About That Study on “Preventing” Autism Diagnoses, and How Autism Researchers Can Do Better

Source: Wikimedia Commons [image: Photo of a smiling Black toddler with curly black hair up in puffs, sitting in a  Black adult’s lap, while a smiling medical professional interacts with them.] Patrick Dwyer, MA Lucas Harrington, PsyD Ava Gurba, BS  Last month, researchers in Australia led by Andrew Whitehouse published a new study: a trial of a “pre-emptive” intervention for infants assessed to have an elevated likelihood of later developing autism.  Internet furor immediately ensued, with some headlines proclaiming that the new intervention could prevent as many as two-thirds of autism diagnoses. Many neurodiversity advocates were naturally horrified by these ominous headlines, but was the media portrayal accurate? What were the researchers trying to do? The researchers who conducted the study claimed that it “chershes neurodiversity”: that instead of being about suppressing autism, the intervention aimed to help the caregivers of these possibly-neurodivergent babies better understand their children and adapt…