2.2 Intervening without evidence
From time to time, interventions for autism are proposed with an odd or unconvincing rationale, little or no evidence, and often with grossly exaggerated claims for success. Parents of autistic children may be highly vulnerable to claims for a ‘cure’, ‘recovery’ or dramatic alleviation of symptoms, and understandably, they also feel empowered by doing anything they can to help their child, even if only on the principle of ‘try anything if it might help’.
One such approach, known as
Another ill-conceived approach assumes that autism is caused by excessive levels of toxins such as mercury and lead in the blood. The ‘therapy’, known as
Do not use [chelation] to manage autism in any context in children and young people
These two techniques provide just two examples of highly dubious interventions. Imagine you had a child with diabetes, and someone offered you a previously unknown medication which they claimed provided a highly effective cure. Before trying out such medication, you would want to know how and why the substance was supposed to work, you would need evidence that the substance actually worked, and assurance that it did not have harmful or dangerous side effects. You would also want to know more about the person promoting the cure, such as whether they had a financial interest in it. The importance of addressing questions like these applies equally to autism as to treatments for medical ailments. Interventions for which the rationale is unclear, and which lack proper evaluation or ethical screening are quite rightly avoided or treated with great caution.