According to some estimates, more than half of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) try complementary and alternative treatments (CATs). When you’re the parent of such a child you can find references to so many alternative treatments that purport to bring relief (online and through word of mouth), that you run the risk of wasting precious time money and energy in pursuit.
This is not to say parents shouldn’t scour reputable sources for new or old treatment options.
Robert Hendren, DO, Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Nicholas Lofthouse, PhD, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Ohio State University, are two authors of a review of various CATs.
Lofthouse and colleagues reviewed 13 orally administered (ingestible) and 6 externally administered (noningestible) CATs for ASD. For each, they described its definition, rationale for use/mechanism, current research support (eg, open-label trials or randomized controlled trials), safety issues, limitations, and future directions. They also applied a clinical guideline and evaluated treatments based on whether they are sensible, easy, inexpensive, and safe.
The authors had three categories in which to place a therapy, “recommended”, “acceptable” or “not recommended.”
The authors recommended 3 CATs: melatonin RDI, multivitamin/mineral, and massage therapy.
“There is some good scientific evidence for these, and they also seem sensible, easy, and relatively cheap and safe,” said Lofthouse. Several CATs are worth considering for short, monitored trials, if conventional treatments for ASD and the recommended CATs have been given a reliable trial and have been found ineffective or if patients and parents refused conventional treatments, suggested the authors.
The article elaborates on the other categories as well.