Many parents give their children dietary supplements in an attempt to treat autism or to alleviate its symptoms. The range of supplements available are wide; few are supported by scientific data (and none are currently FDA approved), but many parents report significant positive changes in their children and their ASD related symptoms.
Dietary supplements have been used by many to treat the symptoms of ASD since the 1960’s.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
It’s long been felt that children with ASD can be very picky eaters, creating gaps in nutrition. Also, there are many who believe that gastrointestinal issues make it difficult for the body to gain the full nutritive value from food alone.
Some common supplements may include melatonin, Vitamin B-6, magnesium, omega 3’s, Vitamin C, probiotics, and a high-quality daily vitamin.
Theoretically, by determining the nutritional deficiencies a child may have, and using supplementation to bring those levels into ‘typical ranges’, it may help to ease some symptoms and improve overall health.
IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
Some supplements can interact negatively with other medications, or create a risk of injury if too much is taken. Families should work with a licensed medical professional to help determine which, if any, of these supplements (or others) might be worthwhile to try. All supplements modify body chemistry. Some may see improvement, and others might not. Sometimes, symptoms or behavior may actually worsen.
Bring on each supplement one at a time, with several days to observe how the body responds to each one individually. If a supplement brings positive effects, it should be considered for continuation. If a supplement has no impact or a negative one (and yes, this does happen) then it might be considered for discontinuation.
Keep a journal and record everything from mood, to sleep to bowel movements. Keeping a log is the best way to look back to find trends and consistencies (or lacks thereof).
Families have told us when it comes to supplementation that using quality products is key. If it can be found at the grocery, the local chain pharmacy or the big box store, it might not be as pure or as effective as what you might get from a health store where they tend to be more knowledgeable.
If supplements are prescribed by a physician as medically necessary, they may be deductible come tax time – so save receipts.
WHAT’S THE SCIENCE SAY?
Supplementation hasn’t been well studied, but here are the findings of one study: ‘Oral vitamin/mineral supplementation is beneficial in improving the nutritional and metabolic status of children with autism… The supplement group had significantly greater improvements than did the placebo group…. suggests that a vitamin/mineral supplement is a reasonable adjunct therapy to consider for most children and adults with autism.’
Again – some families report having great success, and others saw no change. And for others, they might have noticed an increase in negative behavior. Discuss the possibilities of supplementation with a knowledgeable physician.
WHERE TO START
Supplementation changes body chemistry, and some vitamins at high of levels can be dangerous, leading to injury. It’s important to undertake supplementation under the guidance of a physician. While some pediatricians might not be informed about dietary supplements, there are a variety of physicians & doctors to be found around the state who have had specific training in the areas of determining deficits in ASD children and navigating supplementation. Visit our page on covering the costs to see an out-of-network physician.
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 the physicians they work with, and about their experiences. Connect with other families by attending support groups or contacting a local autism related organization.
A national organization (with an active Wisconsin Chapter), Talk About Curing Autism (or TACA) has a strong focus on supplements. Remember: different organizations have different philosophies. Find an organization that fits your family well, and get plugged in.
Please note: This information was compiled by a parent volunteer from public sources, and is not intended to be medical or legal advice.