Yesterday on the New York Times blog Well, several autism experts were asked to comment on the new book, The Horse Boy, which chronicles a father’s trip with his son to ride horses and visit shamans in an effort to heal his son’s autism.
Among the experts was Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. Offit is skeptical and writes:
Obviously these are anecdotal experiences without a control group. The natural history of mild to moderate autism is that it does get better over time. You’re worse between 2 and 5, and you tend to get better between 5 and 10. You mature, and you get better. If you take a child who is screaming uncontrollably and put them in a car, they calm down.
Maybe with horse riding, it’s not to say it doesn’t help in the long term. But the notion that it is, in any sense, getting to the fundamental cause or problem of autism, and will ever make that go away, is a false hope, and I think false hope is always bad. It’s misleading and expensive.