It’s been a heavy question as of late on whether more unorthodox treatments such as diet, vitamin supplements, music, or animal therapy are effective in treating children with autism as a complementary solution or a complete alternative. While there is still barely any scientific research to support that these treatments are conclusively beneficial, there is some evidence that certain treatments are helpful and Dr. Robert Hendren of UCSF did several studies with vitamin supplements to analyze their effects.
Dr. Hendren’s studies reveal several supplements that won’t cure autism completely but in his studies certainly make “people do a lot better.” He found that melatonin was a naturally occuring hormone so it was safe to try and recommended for sleep and he also found Methyl B12 was safe and limited research showed it improved social behavior and communication skills. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found in fish and flax seeds, were seen in results to reduce hyperactivity and improve socialization and probiotic supplements could ease gastrointestinal issues. Vitamin D, another vitamin supplement, was also safe and reduced oxidative stress to improve brain health. In addition, while there is no conclusive scientific evidence, gluten and casein free diets, or restricting wheat, barley, oat, rye, and dairy are safe to try and have been used frequently with many positive results. The last thing he noticed was that chelation has been notable for results when used for heavy metal toxicity but it can be very dangerous if done incorrectly.
Hendren believes that these supplements could lessen the common issues that can come with autism, such as intestinal inflammation and anxiety. He believes that with the immune system being stronger, a child would have less contributing stress factors, which could result in less tantrums or self-injuries.
However, one must remember that these results vary based on the individual. One mom, Shannon Des Roches Rosa, who has a 16-year-old son, Leo, with autism tried everything from numerous supplements to restricted diet to acupressure and muscle testing (Bioset) and saw no improvements or changes in Leo. She drew the line right when the doctor began to suggest chelation.
When it comes down to research, the Food and Drug Administration warns about the dangers and sometimes deadly effects of using chelation products and scientific studies of dietary changes and nutritional supplements are hard to conduct blindly and do not have enough motivation to be completed thoroughly.
Dr. Hendren believes that dietary changes should be conducted with the help of a certified nutritionist and when it comes to alternative therapies, he has reviewed the science on more than 90 of these, which can be seen here: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/aurt/2012/870391/
For some, these methods may not be as beneficial and, as Shannon quotes, she has to remember that her son is “going to be okay.” And to not focus on “trying to turn him into someone he isn’t.” For Shannon, the real miracle cure is acceptance and love.