Many parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, prefer to consider alternative treatments to help improve overall health and behavioral problems.
The effectiveness and safety of all alternative treatments has not been fully researched. Every treatment therefore will not work for every individual with autism. A treatment may work for one individual and not for another. Adults with autism and parents of children with autism should always ask a doctor before trying any alternative treatment.
Popular Alternative Treatments for Autism
There is no true cure for ASD. Scientists that research this disorder have been known to say that it is still unknown and more research is needed to confirm whether or not alternative methods actually relieve symptoms.
- Casein/Gluten-Free Diet
One of the popular alternative treatments for autism is following a gluten and casein-free diet. The belief behind this practice is that children with ASD may absorb the proteins in casein (found in dairy products) and gluten (found in barley, oats, wheat and rye) differently than other children do, causing effects on their brain functions. The Autism Society suggests a trial gluten and casein-free diet. Little progress may be seen in one to three months, so it is important to continue this diet to test for possible effects. If patients of autism or their parents want to try this diet, they should start eliminating one (gluten or casein) at a time. See if eliminating just one makes an impact without removing both food items.
It’s necessary to make sure to provide proper nutrition to your child when they’re on a particular diet treatment. You may need to give more calcium-rich, non-dairy foods to your children who are on a casein-free diet.
More than half of all children with autism have difficulties with sleep – the most common is insomnia. Sleep issues affect many children and adults with autism.
Melatonin is a hormone that naturally occurs in brain and it helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin Supplements have been found to help sleep better and reduce insomnia in children with autism. However, the supplements should only be used if ASD is the cause of the sleep issues.
Another popular alternative method involves methyl B12 injections. It is a vitamin supplement. The suggestion is that the vitamin B12 protects against oxidative stress. Limited research shows it develops communication skills and social behavior of autistic person.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and flax seeds. They are also available in supplement form. They help with brain function and development. Some studies shows that adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements to a child’s diet can reduce repetitive behavior and hyperactivity in those who have autism. Some research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help improve socialization in children with autism.
Some studies support the alternative treatment with omega-3 fatty acids, and some studies don’t. A recent study found that children with ASD tolerated omega-3 supplements well but the supplements didn’t help improve their behavioral issues. The study also mentioned that the general health benefits of omega-3 still applied.
Consult with your doctor to know the best way to add these healthy fatty acids to your child’s diet.
Probiotics are supplements with healthy microorganisms that generate the digestive tract. Healthy microbes and Good bacteria are necessary for healthy digestion. Probiotics also regulate immune and inflammation function. According to some studies, inflammation is a causative factor of autism. Healthy digestion and probiotics are very important in reducing inflammation that can have impact on language, cognitive and social development. So, Probiotics can also be useful for children with autism. Parent can use probiotics at appropriate dosages prior to protect the digestive and immune systems of their children. You must identify the proper probiotic formulation and dosages for your children with ASD and follow instruction given by pediatricians.
Behavior issues are a common problem in people with autism. Calming Strategies, such as wearing weighted clothing or deep pressure massage, may soothe agitation in children or adults with autism. Yoga can be helpful for some people to develop their sense of well-being while reducing anxiety.
This treatment is designed to remove heavy metals like mercury and lead from the body, which supporters believe can cause ASD.
There is no solid proof that metals cause autism or evidence that this therapy works. Even it is not an approved treatment for ASD. It can be harmful to some people. This treatment can potentially cause heart problems, organ damage and seizures. It should only be used if heavy metal toxicity is confirmed as it can be injurious if done incorrectly.
This type of therapy is designed to improve sensitivity to touch, sound, light, balance or smell for individual with autism. Sensory therapies for autism are done by an occupational therapist. Typically, the therapist introduce the child with a “sensory diet” plan- in which the he or she slowly involved to activities in a fun, gentle way to help the child get used to various stimulation.