Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cure for Autism?

I was listening to the radio while driving through Washington, DC today. One of the stations was having a series of listener support drives. One speaker was named Gary Null. He was offering a number of items as premiums in exchange for pledges from listeners. If it was not public radio, it sure sounded like it.

He talked a lot about immune system boosters and free radicals. One of the listener premiums available to listeners who pledged a contribution was a Berry/Fruit concoction that was supposedly good for one's immune system. He also referred to the staff of the FDA as "skunks", and argued that the FDA was under the control of the pharmaceutical industry. He urged listeners to vote against all congressional incumbents.

But what caught my attention was his remarks concerning autism. He claimed to have a protocol that he could recommend that would cure autism. He gave some examples of kids he has worked with who now have no symptoms associated with autism related disorders.

The connection with our topic here is a bit thin, I'll admit it. But there are a lot of decisions in special education cases in the last few years concerning methodology, especially in cases involving autism. Even though the law is pretty clear that school districts can upursue various methodologies so long as they provide FAPE to the student. So most of these cases don't go very far, but I'm thinking that if this Mr. Null claims to have a cure, we will likely see a bunch of cases involving his system.

What do you think? Is there a cure for autism? If so, will or should that affect the legal obligations of school districts? I predict some arguments on these points.
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  2. I am the Community Advocacy Chair for Autism Speaks in the Lehigh Valley (PA). I can assure you that there is NO CURE for autism! If there was, then every doctor across the country and world would be using his methodology. The CDC just changed the number of children affected by autism from 1 in 150 to 1 in 91. As I applaud this gentleman's effort, being a parent of a child diagnosed on the spectrum, I would love if a simple "pill" would cure my son, however, I am also very realistic when looking at his options. The only "true" way of helping a child diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorders) is through therapy. Autism is a neurological (brain) disorder. The easiest way to explain it would be to compare it to a stroke victim. The brain shuts down in areas and with intensive therapy some of those channels are again usable, the same is true with an individual diagnosed with autism. The therapy does not cure the individual, but it does help the person deal with every day struggles, and gives them strategies on how to deal when in particular situations.
    My son is in an inclusive school setting, with a TSS by his side. He is very successful in school. He said his first words at 3 1/2 years old. He is now 8. Even though some of his "behaviors" are not going on, he is in no way "cured!" This is a life long disorder. I really think that people need to understand that.
    The children that this person "cured," were they really diagnosed with ASD to begin with? That would be my first question.
    You can learn more at www.autismspeaks.org


  3. Thanks Tina,

    I appreciate your comments. I've gotten a number of similar comments from people active in autism advocacy. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts.

    I still believe that given the radio broadcast, we haven't heard the end of the methodology dispute, but this type of comment is invaluable to our readers.


  4. Wow--there is always someone out there looking to take advantage of desperate families! I teach a course called "Autism: Awareness or Epidemic?" and one of the assignments requires students to do a search on the web for 'cures for autism'. They come back with everything ranging to neurological-based treatments to herbal remedies. I even had one student report that they found a website this past May that promised a 'gifted spiritual man' would pray for a child with autism for around $1,000!