In a recent study entitled:
Internet survey of treatments used by parents of children with autism.
Vanessa A. Green, Keenan A. Pituch, Jonathan Itchon,Aram Choi, Mark Oâ€™Reilly, Jeff Sigafoos of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas looked at what treatments those parents (worldwide) who used interventions with their autistic kids actually used. They had 552 usable returns. One of the most fascinating bits of the study was the fact that they asked parents to indicate next to each of the 111 treatments listed what they used _now_ and what they’d used in the _past_.
The most popular treatment, coming in at number 1 for 70% of parents currently using it and 23.2% who used it in the past was Speech Therapy. Next was Visual Schedules, Sensory Integration, ABA and Social Stories. In each of these treatments the percentage using it now was higher than the percentage who used to use it and stopped for some reason.
Most interesting to me was the position of Chelation. Chelation was the 33rd most popular treatment garnering 7.4% of the vote for parents currently using it (its less popular than Homeopathy). Fascinatingly though, the percentage of parents who used to use it and who went on to abandon it came in _higher_ than that at 7.8%.
Detoxification came in bottom as the least popular treatment for the main groupings of treatment (as oppose to individual treatments) and also came bottom for all 3 main ‘severity’ groupings for autism (AS, Mild and Severe)
The authors say:
Comparison of past and current use (Table 2) suggests that many treatments were implemented for a period of time, but then abandoned. We do not know how long such treatments were used nor why they were discontinued.
I can hazard a guess. Recently Erik Nanstiel of AutismMedia (a pro-Chelation propaganda site) told me that Chelation typically lasts for 18 months to 2 years. I surmise that given that more people used to use chelation than use it now, it was tried for this period and found to be ineffective and abandoned in favour of more useful treatments.
It cannot, however, be due to recovery. This survey was taken by parents who’s kids were still considered autistic and who were all still trying differing treatments. If the Chelation had worked, these parents would have no need of any more treatments.
Also of interest was the authors finding that:
The mean number of current treatments being used by parents was seven, which was similar to the mean number of treatments used in the past (n = 8).
So it seems that Chelation is rarely used in isolation. Given that, it seems highly unlikely to account for unmitigated success reported by some parents.