Treatment Choices for Autism: Medications Vs. The DAN! Approach

Autism Pills

Every parent of an Autistic child will at some point have to do their research on what kind of treatment options they want to use for their child; whether they will use medications or choose a DAN! Doctor instead is a big one that comes up with each family. There is a difference between DAN! Doctors and the regular doctor that treats Autism. Their beliefs tend to sway in opposite directions. Regular Autism Specialists leaning more towards medicating for the treatment of Autism, DAN! Doctors always leaning towards using no prescribed medications.

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DAN! Doctors

Defeat Autism Now Doctors, or DAN! Doctors are doctors that parents who choose the holistic route in treating their Autistic children tend to lean towards. DAN! is a project that was founded in the 1960s by Dr. B. Rimland. DAN! Doctors are trained in the Dan! Protocol by the Autism Research Institute. This is an approach that starts with the belief that Autism is a biomedical disorder. DAN! Doctors feel that Autism is a disorder caused by a combination of lowered immune responses, external toxins from vaccines and problems caused by certain foods.

Some of the major interventions suggested by DAN! Doctors:
- Nutritional Supplements: certain vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids are used
- Special Diets totally free of gluten (no wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats in some cases)
- Testing for special food allergies
- Treatment with probiotics for yeast/bacterial intestinal overgrowth
- Detoxification of heavy metals from the body through Chelation (a possibly hazardous medical procedure)

Just so you have full disclosure, DAN! Doctors are credentialed doctors who choose to attend a one-day DAN! Training class. There are no further credentials, and little to no testing or follow-up for these doctors.

According to the Denise Fulton, spokeswoman for the Autism Research Institute, ARI discontinued DAN! in 2011 stating in an email today that, "Although clinicians receive similar and consistent information at the [DAN] seminars, there is no uniform way patients are subsequently treated, even acknowledging individual differences; many perceive the clinician list as a list of recommended doctors--in reality, the list simply contains the names of professionals who attended our clinician seminars. We do not certify them, and as a result, we cannot assure people that every practitioner on the list always provides the highest quality service. We do know that families need a way to locate quality practitioners in their community, and we have added a page of advice on that process to our website. Today ARI works to improve the health and well-being of people on the autism
spectrum through research and the education of professionals, those who are affected, and their families.biomedical issues related to autism. We support research and education on evidence-based medical, behavioral treatments and genetics. In addition, we support research on adulthood and aging issues for persons on the spectrum. We also support research and awareness about comorbid issues related to aggression and self-injury."

Thousands of parent’s still flocked to their care a year. Many of these parents claiming that their children were recovered from Autism based on the care that they received from DAN! Doctors.

Choosing the Medication Route

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Another treatment method that parents often use is medicating their children. I will say that both of my Autistic children are medicated. Nobody knows for absolute sure how many Autistic children are medicated, but according to Ian Project the projection is somewhere near half of all children with Autism take at least 1 medication. Medications can be key components in the treatment of a child on the spectrum. Compared to other treatments, medications have the most evidence supporting their use.

Different kinds of meds:

Antipsychotic Drugs: These are more commonly used to treat the psychotic symptoms from Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and other mental health disorders. They are commonly used in the treatment of Autistic children and teens though. In children and teens with an ASD, some of the newer antipsychotics (atypical antipsychotics) are used for irritability and behavior problems such as aggression, self-injury and rapid mood swings. Medications that fit into this category that are used for Autism are: Risperdal, Clozaril, Zyprexa, Saphris, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon.

Antidepressants: These are used to treat depressive disorders, but many are effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. They are also used for ADHD, bedwetting and smoking cessation. Most antidepressants work by changing the levels of specific chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters. Some of the things being targeted by these medications when used for Autism are aggression, self-injurious behavior, anxiety, agitation, over-activity and some stereotypical behaviors. Medications that fit into this category and are often used for Autism are: (SSRI’s) Luvox, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro; (TCA’s) Anafranil, Norpramine, Elavil and Tofranil.

Stimulants: These are used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They use these medications because many children with Autism show the signs and symptoms of ADHD in childhood. These medications are available in short or fast acting formulas. How Central Nervous System Stimulants work isn’t completely understood. The medications are thought to target the brainstems arousal system and the cortex. Medications that fit into the category and are commonly used in Autistic children and teens are: Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin and Focalin.

Mood Stabilizers: This group of medications is used to treat bipolar disorder in both children and adults. Other uses include behavioral symptoms such as aggression, self-injury, impulsivity and conduct disorders. Many anti-seizure medications have mood stabilizing properties too. Only a few can be used on children, those being: Lithium, Lamictal, Depakote, Tegretol, Topamax and Trileptal.

Anticonvulsants: This group of medications is used to treat seizures, and as one third of children with Autism also have seizures, a lot of children diagnosed with Autism take seizure medications. Medications that fall into this category that are commonly used are: Dilantin, Klonopin, Tegretol, Depakote and Phenobarbital.

There are other medications that are used to treat Autism that don’t necessarily fall into any of these categories. Those being: Xanax, Buspar, Ativan, Valium, Melatonin, Trazodone and many Antihistamines. We do not know the long term side effects of many of the medications on our children, yet we are left in a position where we have no other choice. Some of the side effects that we do know of aren't ideal, you have to make sure to do your research before consenting to giving your child any medication- and be sure to know the side effects to be looking for. Report any said side effects to your child's doctor immediately.

Figuring out the proper route to take when it concerns your Autistic child is tricky for every family. Once Autism families figure out what works for them they tend to advocate fiercely for it. Trying to get as many people as possible to see things from their point of view, when the truth is- no one course of treatment will work the same for any two children. Each of our children are unique and require specialized medical treatments, customized to their needs. We all must experiment to an extent, using trial and error in our treatment choices. In the end though, no matter what course of treatment you take- getting treatment is necessary.

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