Products, profits and Autism Spectrum Disorder
Posted on December 27th, 2013 by Patricia
The internet is rife with advertisements for products that claim to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or to cure ASD or benefit people living with autism and on and on and on. Most of these products have no evidence whatsoever that they actually produce results, yet many families and individuals with ASD purchase these products in hopes of positive outcomes.
With the growing prevalence of autism, there is clearly a growing market for products. Sometimes, unfortunately, the motive for producing these products is purely profit versus what it should be: profit WITH positive outcomes. Families are taken advantage of every day, purchasing ineffective products with precious financial resources that could be spent on effective therapeutic interventions.
Research is required to assess intervention effectiveness. Research takes time. Research costs money. The decision over whether to engage in rigorous research before releasing a product for sale can be a difficult one for a product developer when they know families and people living with ASD will buy the products regardless of proof of effectiveness, but over the past two years I have met two product developers who are interested in what I call “doing it right.” Seth Walter of the Hali Center for Autism and Brian Mullen of Vayu both engage in research BEFORE releasing their product for sale. Sure, they could put their products on the market early and probably make some money, but they decided the right thing to do is research their products first to determine if they are effective.
I admire both Seth Walter and Brian Mullen. These two men have spent years pursuing research dollars and research partners simply because they want to do the right thing. They’ve both developed products they believe in, but they’ve come to the correct conclusion that belief needs to be backed-up by evidence.
I wish all product developers had this desire for evidence. The research on Seth and Brian’s products is currently being conducted, and effectiveness is being assessed. Given positive outcomes, ASD treatment may have two additional tools available for implementation.
Oh, and P.S.: Check out Brian Mullen’s recent TEDx lecture, where he passionately describes why more engineers need to be engaged in mental health treatment.