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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

The Alternatives to Traditional Therapy.

The traditional therapy options are highly researched and effective, which is why they exist as good and viable options for families and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, those are not the only options and they aren't perfect for every family for reasons that are unique to the individuals seeking and/or needing the treatments. Dr. Robin K. Blitz, board-certified developmental pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, wrote an article titled "Complementary & Alternative Therapies for Autism" for the website Because she has worked in the field for over thirty years and aimed her studies and practice specifically toward children with special needs, she provides knowledgable and trustworthy information to parents who are searching for options that are better suited to them and their child's needs, which may not fall within the bubble of traditional treatment options. CAM stands for complementary and alternative medicine and it is often used to offer an approach that is a bit more outside of the box than traditional medical care. Under the umbrella of CAM falls integrative, alternative and complementary therapies, like yoga, massage, herbal remedies, mindfulness, biological treatments (melatonin, homeopathy, chelation, antifungals), diets or supplements, acupuncture and hyperbaric oxygen. Parents may wish to use CAM if their child is experiencing other medical issues, which are likely for children with ASD, like chronic constipation, diarrhea, feeding disorders, abdominal pain, celiac disease, gastroesophageal reflux, seizures, sleep problems and/or any number of behavioral or psychological disorders. Before deciding whether CAM is right for your child, recognize first that while the treatments can be very helpful, there is limited research on the benefits and safety of these methods. You will also want to make sure that if your child is taking any medications, that CAM treatments are not going to negative interact with their current prescriptions. Also, be prepared for these therapies to be expensive as they are not typically covered by insurance because of their use of herbal medications rather than FDA approved prescriptions. Dr. Blitz's provides a list of things to consider with CAM that you will want to keep in mind as you are doing your own research and choosing whether to try it or not. First, be careful with "natural" items. Unfortunately, not everything that is labeled as "natural" or "organic" is harmless and they can either interfere with other medications, have their own unpleasant side effects and/or be dangerous if taken in too large an amount. Secondly, be wary of biological treatments, including hyperbaric oxygen secretin (gastorintestinal hormone), chelatin therapies and antifungals. While these treatments claim to, and are aimed to, improve communication in children with ASD or improve problematic behaviors, they may not and they may end up being hazardous to your child in the end. Next, don't jump on the nutrition bandwagon regardless of how popular special diets and supplements may be as they may not be safe or necessary for your child. It is best to discuss your child's nutrition requirements with their doctor because there could possibly be a medical reason for them needing an alternative diet, but it may also just be pointless to adjust that aspect of their life if not. In your review of CAM, you will also want to treat music therapy and equine-assisted therapy as add-ons. While musical or horse-back riding activities may be exceptionally fun for your child, there is currently any scientific evidence that proves they are helpful at aiding or relieving the core ASD symptoms. So, just view them as possible beneficial therapies in other ways than just addressing problematic behaviors or symptoms. If your child has sleep issues you may want to consider melatonin as an option for decreasing these issues. Like most things though, you should always consult your child's doctor before giving the melatonin just in case they have concerns or other suggestions. Lastly, never replace regular treatments with CAM options as it can be very dangerous to your child. These options can assist the other treatments and further build on those goals, but they should not be used as the sole treatment plan for your child. Omega-3 fatty acids, Acupuncture, Modified mindfulness-based therapy, massage therapies, like Qigong massage and/or Oxtytocin are all also included in the various forms of CAM therapies. So far, there is no clear evidence that these forms of therapy assist children with ASD, so they shouldn't be used in place of any suggested treatments from your child's traditional treatment plans. Lastly, always talk with your pediatrician before making any changes or trying something new. Your child's pediatrician is part of your support system and it is important to utilize them as a resource for creating the best plan for you child. Their main goal, as well as your own, is to keep your child healthy and safe, so work as a team with them to sort through all of the options out there to find the most appropriate and effective for your child's unique set of needs. Finding the right treatment option for your child can be daunting as there is a plethora of information out there, but if do your research, talk openly with your child and their pediatrician and work with your family to determine a good schedule, then it will all pay off as you watch your child prosper and grow.

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