Psychiatric Annals

Feature Articles 

Scientifically Unsupported Therapies in the Treatment of Young Children with Autism Disorders

Merryl A. Schechtman, MD

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the most puzzling forms of developmental disability. This term refers to a spectrum of pervasive developmental disorders sharing deficits in three major domains: social relatedness and interactivity, communication, and restricted interests and/or stereotypic or repetitive behaviors with difficult transitions. Studies have investigated genetic factors, neurologic, immunologic, and early environmental insults. ASD are lifelong, often severe disorders impacting all facets of individual, family, and community function. Relationships are disrupted, and socially inappropriate behaviors are prominent. Often these children do not cope well with change, making it difficult for families to go out in public places. Children may become aggressive, self-injurious, or resort to self-stimulatory behaviors, which serve to calm them. Although the underlying causes of ASD have not been clarified, several promising interventions have been developed utilizing behavioral techniques, educational programs, and pharmacotherapy to address the symptoms of this disorder. The prognosis for truly normal function is guarded, even with availability of standard therapies, a factor often leading to parental desperation and the willingness to invest in newer approaches to treatment. Effective evidence-based services may also not be available or in short supply. Standard therapies may require much time to see progress, and therefore some parents may be willing to grasp at the promise of a “quick fix.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merryl A. Schechtman, MD, is Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Infant Preschool Unit, Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, Rose F. Kennedy Center.

Address correspondence to: Merryl A. Schechtman, MD, 1410 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, New York 10461; fax 718-892-2296.

Dr. Schechtman has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Identify the domains of complementary and alternative therapy.
  2. Describe the basis for the brain-gut connection hypothesis in autism spectrum disorders.
  3. Discuss sensory issues in children with autism and sensory integration therapy.

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the most puzzling forms of developmental disability. This term refers to a spectrum of pervasive developmental disorders sharing deficits in three major domains: social relatedness and interactivity, communication, and restricted interests and/or stereotypic or repetitive behaviors with difficult transitions. Studies have investigated genetic factors, neurologic, immunologic, and early environmental insults. ASD are lifelong, often severe disorders impacting all facets of individual, family, and community function. Relationships are disrupted, and socially inappropriate behaviors are prominent. Often these children do not cope well with change, making it difficult for families to go out in public places. Children may become aggressive, self-injurious, or resort to self-stimulatory behaviors, which serve to calm them. Although the underlying causes of ASD have not been clarified, several promising interventions have been developed utilizing behavioral techniques, educational programs, and pharmacotherapy to address the symptoms of this disorder. The prognosis for truly normal function is guarded, even with availability of standard therapies, a factor often leading to parental desperation and the willingness to invest in newer approaches to treatment. Effective evidence-based services may also not be available or in short supply. Standard therapies may require much time to see progress, and therefore some parents may be willing to grasp at the promise of a “quick fix.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merryl A. Schechtman, MD, is Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Infant Preschool Unit, Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, Rose F. Kennedy Center.

Address correspondence to: Merryl A. Schechtman, MD, 1410 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, New York 10461; fax 718-892-2296.

Dr. Schechtman has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Identify the domains of complementary and alternative therapy.
  2. Describe the basis for the brain-gut connection hypothesis in autism spectrum disorders.
  3. Discuss sensory issues in children with autism and sensory integration therapy.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the most puzzling forms of developmental disability. This term refers to a spectrum of pervasive developmental disorders sharing deficits in three major domains: social relatedness and interactivity, communication, and restricted interests and/or stereotypic or repetitive behaviors with difficult transitions. Studies have investigated genetic factors, neurologic, immunologic, and early environmental insults. ASD are lifelong, often severe disorders impacting all facets of individual, family, and community function. Relationships are disrupted, and socially inappropriate behaviors are prominent. Often these children do not cope well with change, making it difficult for families to go out in public places. Children may become aggressive, self-injurious, or resort to self-stimulatory behaviors, which serve to calm them. Although the underlying causes of ASD have not been clarified, several promising interventions have been developed utilizing behavioral techniques, educational programs, and pharmacotherapy to address the symptoms of this disorder. The prognosis for truly normal function is guarded, even with availability of standard therapies, a factor often leading to parental desperation and the willingness to invest in newer approaches to treatment. Effective evidence-based services may also not be available or in short supply. Standard therapies may require much time to see progress, and therefore some parents may be willing to grasp at the promise of a “quick fix.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merryl A. Schechtman, MD, is Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Infant Preschool Unit, Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, Rose F. Kennedy Center.

Address correspondence to: Merryl A. Schechtman, MD, 1410 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, New York 10461; fax 718-892-2296.

Dr. Schechtman has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Identify the domains of complementary and alternative therapy.
  2. Describe the basis for the brain-gut connection hypothesis in autism spectrum disorders.
  3. Discuss sensory issues in children with autism and sensory integration therapy.

10.3928/00485713-20070901-05

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