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Complementary medicine often used for autism

Date Published: 
January 13, 2014

Families often use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for their young children with autism and developmental delay, in addition to conventional therapies and treatments, a new study has found.

The study by UC Davis MIND Institute researchers compared 453 children with autism spectrum disorder and 125 children with developmental delay in their use of CAM. They discovered that 39 percent of the children with autism, and 30 percent of the children with developmental delay, used CAM. Parents who had higher levels of education and income, and whose children received more than 20 hours per week of conventional services, were more likely to use alternative therapies, according to the study in Journal of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics. The children were ages 2 to 5.

CAM treatments included dietary supplements, the gluten-free, casein-free diet, homeopathic remedies, mind-body medicine, melatonin, probiotics, chelation, secretin, and/or vitamin B-12 injections. Researchers noted that some CAM therapies are "potentially unsafe or disproven."1

In a news release, the Institute said, "There is no Food and Drug Administration-approved medical treatment for the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder."2