Alternatives for Autism Treatment

Explore autism and alternative treatments, from dietary interventions to evidence-based approaches.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
June 4, 2024
9 min read
min read

Alternative Treatments for Autism

In the quest for effective treatments for autism, some people turn to alternative therapies. This section will discuss non-scientifically validated therapies, potentially harmful treatments, and concerns with supplement use in relation to autism.

Non-Scientifically Validated Therapies

Several treatments currently lack scientific validation for the treatment of autism. These include Chelation therapy, Lupron therapy, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), Gluten Free-Casein Free (GFCF) Diet, Stem Cell Therapy, Secretin Injections, Antifungal Agent Therapy, Vitamin Supplements, Raw Camel Milk, Marijuana Therapy, Nicotine Patch Therapy, Bleach Therapy, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

While these treatments might be presented as beneficial, they lack evidence of safety and efficacy. Therefore, individuals should exercise caution and seek advice from healthcare professionals before commencing such therapies.(Autism Science Foundation).

Potential Harmful Treatments

Some alternative treatments can be harmful. For instance, Bleach therapy, which involves giving an individual with ASD a diluted form of bleach orally or through an enema, has been widely denounced for the harm it can cause. Side effects can include severe fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and other complications [1].

Marijuana therapy, another controversial treatment, is neither medically nor scientifically supported for addressing the core symptoms of autism. Reported short-term side effects include distorted perception, impaired coordination, and impaired thinking, problem-solving, learning, and memory [1].

Concerns with Supplement Use

The use of supplements in an attempt to cure autism can be problematic. Despite various claims, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that vitamin supplements can cure autism. Misuse of supplements can be dangerous, as some can be toxic when taken in high doses for sustained periods. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regime [1].

While the quest for effective autism treatments is understandable, it's important to separate fact from fiction. Alternative treatments, especially those lacking scientific validation, should be approached with caution. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment regimen.

Controversial Therapies

Among the various alternative treatments for autism, a few stand out for their controversy due to lack of scientific validation and potential harm they can cause. These are bleach therapy, marijuana therapy, and Lupron therapy.

Bleach Therapy

Bleach therapy involves administering a diluted form of bleach, either orally or through an enema, to an individual with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This is believed by some to cure the symptoms of autism, but it has been widely denounced for its complete lack of scientific basis and potential harm it can cause.

According to the Autism Science Foundation, ingesting bleach can lead to severe fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and other complications. It is critical to remember that autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, and treatments involving harmful substances can have devastating effects on an individual's health.

Marijuana Therapy

Another controversial therapy is the use of marijuana for treating the core symptoms of autism. However, this is neither medically nor scientifically supported. The Autism Science Foundation states that the reported short-term side effects of marijuana use include distorted perception, impaired coordination, and impaired thinking, problem-solving, learning, and memory.

While research on the use of medical marijuana for various medical conditions is ongoing, its use for autism treatment is not supported by current scientific evidence. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before considering such therapies.

Lupron Therapy

Lupron therapy is another approach that is currently not scientifically validated for the treatment of autism. This treatment, which involves the use of a medication primarily used to treat prostate cancer, lacks evidence of safety and efficacy for autism treatment.

According to the Autism Science Foundation, Lupron therapy can have harmful side effects. As with any treatment, it's important to weigh the potential risks and benefits and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new therapy.

In conclusion, while the search for effective treatments for autism continues, it's crucial to remain cautious of therapies that lack scientific validation and could potentially cause harm. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment for autism.

Dietary Interventions

Dietary interventions for autism are among the most explored alternative treatments. While some claim to have observed improvements, it's important to note that the science behind these methods is still inconclusive or nonexistent. Here we explore three such dietary interventions: the Gluten-Free-Casein-Free Diet, raw camel milk, and Antifungal Agent Therapy.

Gluten-Free-Casein-Free Diet

The Gluten-Free-Casein-Free (GFCF) diet involves eliminating all sources of gluten and casein from a child's diet. This is based on the theory that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have higher rates of food allergies or intolerances, particularly to foods containing gluten and casein. However, according to Alberta Health Services, there's no proven correlation between food sensitivities and children with ASD.

Despite its popularity among parents of children with ASD, there is no conclusive scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of the GFCF diet in treating autism symptoms. It's recommended that parents consult with a healthcare provider before making significant changes to a child's diet.

Raw Camel Milk

Raw camel milk has been touted as a potential cure for autism-related ills. However, the Autism Science Foundation cautions that there's no scientific research supporting the claims that raw camel milk is an autism “cure-all.”

While anecdotal evidence suggests some parents have observed improvements in their child's behavior after introducing camel milk, it's important to note that these observations are purely subjective and not backed by empirical evidence. Further research is needed to explore the potential benefits and risks of this treatment.

Antifungal Agent Therapy

Antifungal Agent Therapy involves the use of supplements and vitamins thought to improve behaviors common with ASD. Supplements such as vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to enhance behavior. However, Alberta Health Services states that a review of these studies hasn't shown these supplements to be helpful.

Moreover, the Autism Science Foundation warns that the misuse of supplements in an attempt to cure autism can be dangerous. Some supplements can be toxic when taken in high doses for sustained periods. Therefore, it's crucial to consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.

In conclusion, while dietary interventions are popular alternative treatments for autism, they lack conclusive scientific support. Parents are advised to exercise caution and consult healthcare professionals before making significant changes to their child's diet or supplement intake.

Behavioral and Medical Treatments

In the quest for effective autism treatments, a variety of behavioral and medical approaches have been pursued. While some therapies show promise, others have been met with skepticism and concern due to the lack of scientific evidence supporting their use. In this section, we will explore three such treatments: Chelation Therapy, Secretin Injections, and Nicotine Patch Therapy.

Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy involves administering chelators that bind to heavy metals like mercury in the body, facilitating their elimination. This treatment has gained popularity among some circles in the autism community, despite the lack of controlled studies examining its efficacy or safety for children with autism.

Moreover, chelation therapy is not without risk. Deaths have been reported from inappropriate use of a chelator known as EDTA due to hypocalcemia, a condition characterized by low calcium levels in the blood. Therefore, while some parents may consider chelation therapy as a potential treatment option, it's critically important to understand the associated risks and the lack of substantial scientific evidence supporting its use.

Secretin Injections

Secretin, a gastrointestinal hormone, has been extensively studied as a potential treatment for autism. This hormone regulates the digestive system and has been theorized to potentially affect brain function.

However, despite the initial interest in secretin as an autism treatment, more than a dozen well-designed studies have failed to demonstrate its efficacy for treating symptoms of autism [2]. Therefore, based on current scientific evidence, secretin injections do not appear to be a promising treatment option for autism.

Nicotine Patch Therapy

Nicotine patch therapy, which involves using patches that deliver a controlled amount of nicotine to the body, has been suggested as a potential treatment for hyperactive behavior in children with autism. However, it's important to note that such treatments have not been explicitly approved for managing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Before considering nicotine patch therapy or any other medication-based treatments for autism, parents should consult with a healthcare professional. It's important to discuss the possible risks and benefits of these medicines before administering them to a child [3].

In conclusion, while the search for effective treatments for autism continues, parents and caregivers should remain cautious about alternative treatment options that lack substantial scientific evidence. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen.

Evidence-Based Approaches

While exploring autism and alternative treatments, it is important to focus on evidence-based approaches. These treatments have been tested and proven to be effective in scientific studies. In this context, we will discuss Melatonin Treatment, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG) Therapy.

Melatonin Treatment

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates sleep. Clinical studies have shown that melatonin can help improve sleep onset and maintenance in children with autism. Although some cases reported side effects such as early morning sleepiness or enuresis, no effect on seizures was noted.

Further studies on sleep disturbances in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have also demonstrated the effectiveness of melatonin in reducing sleep latency and improving total sleep duration.

Melatonin is one of the best-studied Complementary and Alternative Treatments (CATs) for ASD. Research shows that it is associated with increases in sleep duration and decreases in sleep onset latency. Side effects were minimal to none. Future research directions include using placebo-controlled or comparative effectiveness trials to determine which sleep intervention works best for which child.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied in the context of hyperactivity symptoms associated with ASD. Studies have shown some improvements in hyperactivity symptoms in children with ASD who were administered Omega-3 fatty acids [4]. Further research is needed to fully understand the extent of the impact of Omega-3 fatty acids on autism symptoms.

Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG) Therapy

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy has been suggested as a potential treatment for ASD. IVIG therapy involves the administration of antibodies, via an intravenous route, to boost the body's immune system. While case-series studies have shown varying results in symptom improvement, further research is necessary to confirm its efficacy and safety [4].

As we continue to understand more about autism, it's crucial to keep abreast of the latest research and evidence-based approaches to treatment. These approaches can provide significant improvements in the quality of life for children with autism and their families.

Global Perspectives on CAM

The exploration of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in autism treatment reveals varied usage patterns across different countries. As we delve into the global perspectives on CAM, we focus on the usage in high-income countries, its utilization in lower middle-income countries, and the rise of parent-mediated interventions.

CAM Use in High-Income Countries

In high-income countries, the use of CAM in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ranges from 28% to 51%, with lifetime use as high as 71% [4]. This high prevalence indicates a significant reliance on alternative treatments as part of the autism treatment regimen within these nations. However, it's important to note that the effectiveness of these treatments varies, and some may pose potential risks to individuals. Therefore, it's essential to approach these treatments with due consideration and preferably under the guidance of a medical professional.

CAM Use Percentage
Current Use 28% - 51%
Lifetime Use Up to 71%

CAM Utilization in Lower Middle-Income Countries

Lower Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) also show a growing interest in the use of CAM for autism treatment. However, the majority of research on autism treatments, including CAM, comes from high-income countries, leaving a gap in comprehensive knowledge about the effectiveness of these treatments in LMICs.

Certain interventions, such as technology-assisted initiatives and medical treatments like risperidone, have shown promise in LMICs, particularly in India. These treatments have demonstrated potential benefits, such as improved language skills, socio-communicative responsiveness, and reduced behavioral problems in children with ASD. However, high-quality evidence is still lacking for these interventions in LMIC, necessitating more research in this area.

Parent-Mediated Interventions

Parent-mediated interventions represent a significant trend in autism treatment worldwide. These interventions, which involve parents actively participating in their child's therapy, have shown promise in LMICs. Some studies from India and Bangladesh suggest positive effects on ASD symptoms, social communication skills, and adaptive behaviors. However, the evidence is still insufficient to consider these interventions as evidence-based in LMIC [6].

The global perspectives on CAM usage underscore the need for more comprehensive research, particularly in LMICs. Additionally, they highlight the potential of parent-mediated interventions as a valuable tool in the treatment of autism, warranting further exploration. As our understanding of autism and alternative treatments continues to evolve, it's crucial to ensure that these treatments are both safe and effective for individuals with autism.








steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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