Autism diagnosis in itself is perplexing and distressing for parents. To add to that is plethora of interventions or “treatments” which have no scientific support of any kind, prescribed by so called “experts”. These treatments sound promising and claim to bring fast and amazing results playing on the desperation of parents to “cure” autism.
Why is autism diagnosis fraught with such fad treatments? It could partly be because there is no clear cause of autism. There are only theories as to what may cause autism and therefore, there are a lot of non-evidence based treatments that relate to those theories. The other reason could be that these unproven treatments offer quicker results, are less expensive, get a lot of media attention, have emotional appeal and are vouched by other parents as opposed to research-based and proven early intervention treatment (ABA) which is highly structured, expensive and requires several hours of therapy per week over several years requiring patience, perseverance and consistency from parents.
The only intervention that will actually be effective is the one that is backed by scientific evidence and DOES NOT rely on your having faith in it or accepting anecdotal proof. ABA is one such intervention that has volumes of research to prove its effectiveness. It is validated by repeated and consistent replication of beneficial results in the scientific literature.
There are a lot of treatments that use scientific words or present theories that are plausible but have not been proven by scientific research. This is called PSEUDOSCIENCE – something that sounds/appears like science but actually is not. These treatments come under biomedical treatments which have not yet been subjected to repeated and rigorous research. Thus, conclusion regarding their effectiveness cannot be made. Biomedical treatments treat chemical imbalances in the body that are believed to (not proven) to cause autism.
Some of the biomedical treatments are:
Gluten Free – Casein Free Diet (GFCF): number 1 on the list of biomedical treatment is GFCF diet. It goes hand in hand with the diagnosis and is the the default treatment prescribed by all practitioners along with a number of others. There is no evidence to verify that GFCF diet has any effect on autism symptoms. These diets have been found to cause lower bone density and low immunity, not to mention being a trigger for a lot of inappropriate behaviors stemming from child’s awareness that he cannot have the food that others are having.
Chelation Therapy : it claims to clean body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. FDA-approved chelation agents are approved for specific uses that do not include the treatment or cure of autism.
Vitamin B-6 and B-12 Supplements
Antifungal treatments : to treat overgrowth of fungus candida that may contribute to behavioral and digestive problems associated with autism.
Parents looking to cure autism need to accept that there is no “cure” for autism. Same is true for many methods that claim to “treat” autism-related symptoms. Parents should make educated decision regarding effective and proven intervention for autism and be wary of pseudo-scientific methods that may carry significant health risks.
Suruchi Sancheti, MA, MS, BCBA