Justice for Yale Autism Study Toddlers

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Yale has recently conducted a study on autistic toddlers. 22 month olds. In the study they terrified these toddlers with things like spiders, dinosaurs with light up red eyes, and grotesque masks. The toddlers were exposed to these “threatening stimuli” for 30 seconds and then given 30-75 seconds to process. This is, simply put, abuse. 

Perhaps this should remind you of another experiment. The Little Albert experiment, where baby Albert was intentionally caused fear, happened 100 years ago in 1920. If you have not heard of this study and the ethics behind it, I encourage you to look it up. This study has been denounced as unethical. In fact, it is used as an example in high school AP Psychology classes for unethical experiments. Modern ethics in psychology studies denounce evoking fear in patients unless the patient has been made aware of this and given informed consent beforehand. As an infant, Albert was unable to give consent.

Back to the study: the toddlers were given 30-75 seconds between “threatening stimuli.” This was to “ensure that the child’s [emotions] returned to normal before proceeding.” I do not know how much you currently know about autism, but a very common trait in autistic individuals is delayed emotional processing. What this means is that the toddlers may very well have been still processing one “threatening stimuli” while being exposed to the next. This is sickening. The research team could see that this experiment was harmful to the children while it was happening. Some toddlers had to be removed because of overwhelming emotional response, and others were removed because their parents saw the harm it was causing. Even so, the research team did not report the study for adverse affects or harms. 

These researchers should have learned by now (from mistakes 100 years ago!). These toddlers could not consent to the harm they experienced. 
There was no mention in the study of looking for harm or adverse affects in these children. There was not even a mention of ethical oversight. Who was looking out for these children? This is outright abuse.

The problem is not only that this experiment was conducted on toddlers, but that this experiment was conducted specifically on disabled toddlers. The fact that this study even occurred is evidence of the ableism rampant within the medical community.

Yale needs to be held accountable. The people who approved this study, the people who led this study, the people involved in making this study happen need to be held accountable. Do not let them get away with this.

Demands for the Yale Child Study Center:

1. An explanation. There is no excuse for this. 

2. An apology. You owe an apology to these children, their parents and families, the autistic community, and disabled people in general.

3. A full investigation into any and all harms done to these toddlers in this study.

4. A full investigation into all persons involved in allowing this study to happen and measures put in place so that this does not happen again.

5. Full support for these toddlers in any and all harms caused by this study.

6. Support for the parents who now have to deal with the fact that they received medical advice that was NOT in the best interest of their children and the fact that they consented to this. 

7. Removal of the article.