Writing in the Chicago (IL, US) Tribune under the headline “Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science” Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan reported about the background and myriad problems with many treatments used as therapy for children with Autism. They expose the lack of evidentiary support for therapies ranging from mega-doses of vitamins to chelation and show the relationships between practitioners of these therapies and a couple of organizations well-known among those who follow Autism.
The Tribune found children undergoing daylong infusions of a blood product that carries the risk of kidney failure and anaphylactic shock. Researchers in the field emphatically warn that the therapy should not be used to treat autism.
Children are repeatedly encased in pressurized oxygen chambers normally used after scuba diving accidents, at a cost of thousands of dollars. This unproven therapy is meant to reduce inflammation that experts say is little understood and may even be beneficial.
Children undergo rounds of chelation therapy to leach heavy metals from the body, though most toxicologists say the test commonly used to measure the metals is meaningless and the treatment potentially harmful.
Reporters Tsouderos and Callahan conducted interviews with an impressive array of advocates for the therapies (including representatives of Autism One, Autism Research Institute, and Defeat Autism Now) and doubters (mostly serious scientists). They combed through the weak and barely related research that many of the advocates use as well as the evidence showing limited or no benefits of the therapies.
All in all, these reporters deserve kudos for the unflinching thoroughness of their reporting. I encourage readers to read, reread, and disseminate the article. Here’s a link to “Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science.” Flash of the electrons to Liz Ditz, whose Twitter post about this article alerted me to it.