Friday, October 30, 2009

Clinic Notes: What Has More Research on Autism Told Us?

A decade or so back, when it became apparent that we were in the midst of an "autism epidemic" the call was repeatedly made for more research into the potential causes of autism and effective treatment options. Now so much autism research is being done I have trouble keeping up with it. Well, I think it is time to ask the question, "What have we learned?" from all of the research. Of course trying to answer this question will generate a lot of arguments--some very volatile, but I have no agenda and will try to answer these questions as I see them.
I think the evidence is compelling that in most cases of autism mercury is not involved. When mercury was taken out of vaccines rates did not drop and in countries where vaccinations are not mandatory the rates of autism are the same in vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups.
Secondly, I don't think in most cases of autism gastrointestinal disorders are a factor. Most of the children with autism who have come to my clinic over the years do not have gastrointestinal problems. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic confirmed this. Gastrointestinal disorders do not occur at a higher rate in children with autism.
Chelation therapy, gluten free diets, and hyperbaric chambers do not cure or even improve the lives of children with autism. All evidence to the contrary is anecdotal and has not been confirmed in double-blind studies. I realize this will not set easy with many people. But I am in the trenches, treating autism daily and I just don't see progress in children who have had these therapies and I think the research is as conclusive as research can be. Research should continue, but it is time to move on to areas of research that have more potential.