Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 1 in every 88 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism is characterized by impairments in social relatedness and communication, repetitive behaviors, abnormal movements, and sensory dysfunction. Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed on the basis of behavioral parameters, there are many underlying biomedical factors which can contribute to these symptoms. Therapies directed at these underlying factors may be helpful in decreasing symptoms of autism. For example, recent studies have found chronic inflammation in the brains of children with autism, raising the possibility that treatments directed against inflammation may be helpful.
The Autism Research Institute asked parents to rate the effectiveness of numerous biomedical treatments. As of 2008, over 26,000 parents had evaluated more than 80 interventions. Detoxification was considered helpful by 74% of parents. Other highly rated therapies and the percentage of children that “got better” included: gluten/casein-free diet, 66%; food allergy treatment 64%; methylcobalamin, 56% (nasal) and 67% (subcutaneous); and essential fatty acid therapy, 56%. Interestingly, parents reported that more children “got worse” with conventional drug therapy (including amphetamines, methyphenidate, antipsychotics, and antidepressants) than with biomedical/non-drug treatment, nutritional supplements, or special diets. It is thought that the earlier treatment is started, the better the results.