In a gripping series exploring autism and its treatments, the Los Angeles Times reports that “after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.”
According to results of the investigation, “the therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly,” with many being “unproven and risky, based on flawed, preliminary or misconstrued scientific research.”
Moreover, “lab tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted,” and “the few clinical trials conducted to evaluate the treatments objectively” have yielded “disappointing results.”
The Times reports that “up to three-quarters of families with children who have autism try at least some alternative therapies.”
While some physicians and people in the autism “recovery movement … say their treatment protocols rest on a foundation of solid science,” the Tribune discovered “otherwise after speaking with dozens of scientists and physicians and reviewing thousands of pages of research and court testimony.”
Chelation seen as emblematic of alternative therapies for autism
The Los Angeles Times is also reporting, “No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.”
But, according to “pediatric toxicology experts … all chelation” medications “carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children.”
Barbara Strupp, PhD, of Cornell University, said that when “rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation.”
In fact, after Strupp “learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings,” and the “study was later canceled.”
Alternative therapies seen as getting undeserved credit
In their final report on the topic, the Los Angeles Times reports that stories of “children who could suddenly speak” are, “for many parents … more persuasive than what experts say.”
Nevertheless, “in evaluating a therapy, the challenge is determining how much, if any, of the progress can be credited to the treatment,” because, “over time, children with autism do develop, said” pediatric neurologist and autism expert Max Wiznitzer, MD.”
In fact, “between 10% and 20% of children with autism who were diagnosed early may make so much progress that they are indistinguishable from peers,” and whether or not they are “undergoing alternative therapies,” said Susan Levy, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, progress which parents may attribute to alternative therapies.
You can read more about evaluating alternative therapies and natural medicines in my book Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.