As St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Blythe Bernhard reports,
Geier has written that mercury in childhood vaccines can exacerbate testosterone levels in children with autism and cause symptoms of aggression. He prescribes Lupron to reduce their testosterone levels. His research has been criticized by the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The organizations have concluded there is no link between vaccines and autism based on multiple studies.
Washington University professor and autism researcher John Constantino is quoted as saying that Geier “understands the tools of science but has applied them in questionable ways” to justify specific treatments.
Constantino’s statement can be applied to those who, like Geier, offer alternative and experimental treatments for autism. Many such practitioners speak at conferences including the annual Autism One conference in Chicago and the Autism Research Institute‘s conferences. Cambridge University researchers have connected fetal testosterone to autistic traits. But it is one thing to conduct basic research and another to convert preliminary findings into a full-fledged treatment, especially one that involves powerful medications used on children who may very well be non-verbal and not able to communicate the effects of the medication.
There’s often some tension between parents of autistic children and “traditional” physicians who counsel at least moderation and certainly caution in turning your child into a bit of an “alternative autism treatment guinea pig,” so to speak. Parents, fearful as their child misses every single developmental milestone and worn out from trying to get their child to play with anything beside a plastic lid, are looking for immediate ways to help their child besides educational methods (like Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA). It’s also understandable that parents shy away from giving a young child psychotropic medications like Risperdal, which do not promise the specific results that alternative treatments often do and can have scary side-effects.
The growing investigation of whether Mark Geier should be allowed to practice medicine and offer untested autism treatments is a good sign. It’s an understatement to say that raising an autistic child is not without difficulties and stress. Families need guidance to figure out which treatments and therapies to try and which to steer clear of as they seek to do their best by a child with many challenges.
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Photo of an autistic child and teacher by Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Santé
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