Complementary medicine popular for treating children with autism

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In a study which looked at the range of treatments parents use for their children with autism and other developmental delays, UC Davis MIND researchers found that families often use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The most frequent users of conventional and complementary approaches are those parent with higher levels of education and income. There is no FDA approved medical treatment for the core symptoms of autism. With no cure, many children suffer from a wide variety of symptoms which include irritability, hyperactivity, gastrointestinal problems and sleep disorders. This can make their lives stressful.

Use alternative approaches in addition to other treatment

Some treatments parents try are mind-body medicine like meditation or prayer, homeopathic remedies, probiotics, alternative diets or more invasive therapies such as vitamin B-12 shots, intravenous immunoglobulin or chelation therapy. Some of these treatments are risky. “In our Northern California study population, it does not appear that families use complementary and alternative treatments due to lack of availability of conventional services, as has been suggest by other research,” Hansen reported. “Rather, they use the treatments in addition to conventional approaches.”

Almost half using CAM

Nearly 600 diverse children between 2 and 5 years with autism or developmental delays were recruited for the study. CAM use was more common for children diagnosed with autism than developmental disorders, 40% compared to 30%. Nearly 7% of autistic children were on gluten free diets. “We were pleased to find that most families utilizing CAM therapies were choosing ones that were low risk,” explained Kathleen Angkustsiri, assistant professor of developmental and behavioral pediatrics and a study co-author.

Urgent need for effective treatments

“These finding emphasize the enormous and urgent need for effective treatments and for rigorous research that can identify them and verify their effectiveness and safety,” Hertz-Picciotto, professor of public health sciences and principal investigator, explained. “Of course it is reasonable for parents to keep searching for ways to help their children, when there are few effective treatments and none that can help every child.”

Source: Journal of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, MedicalNewsToday

 
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