Caution Urged for Autism Treatments
Researchers Say 'Fad Therapies' for Autism Are on the Rise
Aug. 20, 2007 -- Unproven treatments for autism have increased as the number of
children with autism and related disorders has grown dramatically,
according to a team of Ohio State University researchers.
"Fad treatments have grown as the numbers have gone up," says James
Mulick, PhD, a professor of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University,
Columbus, who led a symposium on the topic at the 115th annual convention of
the American Psychological Association (APA) in San Francisco.
Today, one in 150 children has autism or an autism
spectrum disorder (ASD), which encompasses several related disorders,
Mulick tells WebMD. In the 1970s, the commonly held belief was that three in
every 10,000 children had autism. Autism and related problems, such as Asperger's syndrome or childhood disintegrative disorder,
are all complex developmental disabilities that affect the development of
social skills, communication skills, and behavior. Genetic vulnerability
is suspected, and abnormal brain development during an infant's first months
may also contribute.
As more parents hear these diagnoses, they are searching, understandably,
for a way to make their children's lives better. "They desperately
want their children to have a future," Mulick says.
"The average parent has tried seven different therapies," Mulick
says, citing the results of a survey his research team found on the
Unproven treatments are often marketed aggressively, he tells WebMD, and
information often includes testimonials from other parents, making them
difficult to resist. As a result, he says, it's sometimes difficult for parents
to evaluate the treatment objectively and to avoid totally unproven approaches.
The unproven treatments can escape oversight from the FDA, says Mulick, because
many are not drugs or devices.
(If your child has autism, you
feel compelled to do something to help. What
treatments are working for your child?What hasn't worked? Tell us at
WebMD's Parenting: Special Needs Children message board.)