Finding the Right Autism Treatment
Early, intense therapy works, but hundreds of other treatments being used are untested.
CAM for Autism continued...
In its 2007 guidelines for the management of ASDs, the American Academy of
Pediatrics warns that it does not endorse the use of these treatments outside
carefully designed, well-monitored clinical trials.
"Unfortunately, families are often exposed to unsubstantiated,
pseudoscientific theories and related clinical practices that are, at best,
ineffective and, at worst, compete with validated treatments or lead to
physical, emotional, or financial harm," the AAP's Council on Children with
Progress is being made. Serious researchers are at last responding to
parents demands that they evaluate a wide range of autism treatments. And CAM
advocacy groups, such as the Defeat Autism Now (DAN) group, are conducting
One such trial, reported at last years DAN meeting, focused on HBOT --
hyperbaric oxygen therapy -- the latest new CAM autism treatment to emerge. The
idea is to put children with autism spectrum disorder into a pressure chamber
and push oxygen into their tissues.
"The mechanism of action may not be in keeping with our traditional
understanding of brain injury and postnatal treatment in this disorder,"
Swedo praises the DAN group for testing this treatment and the study's
design. Ultimately, it did not validate HBOT as an autism treatment.
Unfortunately, studies that prove or disprove autism treatments are the
exception rather than the rule.
"One of my frustrations is as soon as you think you have a handle on
what is worth testing because enough people have used it, another one comes
along," Swedo says.
But Hyman warns her fellow researchers about negativity.
"Some things in CAM are very exciting," she says. "Once you
demonstrate something works, if doesn't fit into the biological universe you
understand, who cares?"
Debbie Page says her experience with her son Gabe brought home to her the
importance of starting early with treatments known to be effective -- even if a
child's doctors are still arguing about whether the problem is autism or
"Just listen to your instinct and you gut," she tells other parents.
"No help you get for them is going to hurt them, even if you don't yet have
a diagnosis. If your child's communication is not developing, get help for
that. You don't need for everyone to agree on a diagnosis to start getting help
for your child."