Autism Q & A

What is Autism?

Autism is a medical condition that inhibits social interaction and communication. Patients can be diagnosed with autism, or have a disorder along the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome.

Learn More About:

  • Medications
  • Vitamins & Minerals
  • Dietary Interventions
  • Secretin
  • Medications

"Different, not less."

- Temple Grandin

What Medications are Available?

There are a number of medications that are frequently used for individuals with autism to address certain behaviors or symptoms. Some have studies to support their use, while others do not.

Vitamins & Minerals

Over the past 10 years or more, claims have been made that vitamin and mineral supplements may improve the symptoms of autism, in a natural way. While not all researchers agree about whether these therapies are scientifically proven, many parent, and an increasing number of physicians, report improvement in people with autism when using individual or combined nutritional supplements.

Dietary Interventions

Individuals with autism may exhibit low tolerance or allergies to certain foods or chemicals. While not a specific cause of autism, these food intolerances or allergies may contribute to behavioral issues. Many parents and professionals have reported significant changes when specific substances are eliminated from the child’s diet


Secretin is a hormone produced by the small intestine that helps in digestion. The hormone can be administered and used as a single dose to diagnose gastrointestinal problems. In 1996, a young boy with autism was given secretin for an endoscopy and showed improvements in some of his symptoms of autism.

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Autism Q & A

Autism is a medical condition that inhibits social interaction and communication. Patients can be diagnosed with autism, or have a disorder along the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome.

Autism is categorized by many different symptoms, rather than one single symptom. Symptoms usually present within the first two years of life, and may include:

       lack of response to calling a child’s name

  1.        poor eye contact or social interest
  2.        repetitive behaviors or stereotypic movements
  3.        abnormal toy interest or play
  4. communication and language delay
  5. other atypical aspects of normal toddler development
  6.   failure to look at you, wave, or gesture or point

One third of patients who previously had communication or social interaction, like eye contact, hearing or speech, can loose these skills or they can regress over time.

Patients can be screened within the first 24 months of life, perhaps by 12-15 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently suggested two screenings before age two. We suggest the first screening between 12-15 months and the second before 18-20 months.

Simple questionnaires may allow screening by parents, pediatricians or family physicians. A failed first screening should be followed-up by a second screening in 4-6 weeks.

Diagnosis is a clinical skill based upon specific screening tools, questionnaires, observation, and documentation of core symptoms. Some research programs will also rely on confirmatory complex observational tests

There are no blood, urine, genetic, EEG, or neuroimaging tests that define autism as a diagnosis at this time. Some children with autism will also have other underlying conditions, like seizures, brain injury, genetic conditions or metabolic issues that can be diagnosed and treated. Sleep, gastrointestinal, and immunological problems can also be diagnosed with medical testing.

Patients should see a neurologist that specializes in autism as early as possible once screening failure has occurred. This will ensure that there are no underlying medical problems. Postponing treatment may affect the child’s long-term outcome.


Since other medical conditions or problems may mimic or add to severity of autistic features, the child neurologist can help evaluate a child for these issues and better determine if a regression has occurred. The other conditions may include genetic disorders that may have some autistic type behaviors, other learning or language issues, underlying brain injury or epilepsy, and sleep issues. Appropriate medical screening can then allow more appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment to begin so better therapy and outcome goals can be attained.

Autism spectrum disorders have many clinical subtypes; therefore there is no single treatment for autism and there is currently no cure for autism. Research may lead to new treatments that may modify or alter the course of autism. For time being, treatments are aimed at improving epilepsy if present, sleep treatment, behavioral medical management, and treatment of any metabolic or gastrointestinal or immune condition that may co-exist. Because autism is a spectrum disorder and no one method alone is usually effective in treating autism, professionals and families have found that a combination of treatments may be effective in treating symptoms and behaviors that make it hard for individuals with autism to function. These may include psychosocial and pharmacological interventions. While there are no drugs, vitamins or special diets that can correct the underlying neurological problems that seem to cause autism, parents and professionals have found that some drugs used for other disorders are sometimes effective in treating some aspects of behaviors associated with autism. Changes to diet and the addition of certain vitamins or minerals may also help with behavioral issues. Over the past 10 years, there have been claims that adding essential vitamins such as B6 and B12 and removing gluten and casein from a child’s diet, may improve digestion, allergies and sociability. Not all researchers and experts agree about whether these therapies are effective or scientifically valid.

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