Caught Our Notice: Reporter’s inquiry prompts financial disclosure in autism paper

Via Wikimedia

Title: Promoting child-initiated social-communication in children with autism: Son-Rise Program intervention effects

What caught our attention: When journalist Brendan Borrell was investigating a controversial autism treatment program for Spectrum, he came across a study where lead author Kat Houghton failed to disclose a prior relationship with the treatment center that taught the program, called Son-Rise.

The Spectrum article notes:

In 2013, psychologist Kat Houghton, a former employee of the Option Institute, published the first attempt to evaluate the Son-Rise Program, studying only 12 children with autism. According to court records, the institute agreed to pay Houghton $16,500 to gather, code and analyze data for the treatment study, but Houghton did not disclose any conflict of interest in the published article. Houghton directed questions about the research funding to psychologist Charlie Lewis at Lancaster University in the U.K., who is a co-author on the study and her Ph.D. advisor. Lewis says he was unaware that Houghton was explicitly paid for that research, but that they had both been “passionately committed to an unbiased study design and a completely independent research process.”

Prompted by the reporter’s questions, the journal took a second look at the study. It has now issued a notice describing the nature of the relationship, which it ultimately concluded was not a conflict of interest.

Journal: Journal of Communication Disorders

Authors: Kat Houghton, Julia Schuchard, Charlie Lewis, and Cynthia K. Thompson

Affiliations: Lancaster University, United Kingdom; Northwestern University, IL, USA;

Text of Notice:

It has recently come to the attention of JCD that the lead author of this study (Houghton) neglected to disclose a prior financial relationship with the Son-Rise program. However, after careful review of the study procedures and the circumstances, and with the full cooperation of Dr. Houghton and Dr. Lewis (who was Dr. Houghton’s PhD advisor at the time), JCD has concluded that there was no conflict of interest on the part of the authors. JCD would like to emphasize that any relationships that might be perceived as a conflict of interest should always be declared by the authors. Dr. Houghton’s amended Disclosure Statement follows:

“Between 2000 and 2009, I was employed by the Options Institute (OI, formerly the Autism Treatment Center). As part of my employment responsibilities, I recruited families for the current study and gathered data on the general social and communicative skills of the children (ADOS) that was available to the therapists within OI. However, the OI had no involvement in the design of the study, the analysis of the data, or in the writing of the article.”

Date of Article: October 2013

Times cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science: 4

Date of Notice: October 23, 2017

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One thought on “Caught Our Notice: Reporter’s inquiry prompts financial disclosure in autism paper”

  1. This is extremely significant as Son-Rise has, to put it mildly, a very poor reputation with respect to efficacy. As a scientist and father of an autistic child I am deeply concerned by repeated attempts to legitimise long discredited intervention approaches like this one…

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