Assistant Clinical Director Leigh Broughan, MA, BCBA, cautions parents of children with autism to be discerning when reading about trendy treatments, diets, or products that claim positive changes in behavior. For example, one recent story stated that eating specific mushrooms may have positive effects on a person with autism’s behavior and may reduce repetitive behavior. Unfortunately, no actual scientific studies were provided for these claims.
Another recent article asserts that children who have had negative past experience with dogs will find the potbellied pig to be a good therapy animal. Although animals can be fun and make good companions, there have been no actual scientific studies of animal therapy for autism.
“Parents need to know how to look for good science,” said Leigh. “I respect parents wanting to try different things that might help; however, I want parents to make good, informed choices and know how to evaluate treatments so that precious resources and time will not be wasted. Some fad treatments can even adversely affect a child’s health.”
Leigh serves on the board of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), which is dedicated to disseminating scientifically-validated treatments for autism. The organization’s website (www.asatonline.org) provides descriptions of a variety of treatments on its website, including whether good scientific evidence exists to support each one or if there are health risks associated. The site also offers tips for parents to help them evaluate treatments they hear about and determine if they are real or pseudoscience.