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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is there a cure for autism?

    I am completed devestated as my sisters daughter has just been diagnosed with autism. Is there a cure for it?
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  • 1


    Autism Victoria, trading as Amaze, is a member-based not-for-profit organisation and is the peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in the state of Victoria. View Profile

    Actually, there is a simple answer to that question: there is no cure for autism.

    That is a bitter pill to swallow for many people and this is probably why practitioners who say there is a cure are able to conduct their business. People who say they can cure autism often use anecdotal evidence to back up their claims, but evidence-based treatments are supported by research and scientific evaluation. The better supported treatments generally involve a structured educational or behavioural programme, with support for parents in assisting their children in their day-to-day life.

    So, no, there is no cure – but there are many interventions that offer hope that a person with an autism spectrum disorder can learn to work around their symptoms and live a good life. If your niece is under 6 years old, there is a funding programme that supports her family to get access to occupational and speech therapies, and psychology for her. If she is over 6, there are Medicare rebates on therapy that she can claim and the possibility of school funding to support her education.

    The treatment for “heavy metal toxicity” to which Nyema refers is called chelation. It is important to note that there is no evidence that children with autism have high levels of heavy metals in their system or that heavy metals cause autism. There is no peer reviewed research on the benefit of chelation therapy for children to treat their autism. There is evidence that the chemicals used in chelation therapy can be dangerous.

    It can be hard to navigate the world of therapies and treatments, which is why the Raising Children Network have a collection of fact sheets with objective, evidence-based, easy to read information about all the different options for a person with an autism spectrum disorder (I have linked to it here).

  • Nyema Hermiston

    Homeopath, Naturopath, Registered Nurse

    Nyema has been in ‘general practice’ treating adults and children for acute and chronic illnesses for over 20 years. She is Vice President of The … View Profile

    There is no simple answer to your question, but there is a lot that can be done to maximise autistic children's functioning, and yes, some children to fully recover. You can see recovery stories on the Australian website
    Taking a careful history of how the autism developed - was it there from birth, or did it develop after a certain age or illness? The answers to these questions help to guide the treatment. Aside from devlopmental assistance, these children often need help with health issues too. Some testing also helps to shed light on causes, such as seeing if there is heavy metal toxicity. There is much to be done, and the earlier the better.

  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    There is increasing evidence that differences in the kinds of bacteria (the "gut microbiome") which normally live in the gut are causally linked to autism.

    This is not a cure but with more hard work from biomedical scientists it might (depending on how the results turn out) lead to novel therapeutic approaches for autism.

    This fairly technical but free-access paper summarises this:

  • Darren Stops

    Counsellor, Educational and Developmental Psychologist, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    For assistance with issues including: anxiety & depression, stress, coping & adjustment, personality & relationships sleep & health issues, separation, loss and trauma, post traumatic … View Profile

    The outcomes for your niece will depend upon the severity of the autism, and whether there are any comorbid disorders (eg, delays in development, intellectual functioning, etc.). It wil also depend upon the interventions and support she receives along the way. Please be reassured that there is a lot of knowledge about Autism and a lot of support that can be obtained.

    As with many issues there are "snake oil" salesmen only too happy to promise cures and treatments with no evidence-base, so be wary.  Look for the scientifically validated treatments. They will not promise cures, and not be "quick fixes".  

    I am aware of children who have "lost their diagnosis" through intensive early intervention with Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA).  (This is sometimes claimed to be a "cure").  It is a highly structured evidence-based training program, and will maximise the outcomes for the child, and minimise the "negative" effects of the Autism.

    As your niece moves through childhhod into adolescence, it will be important for her to have an understanding of her different ways of understanding the world, and have support to navigate social relationships.  Those with High Functioning Autism have a higher than normal incidence of depression and anxiety, which is often ignored as being "part of their Autism".  It is often a result of the difference they experience and their ways of interpreting the world. It requires someone with an understanding of Autism to provide useful therapy and intervention.

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