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Alternative Treatments

There is no medical cure for autism at present.

Intensive Behavioural Treatment using the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) approach is the Golden Standard for Treatment.

Gold Standard Treatment for Autism

Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) is the only teaching approach for autism supported by over 1000 journal articles based on controlled studies, post-treatment follow up data and peer-reviewed studies.

More than 40 states in the USA provide either state or insurance funding for ABA treatment.

Almost 50% of children with autism who receive good quality ABA at a young age will be able to catch up to their typically developing peers. The other 50% are able to show improvement in all areas as well such as reduction of challenging behaviours, increase of functional skills, communication, independence, etc. but at a more gradual pace.

Alternative and Eclectic Treatments

According to the AMS-MOH Clinical Practice Guidelines for Autism Spectrum Disorder published by the Ministry of Health Singapore (2010), there are alternative treatments that are:

NOT recommended

Due to insufficient, inconclusive or conflicting evidence

NOT recommended

Due to potential harm and detrimental effects to the child

Alternative Treatments That Are Not Recommended Due to Insufficient, Inconclusive or Conflicting Evidence

Alternative Treatment


Potential Adverse Effects

Sound therapies (SAMONAS Sound Therapy and the Listening Programme)

Improve abnormal sound sensitivity

Insufficient evidence

Music Therapy

Musical elements to increase communication, attention, turn taking & social imitation

Insufficient evidence

Massage and other sensory-based interventions

Improve a range of motor and sensory functions

Insufficient evidence

Ingestible: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Correct deficiencies

Insufficient evidence

Ingestible: Amino Acids

Correct deficiencies

Insufficient evidence

Gluten-free/ Cassein-free diet

Leaky Gut syndrome; Insufficient intestinal enzyme activity

Dietary restrictions may increase rigidity in feeding; Nutritial deficiencies; Irritability, aggression & inattentiveness

Expressive Psychotherapy

Art elements to develop cognition, language, motor skills, self-expression and self-esteem, social and life skills

Insufficient evidence

Behavioural Optometry

Correcting eye movement disorders – Filling gaps in unusual visual behaviour

Insufficient evidence

Animal-assisted therapy

Different activities have different aims: Improve language & social skills; Teach responsibility & commitment; Increase attachment

Harm to child (Accidents, bites, scratches) & Harm to animal (Accidental agression)

Alternative Treatments That Are Not Recommended Due to Potential Harm and Detrimental Effects to the Child

Alternative Treatment


Potential Adverse Effects

Weighted Vests

Reduce inattentiveness & stereotypic behaviour due to physical and sensory needs

Affect growth; Musculoskeletal development

Secretin Therapy

Leaky gut syndrome; Secretine reduces behavioural characteristics of autism

Diarrhoea; Vomiting; Constipation; Irritability

Patterning with Masking

Enhances oxygen uptake into blood stream; wearing mask to rebreath CO2 that was exhaled in last breath, opening up arteries and improving blood supply

Risk of brain damage; Physical harm

Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy

Correcting autoimmune problems causing autism symptoms; via intravenous injections

Suppressing immune system; Mild eczema; Nausea and vomiting; Chills and fever; Hypo/ Hypertension; Rashes; Headache; Pain; Fear

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Reduce inflammation of brain; Improve blood supply

Ear barotrauma; Pneumothorax; Oxygen-induced convulsions; Fire & explosions

Holding Therapy

Autism is a result of parent’s failure to bond with child. Holding child tightly in a way that ensures eye contact; deliberately provoking distress until child needs and accepts comfort

Provoking distress; Rage; Force potentially evokes fear, confusion, anger, betrayal; Violation of child’s individuality; Traumatised; Harm to psychological health

Facilitated Communication

Communicating through his/ her hand to the hand of the facilitator which then is guided to a letter, word, or picture on a keyboard

Possibly promoting independent communicators into passive communicators; Forced communication; Potential physical force

Craniosacral Therapy

Gentle manipulation of skull, spine & soft tissue effect behavioural change

Nausea & vomitting; Confusion; Neurological concerns

Chelation Therapy

Decrease toxic heavy metal (Childhood exposure to neurotoxins (Hg, Pb) believed to cause Autism)

Potential harm including death (hypocalcaemia); Hepatotoxity & Nephrotoxity; Stevens-Johnson syndrome

Ingestible: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Digestive enzymes, Folate Vitamin B6/Magnesium Vitamin B12 Zinc Antibiotics/ Anti-Yeast Medication

Correct deficiencies

Adverse effects especially in high doses; overdose; Diarrhoea (Nystatin); Hepatotoxity

Auditory Integration Therapy

Provide stimulation to hearing mechanism, thereby, providing ‘normal’ hearing and correcting anomalies that affect speech and language development, sensitivity, and learning delays

Output harmful to hearing and potentially dangerous


Unblocking flow of energy “qi”

Infection; Haemorrhage; Pain; Fear; Symptom aggravation

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Data & statistics. Retrieved from:

Ministry of Health Singapore (2010). Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies (ASD). Retrieved from:

Kemper, K. J. (2008). The use of complementary and alternative medicine in pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, 122 (6), 1374-1386.

Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 55(1), 3.

Schreck, K. A. & Miller, V. A. (2010). How to behave ethically in a world of fads. Behavioural Interventions, 25 (4), 307-324.

McEachin, J. J., Smith, T. & Lovaas, O. I. (1993). Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioural treatment. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 97(4), 359-372.