Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Unproven Treatments for Autism

Font Size

Topic Overview

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 scientific theories.
  • It benefits more than one condition.
  • It provides dramatic and "miraculous" results.
  • The only available evidence is based upon a few stories (anecdotal evidence), not scientific research.
  • Specific treatment goals or target behaviors are not identified.
  • Controlled, scientific research is said not to be needed because there are no risks or side effects.

Examples of current nonstandard, unproven therapies for autism that are receiving attention include:1

Recommended Related to Autism

Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diets for Autism

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are developmental disorders that affect children by disrupting their ability to communicate and interact socially. To reduce a child's symptoms of autism, parents often try alternative treatments such as specialized diets. Lately, the gluten-free/casein-free diet has grown in popularity. Some parents report improvements in autism symptoms with this dietary regimen. Little research has been done, though, on the gluten-free/casein-free diet for autism. Consequently,...

Read the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diets for Autism article > >

  • 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 design.2
  • 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.
  • Immune globulin therapy. An intravenous (IV) injection of immune globulin is based on the assumption that autism is caused by an autoimmune abnormality.
  • 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 cause.
  • 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 devices.
  • Facilitated communication. This method uses a keyboard to assist communication. It has not been found to be helpful and in some cases has been harmful.3

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Unproven Treatments for Autism Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.