Friday, 15 October 2010

The autism industry

As a mum desperate to help my severely autistic child, headlines such as - ‘How diet cured my son’s autism,’ always grabbed my attention. I felt sceptical. Either the child had been misdiagnosed & wasn't autistic in the first place - or the parents were fooling themselves.

It's easy to get sucked into the huge autism industry that feeds on families like ours. Understandably, parents want to do whatever they can for their child, but some such claims risk giving parents false hope. I constantly felt guilty that I wasn't doing enough to help my daughter, Chrissy. I wasted lots of time researching treatments including vitamin therapies, speical diets & environmental medicine in the hope that it might help her but, as she has a history of adverse reactions to various mainstream medications, I feared alternative therapies could cause more harm than good.

A third of parents of autistic children have tried unproven 'alternative' treatment in their search for a cure and one in ten has used what medical experts class as a 'potentially harmful approach.'

I eventually tried Chrissy, who's now 27, on the gluten & casein free diet for several months. She became anorexic & it had NO effect on her autistic behaviours.

The truth is, there is currently no 'cure' for autism. My view is that we will eventually identify more chromosome anomalies that pre-dispose people to autism. Four years ago, it emerged that Chrissy’s autism and learning disability was caused by a rare chromosome anomaly. No diet or vitamin regime can treat that. You can adapt the environment & use communication strategies to help someone with autism cope better - but you can only go so far with these approaches. I hope one day someone will come up with more effective drug treatments than the one-size-fits-all anti-psychotic drugs that learning disability psychiatrists prescribe now. Anti-psychotics don't work for everyone & can cause nasty side-effects, such as increased agitation & substantial weight gain. Maybe when we know more about the causes of autism & have better treatments, we parents won't waste so much time trying to 'fix' our children.

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