Post as I go
I am trying to sift through information available about biomedical interventions used in treating symptoms of autism. I realize that my approach is not scholarly or academic, but I would like to write a series of posts that chronicle my efforts to discover what biomedical intervention options are and how I could implement them if I had a child with autism.
If I put myself in the role of a parent, I would have the following questions:
1) What is wrong with my child; could my child be autistic?
2) What are my options, if the initial screenings indicate autism?
3) What are biomedical interventions?
4) How do I know which interventions are appropriate?
In my first post about biomedical intervention, I defined the term; I also defined autism and the two-step autism screening process recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
A search for autism diagnosis and treatment revealed the following information from a number of different sources. Below, I quote from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:
“ASD varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:
- No babbling or pointing by age 1
- No single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
- No response to name
- Loss of language or social skills
- Poor eye contact
- Excessive lining up of toys or objects
- No smiling or social responsiveness.” 
The same site states that, although there is no cure for autism, various treatment plans can bring about improvement in reducing some of the symptoms. “Treatment options include educational/behavioral interventions, medications, and other therapies.” 
Specific biomedical intervention plan
On the Autism Society website, I found Summary of Biomedical Treatments for Autism by James B. Adams, Ph.D.  in which he lists a dozen or so interventions, primarily addressing proper diet and vitamin deficiencies. Dr. Adams listed interventions in the approximate order in which interventions are typically carried out. However, he states that a doctor must be consulted for each individual case.
This list brings up further questions in my mind
I would really like to know the process that doctors who treat autism use to determine the order of interventions. How does the doctor proceed from a checklist of behaviors to considering a specific intervention? I would love to see a flow chart that would indicate when testing for digestive disorders are indicated; when environmental factors are considered; how identification of competing medical problems is accomplished.
Apparently the state of the art of autism treatment is in the dark ages
In a recent (2012) article, J.M. Perrin, et al, discuss the status of autism intervention research.  They emphasize that it is very difficult to systematize the treatment of autism, since there is so much variability between autistic individuals. They state that, although there are many treatments ‘in the pipeline’, effectiveness is measured against a placebo. Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) is in its early stages in autism research, and would compare the effectiveness of one treatment with another, according to the authors.
I would appreciate any feedback regarding the latest thinking about biomedical intervention for autism, or suggested resources to discover how doctors think about applying therapies to their autistic patients.
 Perrin, J.M. Coury, D.L., et al The Autism Treatment Network and Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health: Future Directions. Pediatrics 2012;130;S198
I love that point, it is true. How do doctors determine which line of treatment they use first? They tried to do the diet thing with my brother first, he went dairy free because for some reason when he had milk he went high as a kite. Mum said that the sugars in the milk weren’t digested and it went through the blood brain barrier. Not sure how true this is, but this is what my mum remembers. Apparently it’s classic autism. Anyway, going dairy free doesn’t stop the symptoms of autism in the slightest and we got offered no other treatment until it was too late and we now have a very troubled teenager.
I’m not sure what they do nowadays, but hopefully more awareness means GP’s can offer more to families… ? :S
Thanks, Hannah. How do they know where to start, indeed. That is my quest to find out. It should be written somewhere, even if it is in some obscure journal. If you happen to come across it, let me know.
You’re welcome! And perhaps I will !
My daughter has been doing biomedical treatments for a year now. (she’s gone from non-verbal to 500+ words, beginning conversations, happy and healthy) When we started, we did testing through our DAN doctor. I had already removed gluten and dairy several months prior, and saw great results, and already knew there was a soy allergy, so we decided not to do allergy testing (most do) and the two tests we started with were an organic acids test (OAT) and a hair toxin test, which tells you which metals and minerals are high or low. There is a protocol through the DAN! (defeat autism now) doctors, or now MAPS (medical association of pediatric special needs) doctors. Its not just done all willy nilly, they use the results of the testing to determine what is important to do first, and it will not be the same for everyone. That’s the nice thing about it, you’re treated as an individual based on your situation. Diet change is always recommended, and some supplements are safe enough to try on your own, like fish oil and a good multivitamin, but I think its important to tailor this to what is missing in your body, so its a complicated process which requires testing by a professional .
Wow! That’s really great. I’ll check out the protocol!
Thank you so much for commenting, Robyn.
My 2 1/2 year old grandchild has recently been diagnosed. It seems the family was given options of things they could try as far as vitamins, supplements, gluten/dairy avoidance etc. Also books to read. They basically are encouraged to educate themselves so that they can carry out therapeutic strategies at home. The child is receiving speech therapy and Intensive early interventional therapy using Applied Behavioral Analysis is recommended. There are many books and websites now.
Thanks, Jill. When your grandchild was dx’d, did the docs have a strategy as to what they looked for next? Did they order tests on digestive system, or just throw a lot of literature your way and say, good luck? I’m very curious as to the protocol.
Thanks for your comment.