Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Autism Treatments - Only Behavioral Intervention Is Proven Effective

James Mulick, and several graduate psychology students, presented a symposium on “Outrageous Developmental Disabilities Treatments” Aug. 20 in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. The focus of the symposium was the multitude of fad treatments, some of them dangerous, which have accompanied the explosive growth in numbers of autism diagnoses. Ineffective or unproven treatments like special diets or nutritional supplements, Megadoses of Vitamins C and B6, and supplements with fatty acids like omega-3s were discussed. Chelation therapy, the medicinal removal of substances such as mercury from the body, was identified as being not only unproven, but also dangerous and potentially deadly. The conference also mentioned the one proven treatment to date - early intensive behavioral intervention:

While other treatments are still being investigated, right now the only therapy that has been shown to have a long-term positive affect on autism is called Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention, Mulick said.

EIBI is a highly structured approach to learning, in which children with autism are taught first to imitate their teachers. But this treatment is very time-consuming and labor intensive. It involves one-on-one behavioral treatment with the child for up to 40 hours a week for several years.

“It’s expensive and difficult for many parents to use,” Mulick said. “That’s got to be one reason other treatments look attractive to them.”

Mulick said other treatments and therapies are being studied. However, it takes years to test treatments for autism because of the nature of the disease and problems with proving effectiveness.

“Autism studies are a long, time-consuming, and expensive process,” Mulick said. “And some of the fad treatments being used today would never be approved for testing – they are just too dangerous.”

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