UC Davis MIND Institute researchers conducted a study early this year that examined the utilization of conventional treatments and utilization of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for preschoolers with autism and other developmental delays.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Developmental delay refers to a child who is not achieving milestones within the age range of that normal variability.
The study revealed that the use of CAM was common in 40% of families of young children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Some of the CAM therapies used included homeopathic remedies, probiotics, alternative diets and intravenous immunoglobulin or chelation therapy.
Complementary and alternative medical treatments are commonly used for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Some CAM practices have emerging evidence to support their use.
Families who seek out CAM therapies for their children do so with the hopes of finding a cure or because of recommendations by friends or families of other children with ASD. Parents who use CAM for their children tend to use it for their own health. Parents do not seek out CAM because of dissatisfaction with conventional medicine but seek out the therapies due to side effects of conventional medicine, a desire to include multiple approaches to address symptoms and their own personal beliefs about health.
The following treatments are based on existing literature based from sound studies.
Music therapy is in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.
Numerous studies support the use of music therapy for autism.
Studies have shown that children with autism who participate in parent-child music therapy in addition to their early intervention program has shown to have a significant effect on social interaction and parent-child relationship.
Children have also shown improvements in joint affections and actions of social engagement, increased self-esteem, educed self-reported anxiety, and more positive attitudes towards peers and social functioning.
Dietary supplements are substances that you eat or drink. Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, amino acids.
Some studies indicate that dietary supplements can provide some benefit in the treatment of autism.
Vitamin B6 and Magensium
Back in 2006, French researchers had confirmed that vitamin B6 and magnesium significantly improves communication and behavior and helps to normalize biochemistry in children with autism.
Over 20 studies have examined vitamin B6 and magnesium for autism. Most of the studies had found 40 to 50% of children and adults benefited from high-supplementation of vitamin B6 and magnesium.
There is mixed evidence about whether vitamin B6 with our without magnesium improves social, language or other functioning in some individuals with autism.
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland in response to darkness. Levels remain high during sleep until the pineal gland tapers off production in response to light. There is strong research evidence to suggest that melatonin may be effective in reducing sleep disturbances in some individuals with autism.
One such study conducted in 2010 had found that melatonin is associated with improved sleep parameters, better daytime behavior, and minimal side effects.
Omega – 3 fatty acids
Omega -3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients for health. These fatty acids are needed for several body functions including controlling blood clotting. Omega – 3 fatty acids have been shown to help treat many health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Sometimes this fatty acid is used as an alternative treatment for autism.
A recent study from e University of California, San Francisco and the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, had examined whether omega – 3 fatty acids could reduce hyperactivity in children with autism as suggested from previous studies.
Researchers had recruited 57 children between the ages of 5 and 8 and randomly assigned them to a treatment group that received pudding packets containing an orange-flavored gel with Omega-3 fatty acids and a control group that received similar packets containing safflower oil instead of the Omega-3 fatty acids.
The results showed that the group who had received the Omega-3 fatty acids showed a greater reduction in hyperactivity.
Therapeutic Touch is when practitioner’s place their hands on or near their patient’s body with the intention to help or heal. In doing so, therapists believe that they are consciously directing or modulating an individual’s energies by interacting with his or her energy field.
The focus is on balancing the energies of the total person and stimulating the body’s own natural healing ability rather than on the treatment of specific physical diseases.
Children with autism receiving this therapy show less erratic behavior and are more attentive.
It is beneficial in reducing tough inattentiveness, touch aversion and withdrawal. This therapy also helps the child to become more accepting of tactile stimulation (o using the sense of touch to stimulate), and helps in body awareness.
Chiropractic adjustments refer to a chiropractor applying manipulation to the vertebrae that have abnormal movement patterns or fail to function normally.
A systematic review in 2011, found that preliminary studies suggest that chiropractic adjustments attenuate sensorimotor integration (the relationship between the sensory system and the motor system). The researchers encouraged further research for definitive studies on chiropractic’s effectiveness for autism.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment.