Treatment for autism spectrum disorders should always involve evidence-based treatment options. The National Standards Project has reviewed all of the available evidence supporting commonly used treatment approaches and many complementary and alternative treatments, and has compiled a report that categorizes each approach as either Established (proven effective), Emerging (growing evidence), Un-established (no evidence or proven ineffective), or Harmful (evidence suggests the treatment is harmful). The full NSP report can be found HERE.
Many children diagnosed with autism also have comorbid (co-existing) medical conditions, including seizures, metabolic disorders, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal disease. The Arkansas Children’s Hospital Autism Specialty Clinic (ASC) provides multi-specialty treatment services for children with a formal diagnosis of Autism/Asperger/PDD-NOS. The pediatric specialty services represented in the clinic include Gastroenterology, Nutrition, Genetics and Genetic Counselling, Neurology and Sleep Disorders. The clinic serves children with autism who need to be seen by specialty providers as well as individual follow-up patients. The clinic, which is held Tuesday mornings in the Neuroscience Outpatient Center at ACH, is staffed by the Clinic’s Medical Director Dr. Richard Frye (Neurology),Dr. George Fuchs (Gastroenterology and Nutrition) and Dr. Steve Kahler and Ani Saronwala (Genetics and Genetics Counseling). For appointment scheduling, contact the Autism Multidisciplinary Specialty Clinic by telephone at (501) 364-4000, Enter Option 5 for Pod 5
There are some complementary/alternative treatments that are unproven, but that many parents report have been helpful to their children. This article from Autism Speaks provides some guidance for parents and some information on current research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment approaches for autism. In general, before starting any CAM treatment, parents should check with their child’s physician to make sure that it is safe and to ask for referrals to any specialists who may be needed to assist with the intervention. For example, before trying a dietary intervention it is a good idea to meet with a registered dietician to ensure your child has adequate nutritional intake. Also remember that CAM treatment approaches should complement, not replace, evidence-based treatment approaches.
The field of biomedical research in autism is growing, and we have a number of studies being conducted here in Arkansas. At the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, leaders in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are conducting basic, clinical, and translational research to help children affected by ASDs and their families. Their research works toward providing a deeper understanding of the psychological, behavioral, and physiological mechanisms that cause ASD and prevent recovery. Current research projects include measuring the impact of oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, and environmental stressors on ASD. The clinical program incorporates investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored clinical trials, development of an autism clinical diagnosis and care system, and collaborations with neurologists, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, geneticists, and others. Together, these efforts will improve the development of novel behavioral and medical therapies to accelerate and optimize recovery of children diagnosed with ASD and develop strategies for preventing ASD from developing in high-risk children. For more information about the autism research at ACHRI, visit the Arkansas Autism Alliance website HERE.