As the arising challenges in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues, finding effective means of addressing these problems has also been a priority of the medical and healthcare sectors. There is no known cure for ASD, but there is a range of unique behavioral and educational programs that can help control the symptoms of it. Various alternative treatments have been developed through the collaboration of the diverse group of medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products to replace conventional treatments and help treat the overall health and possible behavioral problems of autism.
Autism Diet. “Autism is a result of neurological differences in the structure of the brain that distinguish it from what we call the neurotypical brain. It is not mental illness or a personality disorder.” Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC said. Behaviors such as aggression, giddiness, self–abuse, sleepiness, and zoning out are significant concerns in autism. Hence, a gluten-and-dairy-free diet has been developed to help control the manifestation of these behaviors. Gluten (a protein substance usually found in wheat and other grains) and casein (a protein found in milk), are inflammatory substances which are known to be digestive irritants and can stimulate the mood when these peptides combine with opioid receptors in the brain. Nonetheless, in a recent study conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of this diet regarding behavior and bowel pattern of children with ASD no substantial difference was made.
To aid in the delayed brain development of a child with autism, omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils and supplements has been recommended for ASD children. The substance can also improve the repetitive and hyperactive behavior in ASD. “Eat a healthful diet, that is low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Specific dietary factors that may be beneficial in depression are the B-complex vitamins (found in whole grains) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, fish oil, and flax seeds),” says ADAA member Stephanie Kriesberg, PsyD
Sleep deprivation is another health concern in ASD because 50% of the population with ASD have complaints about having sleeping problems, insomnia being the most common. Thus, the intake of supplementary melatonin has been included in the alternative treatment of ASD. Melatonin known to be a naturally occurring hormone helps control the sleeping and waking patterns thus improving sleep and later on can result in decreased behavioral symptoms during the day.
Alongside these alternative diets, it is crucial that the child is receiving proper nutrition because nutrition is vital since children with ASD may experience poor eating habits due to the behavioral changes they have. Giving adequate food can also be difficult especially when a child is on a special diet, there should be a gradual phase-in changing or introducing a new menu and making sure that the child is still receiving a balanced diet.
Keep Calm and Carry On. Behavioral problems are common issues in autism. Thus, relaxation techniques such as therapeutic massage and deep breathing exercises provide a calming effect on the body and help alleviate stress and agitation. Music therapy has also been considered to be an effective way of helping a child with ASD keep calm and focused
Chelation Therapy. Known as a treatment in poisoning from heavy metals such as lead or mercury, this still has not been approved as an alternative treatment for ASD as there has not been any study that proves metal to be a cause of autism and no substantial evidence that can manifest that the treatment is effective. “Children can be reliably diagnosed as early as 2-years-old and can start to receive early intervention and behavioral health services as soon as they are identified. Receiving therapy early on can significantly minimize the impact of the disorder.” Melissa Brand, Psy.D said.
These alternative treatments have been tried to estimate 30-95% of children with ASD; however, some of these alternative treatments have not been thoroughly researched, and some have been found out to be effective. Nonetheless, the use of alternative therapies should be used with caution and proper medical consultation to choose the appropriate alternative treatment for every child with ASD.