Articles Relevant to both Humanism and Developmental Disabilities often based on Skeptical Inquirer articles when you get down to it, any article on IDD that does not blame something on unseen forces is a humanist article on IDD. In this section we will look at controversial ones.   1.    4/18/07 - Audrey Santos of Worcester, Massachusetts died this week. This young woman had been in an apparent vegetative state since nearly drowning at the age of three in 1987. Miracles and miracle healings were reported to occur in her presence. She is mentioned here because, had she been not in an apparent vegetative state, she would probably exhibit some degree of intellectual disability from her accident. The Skeptical Inquirer had done a splendid review of her several years ago but this is no longer available on-line. Wikipedia does an interesting review at: update 6/22/09 she has been declared a Servant of God, the first step toward beatification and sainthood 2. January/February 2009 Skeptical Inquirer - Hyperbaric therapy for Autism –SI feels no real reason to think it could work or has ever worked. There is one experiment that produced positive results but there were problems with the experimental design. This therapy involves putting someone in a high pressure tank in which the air is oxygen rich for around 40 hours a month. Hyperbaric chambers are effectively used to treat sea divers with the bends, gangrene, and several other conditions. A March 2009 Scientific American was more positive about the results of that experiment. Efforts to replicate as recently as 2011 the study have not been as fruitful as the original study with some experiments in which there was no improvement. (reference). Everyone that is at all cautious points out that insurance doesn’t pay for this and it can get fairly expensive.  3. 11/23/09 Be cautious in accepting the story of a Mr Houben who has been in a coma for 23 years and is suddenly communicating. Look for more validation. The communication is through facilitated communication and the wiggle of a toe which is also interpreted through facilitated communication. Facilitated communication has never succeeded in a well-controlled experiment.   The high tech brain scan has not been identified in the stories I’ve seen. (see update)   In spite of allegedly hearing Drs. talk for years, there has been no actual presentation of anything a doctor has said. It would be wonderful if Mr Houben was regaining some part of his life and it would reopen the debate on facilitated communication I had thought was closed, but I would be cautious, really really cautious. update the brain scan was an fMRI, the doctor involved has withdrawn the claims he made and is reexamining his methods. see: 4. September-October 2009 I was going through this issue of Skeptical Inquirer (SI) which I think is a good starting place for evaluating a lot of controversial topics. As I usually try to do with a topic that strikes my fancy, I look around the internet and see what else is around on the topic. In this issue I found an article on Brain Gym. Parents and teachers use the 26 Brain Gym techniques to hopefully improve focus, laterality, and centering according to SI. Some examples are of Special needs children. The SI author, Benjamin Radford, is very critical of the practice saying there is little more than anecdotes about improvement and no real reason to think that the brain will rewire itself based on these exercises. They do acknowledge there is benefit to exercise in anyone’s alertness. update: November 2012 - Paul Dennison, the creator of Brain Gym, has published some articles in an apparently self- published journal on the utility of the practice. Allegedly no one seems especially impressed by his articles other than devotees of the program and the practice continues as particularly popular in Great Britain. There are some interesting critical reviews here and here. The link to the official Brain Gym site is here.  There’s a fascinating interview of Paul Dennison from 2007 here.  He does not perform well in it. I suggest you look around a bit more. Like many failed and successful therapies, there are a lot of people very enthused about the practice so it is wise to look at large scale studies. Spoiler - you probably won’t find any good ones. 5. The November-December 2012 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer discusses an apparent disturbing practice in Pakistan. In this practice, infertile couples see a “faith healer” who promises them fertility in exchange for their first born who will be microcephalic and intellectually disabled; this enables later children to be born more healthy. These children are called “rat “ people and are kept by the healer and revered because they are believed to be closer to god. There is one picture of a “rat child” in Pakistan offered who is clearly microcephalic. According to the author, very few of these children are actually born microcephalic and are either sold to others or have their head growth stunted by an iron helmet worn around their heads as they grow.  This is an old tradition and an interesting article but it is based on primarily hearsay among a largely superstitious population. I would take it with a grain of salt unless there are better sources written on this tradition. it has likely happened to some degree but questionably to the degree described in the article. To top off the problems in authentication, the Taliban has forced many “healers” into hiding because they do not like their practice. This makes first hand authentication even harder.