Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Be Open to Parents' Ideas on Autism Treatments

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Be Open to Parents' Ideas on Autism Treatments

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- When conventional approaches fail to help autistic children, parents who suggest alternative treatments should not be ignored, according to Dr. Robert L. Hendren.

Instead, it's better to talk to them about their ideas and keep an open mind, said Dr. Hendren, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. "I try to weigh the evidence [with families], but if they're doing something I think is dangerous, or they're avoiding other kinds of treatments, I tend to tell them," he said.

When there's no harm to an alternative treatment, after a few months, Dr. Hendren said he will help parents assess whether it is working and ask them to reconsider his treatment ideas.

The reasoned approach means parents feel comfortable telling him the alternatives they're trying and letting alternative practitioners know that Dr. Hendren is involved in the case, he said. Also, with evidence emerging that mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic inflammation, maternal toxin exposure, oxidative stress, and other problems might play a role in autism, some treatments now considered alternative eventually might prove useful, he said at the update, sponsored by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Hendren analyzed the evidence -or lack thereof - for many of the currently hot complementary and alternative approaches.

Casein and gluten-free diets are among them. There's no harm, so long as families work with nutritionists to ensure that children get enough calcium and protein, he said. There's no harm in trying glutathione, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, either; Dr. Hendren, in fact, prescribes the latter two for his own patients. Evidence is lacking, however, for amino acids, thyroid supplements, and antifungals. "I don't think the jury is in on methyl [B.sub.12] [injections] yet," he said.

Chelation is hot for autism, too, but "I don't think there's any reason to try it," he said. "I don't tell parents that they ought to do it, but I say at least find somebody who knows what they're doing," he said.

What are known to help autistic children, among other things, are speech and occupational therapy, cognitive-behavioral treatments, social skills training, and reducing stress by, for instance, removing children from upsetting situations. …

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