Join CafeMom Today! Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treatments: Alternative autism treatments can be appealing to desperate parents - KansasCity.com

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Alternative autism treatments can be appealing to desperate parents - KansasCity.com

Alternative autism treatments can be appealing to desperate parents - KansasCity.com

After her daughter Jodie was diagnosed with autism, Alison Singer went online, searching desperately for anything that looked like it might help her little girl.

She tried gluten-free and casein-free diets and supplements. She sprinkled something called DMG on her daughter's French toast. She even heard from a doctor who suggested buying a giant electromagnet that could reorganize ions in the brain.

"Parents are very vulnerable when their children are diagnosed. They want to do anything and everything to help their children, and they fall prey to these charlatans peddling the 'cure du jour,'" said Singer, who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Singer's experience illustrates the frustration that often drives parents of autistic children to alternative treatments - including a controversial regimen by a Maryland doctor whose license was suspended recently by the Maryland Board of Physicians. That doctor, Mark Geier, injects some patients with Lupron, a drug approved for use in treating prostate cancer in men and endometriosis in women.

Geier sought Wednesday to have his license reinstated, but the board declined after a hearing that was closed to the public. His lawyer, Joseph A. Schwartz III, framed the situation as a "difference of opinion," with "just as many doctors on our side." Schwartz also said the parents of Geier's patients have signed affidavits calling the charges "a bunch of baloney."

"All we can say now is this stuff works. You can call it a crazy therapy, but it works," Schwartz said about Lupron.

Many parents are desperate to find something - anything - that works.

Families participating in a database at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore - the largest autism database in the world - report using 381 different treatments. On average, families use five treatments simultaneously and spend $500 a month on them. A few use dozens, and the record is 56.

The problem, autism experts say, is that mainstream medicine has been very slow to identify the causes of autism and to identify effective medical or behavioral therapies. Among those now regarded as supported by randomized, controlled scientific studies are the Applied Behavior Analysis and Early Achievements Program used at Kennedy Krieger; certain speech, language and occupational therapies, and melatonin therapy.



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