The Use of Complementary Alternative Medicine in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Melissa DeFilippis
Psychopharmacology Bulletin 2018 January 15, 48 (1): 40-63
Complementary alternative medicine (CAM) is used to a greater degree in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), when compared to children and adolescents without this diagnosis. There is limited evidence supporting the use of many of these treatments in ASD, despite their popularity. Current FDA approved medications for ASD target associated behavioral symptoms of the diagnosis, not the core symptoms of social communication deficits and restricted/repetitive behaviors. These medications are also associated with concerning adverse effects. Evidence-based therapies for core symptoms, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), are sometimes difficult for families to access for various reasons. Families are sometimes hesitant to discuss their interest in CAM with physicians. Physicians report knowledge gaps about CAM and their use in ASD and concerns about potential conflict with parents regarding differing beliefs of CAM's role in the management of ASD. It is important for physicians to know the current evidence which examines the use of CAM treatments in children and adolescents with autism so that they may have conversations with families which are informed and evidence-based.


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