When a child suffers, and science can’t provide definitive answers and solutions to stop the suffering, parents turn to whatever is left, no matter how unproven. No matter how expensive. No matter how demeaning, or dangerous..?
In the world of autism, there are far more unproven treatments than proven ones. A recent study found only five or six out of a hundred treatments used by parents, were proven. I can understand the desperation these parents feel, to try anything and everything. But I do not condone them acting on that desperation, and I do not think that it is harmless.
At one end of the slippery slope of unproven autism interventions, you have things like vitamin supplements (such as Omega 3), and gluten-free casein-free diets. (There are good reasons you might want your children to take these supplements and follow this diet; it’s doing it to improve autism which is unproven). As you slip further down the slope you’ll come to the demeaning practice of packing. Towards the dangerous end you’ll even find people subjecting their children to chelation.
There is harm in even the gentlest forms of unproven therapy, for many reasons: There is the money spent on “experts” and the books, products and services they peddle. The time spent as a family taking part in the therapies (which can be many hours daily). That time and money that could have otherwise been spent on therapies that do actually work. There is too, the false hope. It’s easier to see the damage at the extreme end of unproven therapies and cures; psychological damage, and even death.
As a mother of any child you come up against suggestions for unproven therapies; teething is an easy and common example of such a situation. I’ve been told to try amber necklaces more than once, even though the only backing for their use is inconsistent anecdotal evidence, and even though science strongly suggests they cannot work as claimed. My local pharmacy suggested we buy a homeopathic remedy for teething, again, despite openly admitting to me that there was no scientific basis for it working (as indeed, for any homeopathy ever working).
These might then seem like harmless suggestions, but they suffer from the same critiques as the unproven autism cures (wasted money, wasted time, being the least of these). I know some other mothers think I should take the attitude that if it helps them feel better in the face of their desperation about “doing something, anything” to assist teething pain, then why say anything negative about it..?
If we spoke out more about the “less harmful” lies, maybe we’ll make in-roads to stopping the more extensive harms. If we stop throwing good money at such therapies, there would be more spent on improving current working therapies, or finding proven alternatives: I don’t think we have all the answers yet, and I know current proven therapies can only do so much, but it is because of those missing answers and needed treatments that we should insist on evidence and proven results, and not let our blind desperation lead the way.