Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond


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Autism and Autism Treatments (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)

Autism is a fascinating subject, steeped in rumour, mystery, misconceptions and myths. Tannice Pendegrass firstly aims to take you through different definitions of autism, cultural representations and the results of her survey, asking over 700 people about their perceptions of what causes and treats autism (spoiler: we don’t know and, currently, nothing).

The second part of the talk focuses on ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly’. The part most skeptics will probably be most interested in. Tannice will briefly cover the MMR scandal, but this is not the main focus of her ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ section: the subject that Tannice reserves the most ire for is the toxic and sometimes downright dangerous treatments many children must endure. Asking the question ‘what’s the harm?’ has never been more important.

The third part of the talk is for ‘the good’ – it focuses on ABA or Applied Behavioural Analysis; the gold standard in Autism treatment. Through a whirlwind journey (to fit in the format of a SitP talk) Tannice will explain what ABA is, how it’s used and the evidence behind it. From Kim Peek (the inspiration for rain man) to Jenny McCarthy (an anti-vaccination campaigner), this talk will give you a broad overview of Autism, Autism treatments and why cultural representations of Autism are usually wrong. You’ll also find out why a horse died when he was being treated in a chamber normally reserved for divers suffering from the bends.”

Bio:

Tannice Pendegrass is the Assistant Editor of The Skeptic Magazine (UK) and responsible for running Guildford Skeptics in the Pub with a Cesium fist. Tannice’s brand of skepticism is focused around alternative medicine and false claims of an ability to converse with the dead. Her specialist Credible Hulk subject is the bogus link between Autism and the MMR vaccine. Tannice is also the Treasurer and the Press Officer for the newly formed South East Skeptics’ society.

 

Our meeting:

This meeting takes place at 8pm in Blackrock Castle, Saturday March 16th. The call will take place over Skype.

 


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Marcin Szczerbinski talks about childhood learning difficulties

On Friday, June 17th we were treated to a very informative talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski of the UCC Applied Psychology department. In his talk, Marcin discussed the main kinds of childhood learning difficulties, what was generally known about their diagnosis and treatment, and the different approaches used to address these difficulties. In particular, he looked at Brain Gym, a popular but pseudoscientific approach that claims it can help children with learning difficulties. He contrasted this with more conventional, science based approaches. He ended his talk with a baloney detector kit – rules of thumb to consider when evaluating potential treatment options.

His talk was wide ranging and of interest to anyone who has children, or works with children with learning challenges.

You can now listen to a podcast of his talk below. In addition, we will be providing further reading materials and references in the coming days.


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Our June Talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski

Science and Pseudoscience in the Treatment of Special Educational Needs

Friday 17th June at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork

Some children experience significant difficulties in aspects of their psychological development, making it hard for them to achieve their full potential inside the mainstream school curriculum. Those developmental difficulties can be elusive—hard to diagnose or even define precisely—and hard to treat. Naturally, there is no shortage of those who claim to have found the solution—wonderfully simple and effective— and who try to sell it to (often desperate) parents, teachers, psychologists or speech therapists. What these consumers need is the ability to critically evaluate the therapeutic products that are being marketed to them.

In this talk, Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski of the UCC Applied Psychology department will offer a brief overview of special educational needs—their symptoms and causes—as currently understood by the mainstream scientific community. The talk will cover subjects such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. He will then suggest some rules of thumb that will allow us to evaluate the competing therapeutic proposals, helping to differentiate those that are plausible from those that are almost certainly a waste of time.

The boundaries between evidence-based therapy and its dubious alternatives can be fuzzy. Even bona fide scientists are often guilty of over-selling the genuine remedies they offer. Dr. Szczerbinski will discuss the effectiveness of widely known therapies, such as Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym as part of the talk, questioning how effective they are in reality.

About The Speaker: Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski is a psychologist, a graduate of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, and University College London. He has taught psychology and research methods at the University of Sheffield, before moving to the UCC earlier this year. He researches developmental dyslexia, among other things.

Venue & Time: This talk will begin at 8.00pm on Friday 17th June, in Blackrock Castle Observatory. Everyone is welcome and the talk is free to attend. Please see our Skeptics In The Castle page for directions to the Castle.

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