships between private equity companies and a form of autism service: Applied Behaviour Analytics (or ABA).

 

 

“Punishments and rewards can get one thing, under certain conditions – temporary compliance” Interview with Alfie Kohn

Kohn photo  This is a fascinating interview with Alfie Kohn, who has been researching and writing about education, parenting, authority and co-operative learning for years, driving home a simple fact: rewards and punishment are two sides of the same coin –and they’re not helping us to raise the kind of children we say we want to raise.

Listen to the podcast at the link below or read transcripts (also below). Links to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher at the end of this post.

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Transcription by Julie-Ann Lee: Alfie Kohn transcript_Noncompliant podcast_2020

Bio: Alfie Kohn is an expert on the problem of compliance-training and reward-based systems in the schools, the work world and in the family. His many books include the classics PUNISHED BY REWARDS (1993) and BEYOND DISCIPLINE: From Compliance to Community in which he explores alternatives to our merit-based approach at work and school. He has also critically examined the influence of behaviorism on our education system and the power of cooperative learning, altruism and empathy.

The episode: Alfie and I had a fascinating conversation about social control and children’s rights. We also spoke at length about behaviourism/ABA. “The problem with ABA,” says Kohn, “is not just with the method, but with the goal. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when these kids grow up they are struggling to try to figure out how to make decisions, be assertive and advocate for themselves …because the whole precondition for the temporarily effective use of rewards is the opposite of independence—it’s dependence.”

So much more insight, as well as interesting discussions of research and the path forward, in this podcast. Definitely listen to the end!

Links from the conversation:
Alfie Kohn’s website: https://www.alfiekohn.org/

Listen to this episode on Stitcher here
Listen to this episode on iTunes here