Finding the Right Autism Treatment
Early, intense therapy works, but hundreds of other treatments being used are untested.
Drug Treatments for Autism continued...
Spurred by huge numbers of parents giving secretin to their ASD kids,
researchers rushed to study the drugs effects.
"Secretin is right now the best-studied drug in autism," Scahill
says. "There have been 12 or 13 placebo-controlled trials, but not one
showed secretin to be better than placebo. Researchers spent vast amounts of
time and money on it and we don't have a lot to show for it. That is an example
of how it shouldn't go."
Chelation for Autism
Although most researchers do not think so, many parents are struck by
similarities between some of the symptoms of mercury poisoning and autism. Some
of these parents seek chelation therapy for their
children, which uses a chemical that helps the body eliminate heavy metals.
Hyman notes that there is no evidence that removing heavy metals from the
body undoes damage caused by heavy-metal poisoning. But many parents believe
their children's ASD symptoms improved after the treatment.
Swedo and colleagues at the NIMH have designed a clinical trial to test this
treatment, but the study is in limbo as the NIMH review board feels the known
risks of the treatment outweigh the evidence that it might work. Meanwhile,
Swedo says, a group of practitioners called Defeat Autism Now, which promotes
chelation and other complementary/alternative autism treatments, is completing
a study of the treatment.
Most of the researchers who spoke with WebMD for this article expressed the
opinion that chelation is both ineffective for autism and dangerous; none
advise parents to try it.
Gluten-Free Casien-Free (GFCF) Diet for Autism
Many parents of children with autism believe that their children suffer from
an inability to digest wheat and/or dairy products. Some who have put their
children on gluten-free/casien-free diets report seeing remarkable changes in
their children's behavior.
This GFCF diet has become one of the most commonly used treatments for
autism, despite concerns that ASD kids -- who tend to be very picky eaters --
may become undernourished by following a GFCF diet.
A highly regarded 1995 study suggested that ASD kids on a GFCF diet for one
year had fewer autistic traits. However, preliminary results from a randomized,
controlled clinical trial did not show a benefit.
More rigorous randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of the GFCF
diet -- including one by Hyman -- are under way.