Complementary Therapies and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Susan L. Hyman, Susan E. Levy

Cite this article as: CEPiP 2014;1:156-162

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While recent studies have suggested that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the result of genetic predisposition with environmental influences, conventional interventions usually focus on overall skills and function, using behavioral, communication, educational and pharmacologic methods. Conventional treatments are intense, complex and resource heavy, but may not target specific symptoms which have great impact on family life. As a result, families may seek non-standard treatments they perceive to treat the cause(s) of their child’s symptoms and/or ASD. These novel therapies, also known as complementary, and/or alternative medical (CAM) or integrative treatments, are frequently promoted in the public domain and proof for effectiveness may not include scientific evidence. This paper describes commonly used CAM therapies and summarizes a framework for evaluating the claims of effectiveness, potential harm and how to work with families who may elect to pursue them.