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Alternative Treatments for Autism

Biomedical Intervention

The ultimate goal of biomedical treatment is to remove environmental toxins from the body and repair the damage that has been done. Parents can take the following steps at home to bring down the toxin load:

  • Remove common food allergens from the diet: dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, corn. (Use rice milk as a milk substitute.)
  • Eliminate refined sugar; trans fatty acids (anything with the word "hydrogenated" in it); artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives; nitrates (in hot dogs and bacon); and aspartame (Nutrasweet).
  • Avoid pesticides by buying organic food (these conventional foods contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue).
  • Add a HEPA air filter to your child's room.
  • Do not cook on aluminum or non-stick pans; do not cook on or with aluminum foil; never microwave plastic.
  • Use fluoride-free toothpaste, since fluoride is a potent neuron-toxin.
  • Request non-mercury fillings from your dentist when your child needs them.
  • Make sure any vaccination your child receives is thimerosal-free.
  • Replace conventional household cleaners with natural cleaners.
  • Don't let your child live at home during lead removal or renovation projects. Lead fumes are extremely toxic, and new paints, new carpets, and sealants produce VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are hard for the body to process.
  • Remove any other toxins from your environment, including pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

The foregoing steps are a start, but for complete biomedical treatment, it is critical to find a doctor who will work closely with you. DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!), an organization founded by the Autism Research Institute, maintains lists of doctors (classically trained medical doctors, naturopaths, homeopaths, and nutritionists) who treat autism and other neurodevelopmental issues biomedically. Following recommended DAN! methodology, these doctors usually suggest remedies to help your child's system recover from damage already done by toxins, such as cod liver oil, probiotics, colostrum, and digestive enzymes. They also work with you to improve your child's nutrient intake, addressing deficiencies in your child's biochemistry through better nutrition, vitamins, and supplements. Finally, doctors may recommend one or more specific treatments for "detoxification," such as chelation, special supplements, homeopathy, and hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

Evaluating Treatments

Guidelines used by the Autism Society of America (ASA) include the following questions parents can ask their doctors about potential treatments:

  • Will the treatment result in harm to my child?
  • How will failure of the treatment affect my child and family?
  • Has the treatment been validated scientifically?
  • Are there assessment procedures specified?
  • How will the treatment be integrated into my child's current program?

The ASA cautions parents not to become so infatuated with a given alternative treatment for their child that day-to-day life, school, and social skills are ignored. These skills may best be developed through the applied behavior analysis (ABA) approach, which is widely accepted and routinely used in treating autism.. As a Report of the Surgeon General states, "Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior" in children with autism. Complementary medicine – the ABA approach plus biomedical treatment – may lead to the greatest improvement in the autistic child.


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