5 May, 16 | by BMJ Clinical Evidence
“There’s so many cures for autism on-line, it’s a wonder anyone still has it”
This wry observation from the father of a five-year-old newly diagnosed with autism in the BBC’s ‘The A Word’ strikes a chord with every parent who has been through this experience. As a GP with an autistic son – now 23 – I have seen wonder cures, from secretin and facilitated communication to chelation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, appear and disappear at a bewildering pace over the past two decades. An internet survey in the USA found parents were using 111 different treatments, including diverse speech and behaviour therapies, medications, diets, vitamins and supplements – on average using seven such ‘interventions’ concurrently.
Given that no specific intervention – beyond behavioural educational programmes – has been shown to be beneficial for children with autism, the vast variety of treatments on offer puts parents who are struggling to cope with the challenges of autism in a difficult position. In the spirit of ‘Ask for the Evidence’, I suggest three simple questions: