• A definition: science is the process of
establishing cause and effect
• Not 100% foolproof
• At its best it recognises and addresses
the possibility of error and
• A community of communicating
• The concept of peer-review
Smart people can misread cause
• Severe sore throat and cough
• Patient (US academic) seen at Beijing hospital
• Offered choice of treatments:
– "Chuanbeiye," with the chief ingredients listed as "snake bile,
tendril-leafed fritillary bulb, and almond, etc."
• Patient chose erythromycin despite assurances from
translator that Chuanbeiye always worked for her.
• Patient got better, continued to put his faith in
antiobiotics over traditional Chinese medicine.
What’s wrong with above picture?
• Majority of respiratory complaints like
that described by the author are viral,
• Neither treatment was likely to work
• Moral: skeptical scientific minds, with
incomplete information, can get it
What should we look for?
• Instructional techniques and programs
that correspond with established
understanding of FASD
• Assessment of effects that actually
measure what is being addressed.
• Duration and applicability of effect (not
just the result of cramming a bunch of
What should we look for? (2)
• If a program claims to be supported by
research, check that research and desired
• If “analog skills” are addressed, look for
research that they have direct bearing on
– Real analog skill for reading: phonological
– Unsubstantiated analog skill: eye movement
• Program tested by independent research, and
A little more about peer review
• Good science assumes possibilities of
error, bias, statistical fumbles,
contamination of effect, etc. etc.
• Findings, even if apparently very
compelling, must be subjected to peer
review before submitted to media.
(e.g. “cold fusion”)
• Even with peer review, one study doth
not a conclusion make.
DO NOT MAKE MAJOR LIFE
DECISIONS ON THE BASIS
OF THE FINDINGS OF ONE
• 1. Authorities:
– Really smart people: Jarvik
– Celebrities: Oprah
– Moral Authorities: Floyd Redcrow
• 2. People just like you…
– In what respects?
• Consider the logic:
• How many testimonials would it take to show
– What can you infer from number of testimonial
regarding the ratio of successes to failures
– What worked?
• Can the described effect be compared to
that of other approaches?
• Consider the single-case phenomenon.
– My “argument from Tylenol…”
Science is only part of the
• What else do you need to think about if
the program you’re looking at is
supported by legitimate research
Does it really match your child’s
• Beware the program that fixes:
“Autism, LD, NLD, FASD, and ADHD,
– How do you know what your child’s problem
– Assessment (not baseline, but diagnostic)
should be independent of organisation
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD
TO BE TRUE,
IT PROBABLY IS.