It was ten years ago that my now 14-year-old son Charlie was diagnosed with autism. While we received information from the child development center in Minneapolis that diagnosed him and from the St. Paul Public School District about treatments and therapies, we also — as does every parent I’ve met — struck out on our own to find ways to help our little guy. My husband Jim brought home stacks of books from what used to be The Hungry Mind bookstore on Grand Avenue in St. Paul and the libraries of two local colleges and we started reading everything we could find on the internet. We quickly found lots of information — almost too much — about alternative, experimental therapies (special diets, nutritional supplements, dolphins, prism lenses).
While we often found plenty of anecdotal reports, often from parents, about the wonders of some therapy or other, evidence-based scientific research to back up claims about multivitamins, anti-fungal therapy and the like was always — is still — in short supply. But no one , not even physicians, seemed willing to just say “those claims are over-rated” or “that just doesn’t work.” The recent medical investigation of one doctor who’s offered a highly controversial treatment involving autistic children gives parents a clearer idea of what treatments to avoid.
Many alternative treatments for autism involve giving a child various supplements and even drugs for experimental therapies. A highly controversial treatment called for giving children lupron, which is a drug prescribed to men with prostate cancer, women with fibroids and sex offenders. It can also be prescribed for children who have a rare condition, precocious puberty, but in these cases it has been called “chemical castration.” It is not a treatment for autism, though it has been used by a Maryland doctor, Mark Geier, both in that state and in clinics called ASD Centers that he operates in at least eight states.
Geier’s medical license was suspended by Maryland Board of Physicians in April; a month later, the state of Washington also suspended his medical license. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Illinois will also be conducting a hearing on August 22 on whether or not Geier should be allowed to practice medicine in that state. Geier currently operates a clinic in Springfield, Illinois; he also has one just over the river in St. Peters, Missouri. It’s not clear if he is being investigated in Missouri according to a spokesman for the Missouri healing arts board.
Photo of an autistic child and teacher by Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Santé
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