randomized scientific trial for Autism in Chicago
Autism research needs more high-quality randomized studies, meta-analysis finds

Just as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure,” early intervention has significant impacts on the development & life quality of children diagnosed with autism. Michael Sandbank, a renowned assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences,  recent meta-analysis further supports this by highlighting the need for more high-quality randomized studies in the field of autism.

As briefed by the author, many interventions have not been supported by sufficient evidence, and there has been a lack of proper monitoring for potential adverse effects or harms. He emphasizes the need for pediatricians and therapists to be candid to families about any potential harm that may result from a particular treatment.

Randomized vs non-random factors

A common practice is to rely on a treatment method with recent research backing. These studies commonly compare individuals who were given the intervention against those who were not. Usually, the participants are incorporated randomly into the control test. However, in some cases, the participants are assigned to each group based on non-random factors through a quasi-experimental study.

Quasi-experimental means randomization is not possible or ethical. Examples of these situations include age, & gender. These can allow clinicians to make informed decisions.

Randomized-controlled trials have become the gold standard in autism research, supplanting quasi-experimental studies. Such trials (randomized) are superior as they yield more precise and dependable findings. The use of random assignment helps mitigate extraneous variables that may influence the outcome.

Nevertheless, the field still holds a wealth of quasi-experimental studies that play a vital role in informing clinical practice and future research in autism.

The Shortcomings

But even though Randomized tests are on the increase, SandBank and her team’s research has proved that Randomized test results can be unreliable due to factors like placebo-by-proxy and detection bias. These biases are not well controlled in many randomized controlled trials, which raises questions about the credibility of findings.

For those struggling to understand this scientific jargon, let’s break down the terms. Consider a case where caregivers are asked to report on their child’s progress following an intervention. This is known as a caregiver report and can be subjective since it relies on the caregiver’s perception of improvement. However, sometimes caregivers may unintentionally exaggerate or report better outcomes because they know their child is receiving the intervention. This is known as placebo-by-proxy bias and can skew the results of a study.

Again, sometimes researchers directly measure outcomes themselves, but they may still be influenced by their knowledge of participants. This is known as detection bias and can lead to an overestimation of the effectiveness of the intervention.


However, SandBanks adds that this does not imply the ineffectiveness of these interventions. Instead, there is a need for more thorough research on the various types of interventions provided to children and families to gain a deeper understanding of their both beneficial and detrimental impacts. He emphasizes the importance of transparency regarding existing evidence and avoiding absolute statements when discussing interventions for autistic children and their families.

For families of children with autism in the state of Illinois, there are a variety of interventions available. These include behavioral therapies, & special programs for families.

Here at Illinois Autism Center, we strive to provide high-quality, evidence-based therapy that aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.