Alternative TherapiesIn an effort to do everything possible to help their children, many parents continually seek new treatments. Some treatments are developed by reputable therapists or by parents of a child with autism. Although an unproven treatment may help one child, it may not prove beneficial to another. To be accepted as a proven treatment for autism, the treatment should undergo clinical trials (preferably randomized, double-blind trials) that would allow for a comparison between treatment and no treatment. Following are some of the interventions that have been reported to have been helpful to some children but whose efficacy or safety has not been proven.
Dietary interventions are based on the idea that:
- Food allergies cause symptoms of autism
- An insufficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral may cause some autistic symptoms.
If parents decide to try for a given period of time a special diet, they should be sure that the child's nutritional status is measured carefully.
Some parents have found that a gluten-free, casein-free diet was helpful to their autistic child. Gluten is a casein-like substance that is found in the seeds of various cereal plants -- wheat, oat, rye, and barley. Casein is the principal protein in milk. Since gluten and milk are found in many of the foods we eat, following a gluten-free, casein-free diet is difficult.
Vitamin B6 is a supplement that some parents feel is beneficial for an autistic child. It is taken with magnesium (which makes the vitamin effective). The result of research studies is mixed; some children respond positively, some negatively, some not at all or very little.
In the search for treatments for autism, there has been discussion in the last few years about the use of secretin, a substance approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a single dose normally given to aid in diagnosis of a gastrointestinal problem. 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 patients who received secretin and those who received a placebo.