New studies published today in the journal Pediatrics about the treatment of autism confirm that some behavioral and medical treatments are effective at the same time that another widely used alternative therapy has been declared to have no benefit. The conclusion, however, is that there is no best overall treatment.
The studies were funded by the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in an effort to compare treatments and their effectiveness in 14 “priority disease areas,” including autism-spectrum disorders.
Autism is a condition marked by social and communication deficits, as well as various other developmental delays. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 110 children in the United States is affected.
One thing that all the reviews agreed upon is that secretin — a gastrointestinal hormone used in the treatment of ulcers — did nothing to improve the condition of a child with autism. The use of secretin was touted as an exciting development in the treatment of autism in the late 90s after three children were reported to have responded positively after being infused with it.
“There’s good evidence that it’s not working,” said Zachary Warren, a study author and director of Vanderbilt’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, to the Wall Street Journal.
Another treatment — early intensive behavioral intervention — can help improve IQ, language skills and day-to-day skills in some autistic children, although more research is still needed.
The reviews also found that antipsychotic medications were somewhat effective in treating “challenging behaviors,” including aggression and disruptive or repetitive behaviors, but the researchers said they weren’t as useful in getting to the core issue of the social interaction issues associated with autism.
In the report, which is written about more extensively in today’s Wall Street Journal, it says that there is enough evidence to suggest that early intervention and diagnosis can make a big difference, even if more and better-quality research was still needed.
The agency that released the findings plans to put out “translation guides” so that parents and caregivers can have a better way to interpret the new reviews and subsequently, the type of treatments that may work best for their children.
April is Autism Awareness Month.