It’s World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April. The United Nations is setting sights on goals and targets for sustainable development by the year 2030 for improving the lives of people with autism, with a “promise to leave no one behind”. Back in the real world, a plethora of interventions are being offered as treatments for persons diagnosed with Autism Spectrum of Disorders (ASD). How scientific are all these treatments?
15 published Cochrane reviews were found while searching the Cochrane Library for “Autism” (results as on 31 March 2016).(1-15) These reviews included assessment of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. Only three of the reviews were updated within the last two years.
What do these reviews conclude? Does anything work?
No reliable evidence to make any decision on the utility of : chelation; SSRIs; tricyclic antidepressants; omega-3 fatty acid supplementation; IV secretin; acupuncture; auditory integration training; mind cognitive model; combined vitamin B6-magnesium.
There might be some benefits in a few aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorders with : music therapy; parent-mediated early intervention; intensive behavioral interventions; social skills groups; and Aripiprazole. All these interventions need further good quality research to prove clinical efficacy.
What does this mean?
The quality of evidence for most of the treatment options for Autism Spectrum Disorder is generally inadequate to make trusted decisions. Most of these systematic reviews need updating with recent and better research for them to be really relevant. With only these in the armory to achieve the health targets set by the UN for the next 15 years for persons with autism, it looks like the “promise to leave no one behind” might not be easy to keep.
*These blog posts are personal opinions of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the organization he represents. These are not intended to be directly used as healthcare guidelines. Reader discretion, as always, is recommended.