It’s extremely important to include a medical professional when seeking treatment using biomedical therapies, supplements, anti-fungals, or considering dietary changes. Any of these things modify the body’s chemistry. Any changes, even dietary ones, should be done under the guidance of a trusted, licensed medical professional.
Biomedical therapies, while not uncommon in ASD circles, are not approved by the FDA for the purpose of treating autism spectrum disorder. While it’s felt that scientific evidence does not support these practices, large numbers of families report improvement in many related symptoms.
The general philosophy of biomedical treatment is that children on the autism spectrum often have underlying gastrointestinal difficulties, creating pain. Children who are nonverbal might not be able to articulate that pain, so it comes through in the one way they do know to communicate: behavior. Even children who are higher functioning – they might know that they don’t feel great, but can’t explain or articulate it, and can’t describe it. The thought behind biomedical treatment is that by resolving those intestinal issues it might help ASD impacted kids have more positive behavior, less physical stress, and overall better health.
Remember that each individual is different and unique – and so is their level of success with biomedical therapies such as gluten free diets, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, vitamin supplements, or chelation.
Here is where you can find more about the most common biomedical therapies.
Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!)
The Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) protocol was developed by the Autism Research Institute (ARI), an organization out of California. ARI offers a conference twice a year, during which they focus on sharing the latest research, treatment options and studies relating to the management of symptoms common to autism spectrum disorders (ASD’s).
ARI formerly maintained a list of conference attendees. The list was removed from their website in 2011, citing that while everyone received similar and consistent information at the seminars, there is no uniform way patients are subsequently being treated.
According to ARI’s website, many perceived the DAN! clinician list as a list of recommended doctors, when in reality the list simply contained the names of people who attended their informational seminars.
ARI’s conferences are open to not only medical doctors, but also nutritionists, chiropractors, and others. Even though attendees of ARI conferences aren’t limited to medical professionals, the term ‘DAN Doctor’ was (and continues to be) used universally to describe those familiar with the DAN! protocol, or those that had attended a training conference.
If someone claims to be “ARI-certified or DAN! certified,” they’re overstating; neither ARI nor any of its programs by any name, has ever had a certification program.
ARI continues to offer their informational conferences twice each year.
Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS)
The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) is an organization out of California that developed a course of study and medical fellowship for physicians and other medical professionals specific to the biomedical treatment of autism spectrum disorders & associated illnesses.
The training process includes attendance at training conferences, as well as spending time with another specialist in the field, seeing patients.
Anyone, even parents or the public at large, can be a MAPS member. However MAPS welcomes only State Licensed Medical Doctors (MD), Doctors of Osteopathy (DO), Naturapaths (ND), Physician Assistants (PA), and Nurse Practitioners (NP) into its training programs.
Once started, it takes 12-24 months to achieve fellowship.
KNOW WHAT TO ASK
Most medical professionals are honest in their purpose and have no intention to mislead. Parents want to help their children get better. Unfortunately, that can sometimes make them vulnerable to those who may have financial priorities. Being informed is the best way to protect your family and to be sure you play an active role in any treatment plan.
Asking the right questions (and knowing the answers to be looking for) is important.
For example, if they share with you that they are ‘a MAPS member’ – remember that membership is a status that can be bought. If they are a MAPS fellow or candidate – those titles require state licensing and a higher level of formal medical education.
Here are some other questions to ask:
If the provider is Board Certified, ask what areas the provider is board certified in. For example, not all mechanics are the same. The same is true for medical professionals. You probably wouldn’t want a lawnmower mechanic working on your BMW… the same is true with medicine. Make sure they are board certified in an area appropriate to the services you are seeking.
If you have private insurance but are paying out of pocket for visits, are they willing to help you request labs or other tests through your child’s primary physician to help lower your out of pocket costs? This would also keep a collaborative effort & facilitate communication with your primary physician, which is highly recommended.
Do they have preferred service providers they frequently work with? If so, who? Service providers are a very important part of the treatment process, but it’s better for parents to research and make decisions about where they seek those services. Accept referrals, but consider them carefully. Whenever possible, seek treatment guidance from someone that has nothing to gain from their recommendations, even if it means driving a bit farther or other small inconveniences.
At this time, autism is not curable. But many believe it is treatable. Anytime someone claims to have the cure for autism spectrum disorder, have caution.
Are you willing to offer phone consultation for distant patients? What are the costs?
Have ideas for other important questions? Contact us so we can share them with families.
INSURANCE COVERAGE & PAYMENTS TO PROVIDERS
While seeing one of these specialists may seem like any other visit to a doctor, coverage by your private insurance company or Medicaid program is not guaranteed. A formal referral for services or evaluation by your primary care physician may help accomplish coverage, but does not necessarily promise it.
When arranging for your visit with the specialist, ask about their experience with your private health insurance company. Sometimes, even if direct coverage isn’t possible, submitting information about the details of your visit (including a copy of the bill) can help to fulfill your private insurance company annual out of pocket maximums.
Wisconsin’s Health Insurance Mandate when it comes to the treatment of ASD’s does not include coverage of biomedical therapies.
If you’re unable to obtain insurance coverage for the visit, there are organizations that provide grants to cover the costs of evaluation for services and treatment.
Generally the initial visit is the longest and the most expensive – for some families, getting this initial visit covered (either by insurance or a grant) can make continuing visits more financially feasible.
Most families pay out of pocket or from a grant for visits and services from a biomedical specialist.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
One of the best ways to find a medical provider that might be a good fit for you and your family is by referral – word of mouth. Talk with other families about what kinds of biomedical therapies they’ve tried, what physicians they work with, and about their experiences with that physician. Connect with other families by attending support groups or contacting a local autism related organization.