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Many children with autism may receive complementary or alternative treatments

A significant percentage of children recently diagnosed with autism receive complementary or alternative medicine treatments, some of which are potentially harmful, according to a research team from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The researchers reviewed charts for 284 patients evaluated at the Hospital's Regional Autism Center for autistic spectrum disorder. They found that 90 children, or 32 percent of the total, were using complementary and alternative medicine, with 25 children (9 percent of the total) using a potentially harmful approach.

Latino children were more likely to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) compared to other groups of children, according to lead author Susan E. Levy, M.D., while those with additional, non-autistic disorders or cognitive deficits were less likely to do so.

The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The researchers caution that the data they found at one clinical location may not reflect figures for the entire population of children with autism.

"Some of these CAM treatments may alleviate problems associated with autism, such as sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems, but the treatments are unlikely to resolve core symptoms of the disorder," said Dr. Levy, director of the Regional Autism Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "There is no cure for autism, but experts conclude that the best way to improve core symptoms involves intensive behavioral and educational methods," she added.

Nevertheless, parents of some autistic children may choose to try other sources of treatment in hopes of alleviating symptoms of the condition.

Dr. Levy and colleagues divide the nontraditional treatments into four categories. First, there are unproven but harmless biological treatments that have no basis in medical theory (like vitamin B6, gastrointestinal medications or antifungal a
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Contact: Erin McDermott
McDermotte@email.chop.edu
267-426-6071
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
14-Jan-2004


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