Editor: The author, a physician and grandmother of a child with autism, searched for a book — like the one she has now written — when she was desperately looking for answers in 1996. An excerpt is below:
[While looking for answers for my granddaughter] the books I found consisted mainly of behavioral approaches by educators/psychologists or psychiatric texts that I knew were outdated. Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD by William Shaw, PhD, was greatly appreciated when it was published in early 1998 and helped open me to new ideas and approaches; Internet autism lists became a gold mine of useful information and directions to explore.
As time went on my appetite was enormously whetted by responses I began seeing to dietary and nutrient treatments and to improvement in subsets of autistic/autism spectrum disorder children to secretin, antifungal and antiviral treatments, immune enhancing agents, and most recently to oral chelation protocols that reduce the accumulated loads of heavy metals in these children. I attribute the discovery and success of many of these helpful approaches to dedicated and persevering parents and to a few doctors and researchers (mostly parents of autistic children themselves) who refused to accept that they could do nothing to help these children recover. I have been repeatedly humbled by what I have learned from the knowledgeable parents of these children.
There are organizations to help. For example, the DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) group co-founded by Bernard Rimland, PhD, Sidney M. Baker, MD, and Jon B. Pangborn, PhD, offers a useful compendium of tests and procedures that is the result of a consensus of DAN! doctors. However, I must admit I knew so little when I first started my search that this list was daunting. My questions were basic: How and where to start? Which child needed what tests, and how could those tests be interpreted? I yearned for a clinician’s logical explanation and guide through the maze of possible evaluative procedures and treatments for this complex disorder.
In the early days of my autism practice I had painful experiences with physicians who refused to collaborate when parents who were their patients consulted me to explore medical reasons for their child’s problems. Not only did my colleagues refuse to consider ordering tests for immune function, viral, heavy metal, or metabolic studies, but several even implied or outspokenly told the parents that my pursuit of these treatments was “alternative,” “unsubstantiated,” “nonscientific,” or worse.
Deeply entrenched paradigms do not change easily, but in the last few years it has become painfully evident that we are facing a full-fledged epidemic of autism. This fact has dimmed all but the most diehard proponents of the genetics-only theory. Few authorities deny there is a genetic predisposition in play, but something has to be triggering this genetic element to manifest such large numbers of affected children now. In any event they should be offered whatever treatments can be helpful, regardless of the etiology.
We must forge a new medical paradigm for autism out of necessity. Our currently afflicted children cannot wait for the interminable process required for peer-reviewed studies before getting treatment, as long as it is safe. All the evidence points to better outcomes the sooner we get started. As clinicians on the firing line we all need to contribute and share our special experiences so as to add to the enlarging pool of information that will benefit everyone in this important healing endeavor. There is a dire shortage of doctors available for the myriads of children needing this help now.
Excerpted with permission from Children with Starving Brains. For the updated version see here.