Daniel W. Mruzek, Ph.D.

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  • We interviewed Dr. Mruzek on the air on December 15, 2010 about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).


  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst - Doctoral level (BCBA-D).
  • MA (1992) and PhD (1996) in Psychology from Ohio State University.
  • BA in Psychology from University of Toledo (1987).
  • Associate Professor - Department of Pediatrics, Neurodevelopmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, University of Rochester Medical Center.
  • Member of the Board of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT; "Real Science, Real Hope").
  • Father of four sons.

Behaviorism and Behavior Modification

"Interview with a Board Member: Daniel W. Mruzek, PhD, BCBA-D"
"Carry a token board everywhere you go."
"Be a scientist. Use the scientific method as a way of organizing your service to others. Analyze. Synthesize. Hypothesize. Test. Evaluate data. See your work in the context of the efforts of the broader scientific community."
"We know that testimonials are an exceptionally good way to push a product but an exceptionally poor way to discover the truth."


  • Autism: "Coined in 1912 by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Bleuler (1857-1939) from Latin autismus, from Ancient Greek αὐτός (autos, “self”). ... Bio-neurological disorder that is observable in early childhood with symptoms of abnormal self-absorption, characterised by lack of response to other humans and by limited ability or disinclination to communicate and socialize."[1]
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
  • Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)
  • Asperger syndrome (AS)

In this section, I have quoted the Association for Science in Autism Treatment verbatim, but have reformatted their paragraphs or added emphasis to make various items stand out.

Association for Science in Autism Treatment, "About Autism."
Autism is a complex neurobehavioral disorder characterized by
  • impairment in reciprocal social interaction,
  • impairment in communication, and
  • the presence of repetitive and stereotypic patterns of behaviors, interests, and activities.
The onset of symptoms is typically before the age of 3 years. The severity of impairment in the given domains as well as the pattern of impairments varies from individual to individual; that is why diagnosticians refer to a “spectrum” of disability.
Impairment in social interactions ranges from
  • difficulty initiating and maintaining interaction,
  • impaired ability to recognize and experience emotions, and
  • difficulty processing and appreciating the thoughts and feelings of others.
Communication deficits range from no useful form of communication to very advanced language abilities, but little ability to use language in a social manner.
Repetitive and stereotypic behaviors include
  • perseverative behaviors such as complex rituals,
  • extreme difficulty adapting to change and transition, and
  • unusual movements such as hand flapping or whirling.
Autism is one diagnosis within the larger category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders described in the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision edition (DSM-IV, TR). Autism, along with related, but slightly different disorders of Aspergers Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, constitute the conditions commonly referred to as the Autism Spectrum Disorders. Two rare disorders, Rett Syndrome (a genetic disorder) and Disintegrative Disorder of Childhood are the other currently recognized pervasive developmental disorders.
Once thought to be very rare, autism spectrum disorders are estimated to occur in an many as 1:88 (one in every 88 people).

Possible Causes

"What Causes Autism?"
Research suggests that any one of several factors may be involved in its onset:
  • genetic factors
  • environmental influences
  • certain types of infections
  • problems before, during, or after birth
  • disruption of very early brain development before birth
Since the definition of autism is a behavioral definition, meaning that it is solely defined through a certain constellation of behaviors, and not through biological tests, it is quite likely that different types of conditions could result in similar behavioral manifestations among individuals. For instance, in some specific disease entities, such as Fragile X syndrome, untreated phenylkotonuria, and other specific genetic disorders, affected individuals have the behavioral characteristics of autism.
At one time, autism was thought to be caused by faulty parenting (“refrigerator mothers”) and it is now clear that this is not a cause of autism. The theory of faulty parenting as causative of autism has not disappeared entirely however, and still crops up in “failure to bond” theories and “attachment disorder” theories about the genesis of autism. Most researchers reject this type of explanation as misguided and harmful.