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Parents of Autistic Children Turning to Alternative Treatments
Date:5/2/2010

Little research supports most options, but families driven by need to help, experts say ,,

SUNDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- About one in five children with autism uses alternative treatments to help with the neurodevelopmental disorder, most often a special diet, a new study finds.

Of 1,212 children with an autism spectrum disorder included in the study, about 17 percent were on special diets. More than half of those were on a gluten-free, casein-free diet, which eliminates wheat and dairy products. Other common dietary changes included avoiding processed sugars and taking probiotics, microorganisms found in foods such as yogurt and supplements that may help maintain gut bacterial flora.

"People turn to complementary and alternative treatments anytime they perceive conventional medical treatments as either not doing the job or being too expensive, or that the complementary and alternative treatments are more natural," said Dr. Daniel Coury, medical director of the Autism Treatment Network and a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Ohio State University. "We see the same sorts of reasons among children on the spectrum."

The study was to be presented Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Other alternative treatments parents reported trying for their kids ran the gamut from hyperbaric oxygen, which involves pressurized chambers with oxygen-rich air that usually are used to treat divers with the bends, to chelation therapy, a treatment that removes heavy metals from the body. That treatment stemmed from fears that mercury causes autism, Coury said.

Despite significant publicity about the methods, less than 1 percent of parents had tried them, the study found. And that's a good thing, Coury said, because there's no evidence that either works and some evidence that they might be dangerous.

Parents might be turning to specia
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