Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Have You Tried (X, Y, or Z) for Your Autism?

I was asked about my diet again, a question that seems to be asked about a third of the time when I discuss autism with groups. This inevitably leads to parents (and some support providers) starting to argue about the various "treatments" such as the gluten free diets or pressure chambers. Yes, I've been asked if I've tried everything from "detox" procedures to special pads you stand on to "drain heavy metals" from your body.

My blunt answer on diets? You do not want to take away my chocolate, processed sugar, and don't even dream of touching my pasta dinners. I'd rather die young than give up my favorite foods. My favorite foods are all "bad" for me, which is why I don't eat pasta or chocolate cake every night.

Caffeine makes me sleepy, as does too much sugar, so my wife is more than content to have me drink a mocha before bedtime. Personally, I prefer to stick to herbal teas with honey or Splenda. I do not get caffeine migraines, unless I'm already dealing with a headache. If I have a headache, I'm wise enough to know not to drink coffee.

I've had speech therapy, physical therapy (most recently in 2006), and educational therapy (ways to deal with reading and writing issues). I've written about my support experiences and I'm openly hostile to most therapies. They are not for me — they actually increase my anxiety and frustration. Physical therapy is about the only support I've found useful, especially for back and shoulder pain.

If you want to try a therapy, as long as it does no harm to your child, I'm not going to stop you. I've written that if you want to try something unsupported by research, I'll defend your right to do so within certain limits. I don't support your right to place a child at physical risk, but I also recognize I'm not going to persuade anyone that there are industries seeking to make money from autism "treatments" with little or no scientific evidence of success.

A few years ago, I met a Ph.D. from a University of California campus. She had a Ph.D. in something related to "holistic medicine" and a master's degree in "Native American Studies." She suggested I hang some odd looking wood and feather mobile above my bed to treat my sensory issues. Because she was a "doctor" parents took her advice seriously. She even suggested natural crystals for some health issues.

You want to buy crystals? My sister works in a store more than happy to sell you all the crystals you might want. They can also schedule an aura reading and tarot consultation. That's okay with me. Unless you are refusing basic medical care and supports for your child, try whatever makes you feel better. You have the right to try dreamcatchers and whatever you want.

The one "therapy" that made me cringe more than any other was bee stings. There is no way, none, that I would ever allow someone to use bee stings on me. How in the world does that treat autism? I already hate stinging insects. I have no desire to try them as a medical treatment. An alternative, offered for sale at a conference, was "special" honey. It looked like a dark honey, like I've seen at the Minnesota State Fair.

Sure, some "alternative" treatments have scientific connections. Bee stings have been found to affect people with some allergies. But that doesn't mean stings will cure autism or depression, two things I've heard at autism conferences.

When I speak, I tell parents I'm not going to recommend any "treatment" for autism. I'm not going to tell you what I believe "THE" treatment might be. I have no idea. What I do know is that someone makes money selling those hyperbaric chambers at autism conferences. Someone is making money selling crystals, too.

I like weighted blankets, but I don't consider them therapy. I like honey, too. I'm sure there are plenty of "non-autistics" who like weighted blankets and honey.

Many parents try everything and anything to help cope with the nature of autism. That's understandable. But, at my age, I'm not interested in experimenting with dozens of "treatments." Don't take that to mean that I don't understand your desire to help or your aim to help your child. I do comprehend that you are willing to try whatever might help your child. That's a normal impulse for parents.

Even if I had all the evidence in the world, I'm not going to convince one parent to stop an alternative therapy. I'm not going to persuade anyone that a diet might not be worth the extra money. All I can say is that nothing I tried really changed who I am or improved my daily experiences.

That's okay. I am what I am… with or without chocolate. So, I'll take the Tiramisu with cocoa after my baked seafood pasta at Little Italy. And then I'll take a nap.

2 comments:

  1. This is a great post - you express it so beautifully. I've lost count of the number of people who have offered me "cures" for my son's ASD or suggested that he didn't have a disorder at all but some other thing that could be easily fixed.

    I agree that if someone finds a dietary therapy or whatever helpful then that's great. But I'm loathe to accept that therapy as a cure for anything.

    There is a gluten intolerance in my own family - I know not eating gluten makes me feel better and probably makes my son feel better too but it still won't cure his Aspergers because that is how his brain is wired.

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  2. Hi C.S. Wyatt,

    Interesting post! Would you be interested in sharing your articles with other like-minded child development bloggers, coaches and parents. We are building a community on our website: http://bit.ly/ozuEwN containing links to informative articles about the issues that are relevant to parents raising children and we think your articles are a great fit!

    If you are interested and want to learn more about this, please send an email to communityvoice@sportball.ca

    Thanks,
    Stacey

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