Fad, Pseudoscientific, and Controversial Interventions

  • Jason C. TraversEmail author
  • Kevin Ayers
  • Richard L. Simpson
  • Stephen Crutchfield
Part of the Evidence-Based Practices in Behavioral Health book series (EBPBH)


Mere tolerance of untested, disproven, and pseudoscientific interventions has too often created significant setbacks, immeasurable difficulties, and countless obstacles for children with autism and their families. The professions associated with autism have been plagued by subscription to and application of dubious interventions. New fads arise and dissipate with astonishing speed while disproven methods like facilitated communication regain popularity and unproven interventions like sensory integration proliferate widely. Previous chapters in this text outline various models derived from the scientific process in ways that reflect increasing emphasis on evidence-based practices for improving outcomes of children with autism and their families. However, delimiting these models, the associated methods and strategies, and the underlying theoretical constructs from which they are derived is insufficient for deterring adoption of unproven and disproven interventions. Accordingly, this chapter represents an attempt to contribute to the discussions about why autism continues to be fertile ground for pseudoscientific and fad interventions while also educating readers about conditions that sustain discredited and unproven practices. We overview some fundamental philosophical tenets of science and contrast them with tactics used by snake oil peddlers and charlatans. We then shift to provide an overview of historical and contemporary of examples of fad, pseudoscientific, and controversial interventions to illustrate the absence of evidence, fallacious logic, and otherwise irrational beliefs associated with them.


Pseudoscientific interventions Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Fads Sensory integration Philosophical tenets of science Controversial interventions Ignorance fallacy Anecdotal evidence Burden of proof Authority fallacy Straw man fallacy Confirmation bias Magical thinking 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason C. Travers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin Ayers
    • 2
  • Richard L. Simpson
    • 1
  • Stephen Crutchfield
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Special EducationUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication Sciences and Special EducationUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Special EducationCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversityKansas CityUSA

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