Investigation of Controversial Autism Doctor Grows


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.

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.

Related Care2 Coverage

Autism is “Fashionable”?

Autism and Alternative Medicine: The Case of Lupron

Maryland Suspends Autism Doctor’s License

Canadian Govt Tells Family Asperger’s Son an “Excessive Drain”


Photo of an autistic child and teacher by Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Santé


Bernadette P.
berny p7 years ago

To much toxins in our food,to much polution in our air,sea,etc.....

The best is not to have children before you get tested..both partner BEFORE you have a child, this can save a LOT of sadness for all concerned.

Vicky Locke
Vicky Locke7 years ago

Kristina, you have presented a calm, unbiased, well reasoned examination (in my opinion) of a difficult topic. Your assessment is all the more remarkable because of your intensely personal involvement. I wish you and your family (and all those struggling along the spectrum of autism) the very best of luck.

Alice E.
Alice E7 years ago

Anat Baniel, in Marin County, California, has apparently had amazing results with her method of treating children with autism, as well as people with many other problems. Worth looking into. She has trained many people in her methods.

Lin Moy
Lin M7 years ago

I hope one day there is a cure that is safe.

Gary A.
Gary Ansorge7 years ago

Autism is a complex, genetically mediated, developmental disorder.Certain areas of the brain fail to connect together correctly. We have a few ideas what might contribute to that, one of which suggests that low vitamin D levels in utero and early childhood might inhibit development(not such a stretch, since vit D has a hormonal effect on nerve tissue). This came from an epidemiological study in which people of color, living in the temperate zone, show higher percentages of autism than lighter skinned folk AND (defined) autism rates began to rise shortly after we succeeded in convincing people to stay out of the sun. (Skin synthesis is our principle source of vit D.).

To correct the neurological deficits of autism, we will probably have to advance our understanding and use of neural stem cells. It's hard science but it will (eventually) be accomplished.

Wish it was available now, for your suffering children and parents.

Bill C.
Bill C7 years ago

We assume so much, medicine is a science that deals with unknowns.

We do not know what causes Autism and we have created associative diagnostics to cover the fringe of what we admit we do not know. I think in many mild cases of diagnosed Autism and things like ADHD we label, because we do not know, just like we used paranoid schizophrenia as a "catch all" for a broad spectrum of psychosis.

We often use drugs like Risperidal as pharmacological behavior control and seem to feel the palliative approach works better than curative at this point in our understanding of Autism. There is truth to that when you view the big picture, home life and potentials.

We must respect a baseline of approved use to venture into not approved. I know my Mom was placed on Seroquel when her Alzheimer's advanced to the point she was not manageable in the home and the unapproved use of the drug did allow her to live many years in her home which is huge in treatment of the specific issues with the illness.

I do not feel we have that door as open when we talk children and any drug should be lowest dose for max result.

You do not loose a license to practice without cause, I happen to believe every provider should be required to be licensed from your MD to your "Holistic Healer"

This is not treatment it seems to be unapproved research, physician should loose his license

Suzanne H.
Suzanne H7 years ago

Best thing to do is not have children until we figure out what chemicals, toxin, vaccines etc are the course...........

Liberty G.
Liberty Goodwin7 years ago

What a stew! The truth is, unfortunately, complex. "Conventional" (allopathic) physicians are drugging people up all the time (including kids) with pharmaceutical creations that often wind up in law suits years later. That said, it sounds like the therapy this alternative doctor was prescribing was inherently risky. Common sense is badly needed - though unfortunately in short supply.

The vaccine connection was not "debunked" - it was simply declared so by the medical establishment, which makes billions of dollars pushing the shots. Note: Most of those doing this are true believers, not fakes. The truth, as usual, is somewhere between those who panic about all vaccines and those declaring them absolutely safe and necessary.

The one thing all parents can do without any risk at all is to reduce their children's exposure to toxic chemicals in everyday life and products. This will help their immune systems to handle whatever else might threaten them. And, I have heard of dramatic improvements in some kids diagnosed with autism spectrum from this. For a bit more info, go to the website of my organization, Toxics Information Project (TIP) at: Scroll down to find links to many useful sites and articles, including a section on autism. Also see archives of our TIP TALKS newsletter and my Ounce of Prevention column:

Camila K.
Kamila A7 years ago

I question everything about this situation and the investigation into the doctor's work. How can we trust that they are right about him? I, frankly, don't like mercury being in vaccinations. Perhaps it is not the mercury alone, or at all, but there is something going on that is causing our children to become autistic in bigger numbers and develop too early----something that the ones who have an idea or know the truth are too invested to reveal.
My daughter reacted badly to a vaccination and has had issues with ADHD through her life. Was it the vaccine? Don't know. My other two kids are fine, never had reactions either. There are so many factors involved, especially the toxicity of our environment. I admire the effort to progress, but we have gotten so far away from living as human beings made of earth-stuff, that it is no huge jump to me that we are now suffering those consequences of thinking we are something else. We are one with the earth and with one another, and until we figure this out.....duh.....we will continue having more and more problems.

Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun7 years ago

thanks for the info