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Tips for Parenting a Child With Autism

8. Use Caution With Unproven Therapies for Autism

The safety and effectiveness of some therapies used to treat autism are not known. Many unproven treatments circulate through web sites, word of mouth, or the media. Most have not been subjected to thorough, sound research and are considered nonstandard and controversial. Even if someone else has found tremendous success with an "unproven" therapy, it's important to be cautious about a treatment for autism if:

  • The autism 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), testimonials, and little or no 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 nonstandard, unproven therapies for autism that are receiving attention include:  

  • 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. Anecdotal reports have shown improvement in autism symptoms, including sleep patterns, eye contact, language skills, and alertness. Several clinical trials conducted in the last few years have found no significant improvements in symptoms between children with autism who received secretin and those who received a placebo.
  • Chelationtherapy. 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 or unusual diets that may result in mercury exposure; therefore, mercury exposure may be more of an effect of autism than a cause. Chelation therapy has caused several deaths in the U.S.
  • 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.

9. Plan Time for Breaks

Many parents of children with autism feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and sometimes defeated. They talk about difficulties in their marriage and other relationships. While there is no quick fix for resolving detrimental emotions, you can take measures to protect yourself so your child's condition does not get in the way of your physical or emotional health.

Review your calendar weekly. In the midst of the many appointments your child might have with speech or occupational therapists or other health care professionals, write in "appointments" for yourself and your relationships. Schedule regular dates with your partner, other children in the family, and close friends. 

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