Also indexed as: Kanner’s Syndrome
A child displaying odd behavior and impaired social skills may also be showing signs of autism. According to research or other evidence, the following steps may help parents deal with this disorder:
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full autism article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain that appears in early childhood. The condition causes impairment of social interaction and communication, as well as unusual behaviors.
Product ratings for autism
|Science Ratings||Nutritional Supplements||Herbs|
Glucosamine (for diarrhea in autistic children)
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Symptoms vary but are characterized by a difficulty in relating to people, objects, and events. Communication problems may be present, such as a lack of eye contact or response when their name is called; fixation on specific subjects or toys; difficulty with changes to routine or surroundings; and repetitive body movements, such as head banging or hand flapping.
Preliminary research suggests that some autistic children may be allergic or sensitive to certain foods and that removal of these foods from the diet has appeared to improve some behaviors.1 As a result, one prominent doctor has recommended a trial hypoallergenic diet.2 Such a trial requires supervision by a doctor.
There is no established treatment for autism. Medications, such as antidepressants, stimulants, and antipsychotics are used to manage the symptoms of associated disorders, which include attention deficit, hyperactivity, obsessions, compulsions, tics, irritability, seizures, and depression.
Behavioral modification therapy may help parents more easily manage a child with severe impairment. Psychotherapy, special education, and speech therapy may also be recommended depending on the child.
Uncontrolled and double-blind research shows that vitamin B6 can be helpful for autistic children.3 4 5 In these trials, children typically took between 3.5 mg and almost 100 mg of B6 for every 2.2 pounds of body weight, with some researchers recommending 30 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Although toxicity was not reported, such amounts are widely considered to have potential toxicity that can damage the nervous system; these amounts should only be administered by a doctor. One prominent researcher has suggested that vitamin B6 is better supported by research than is drug treatment in dealing with autism.6
Some autistic children suffer from chronic diarrhea. In a study of children with autistic spectrum disorders and persistent diarrhea for many years, supplementing with 500 mg of glucosamine per day (spread over the morning and evening meal) for 30 days eliminated the diarrhea in five of six cases.7 The authors hypothesized that glucosamine worked by blocking the effect of certain dietary components on the intestinal tract.
In one double-blind trial lasting ten weeks, autistic children given 1 gram vitamin C for each 20 pounds of body weight showed a reduction in symptom severity compared with placebo.8 The authors speculate that vitamin C may play a positive role because of its known effects on a hormone pathway typically disturbed in children with autism.
Some researchers have added magnesium to vitamin B6, reporting that taking both nutrients may have better effects than taking B6 alone.9 The amount of magnesium—10 to 15 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight—is high enough to cause diarrhea in some people and should be administered by a doctor. Doctors will often try vitamin B6 or the combination of B6 and magnesium for at least three months to see whether these nutrients help autistic children. In a preliminary trial, one group of researchers found that relatively small daily amounts of magnesium (6 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight) and vitamin B6 (0.6 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight) improved symptoms by about 50% in children with autism or a related condition (pervasive developmental disorder).10
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
1. Reichelt K-L, Ekrem J, Scott H. Gluten, milk proteins and autism: dietary intervention effects on behavior and peptide section. J Appl Nutr 1990;42:1–11.
2. Werbach M. Autism. Int J Alternative Complementary Med 1996;Oct:8.
3. Lelord G, Muh JP, Barthelemy C, et al. Effects of pyridoxine and magnesium on autistic symptoms: Initial observations. J Autism Developmental Disorders 1981;11:219–29.
4. Martineau J, Garreau B, Barthelemy C, et al. Effects of vitamin B6 on averaged evoked potentials in infantile autism. Biol Psychiatr 1981;16:627–39.
5. Rimland B, Callaway E, Dreyfus P. The effect of high doses of vitamin B6 on autistic children: a double-blind crossover study. Am J Psychiatr 1978;135:472–5.
6. Rimland B. Vitamin B6 versus Fenfluramine: a case-study in medical bias. J Nutr Med 1991;2:321–2.
7. Danczak E. Glucosamine and plant lectins in autistic spectrum disorders: an initial report on 6 children with uncontrolled diarrhoea. J Nutr Environ Med 2004;14:327–330.
8. Dolske MC, Spollen J, McKay S, et al. A preliminary trial of ascorbic acid as supplemental therapy for autism. Prog Neuropsycholpharmacol Biol Psychiatry 1993;17:765–74.
9. Martineau J, Barthelemy C, Garreau B, Lelord G. Vitamin B6, magnesium, and combined B6-Mg: therapeutic effects in childhood autism. Biol Psychiatr 1985;20:467–78.
10. Mousain-Bosc M, Roche M, Polge A, et al. Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplemented with magnesium-vitamin B6. II. Pervasive developmental disorder-autism. Magnes Res 2006;19:53–62.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.