The safety and effectiveness of some therapies used to treat
autism is not known. Many unproven treatments
circulate through websites, word of mouth, or the media. Most have not been
subjected to thorough, sound research and are considered nonstandard and
controversial. Be especially cautious about a treatment if:
The treatment is based upon oversimplified
It benefits more than one
It provides dramatic and "miraculous"
The only available evidence is based upon a few stories
(anecdotal evidence), not scientific research.
goals or target behaviors are not identified.
scientific research is said not to be needed because there are no risks or side
Examples of current nonstandard, unproven therapies for autism that
are receiving attention include:1
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that all children in the U.S. have a right to a "free appropriate public education."
For children with autism and children with certain other disabilities, this act mandates the creation of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP is designed for one child. Its purpose is to meet that child's specific special education needs. It sets goals and objectives and describes what services a child will receive as part of his or her...
Nutritional supplements. Some studies have
claimed that giving high doses of vitamin B6 and magnesium improves autistic
behaviors. A review of these studies found they lacked controls and scientific
Restrictive diets. Elimination of
milk and gluten from a child's diet is based upon an idea that autism is
triggered by digestive disorders. Parents of a child with autism who also has
food allergies or intolerance may be more likely to attempt this type of diet.
But food sensitivities are not proven to be more common in children with
autism than in normally developing children.
therapy. An intravenous (IV) injection of immune globulin is based on the
assumption that autism is caused by an autoimmune
Secretin. This treatment uses an IV injection of
secretin (a hormone that stimulates the pancreas and liver) to manage autistic
behavior. Studies show this treatment is not effective.1
Chelation therapy. Mercury exposure as a cause of
autism is the basis for this therapy, which uses medications to help the body
eliminate the toxins. Children with autism often have a craving for nonfood
items (pica) or unusual diets that may result in mercury
exposure; therefore, mercury exposure may be more an effect of autism than a
Auditory integration training (AIT). Based upon a theory
that autism is caused by hearing problems that result in distorted sounds or
oversensitivity to noises, this treatment delivers music through special
Facilitated communication. This method uses a keyboard to
assist communication. It has not been found to be helpful and in some cases has