Article on the Homeopathic treatment of ASD for The Autism Perspective magazine (TAP)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex condition that has a global impact on a child's cognitive, behavioral and physical functioning. Its impact often goes beyond difficulties with communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviors-these children frequently have trouble with sensory processing; gastro-intestinal inflammation and food sensitivities; connective tissue laxity; problems with muscle tone, posture, coordination and autonomic reflexes; and a compromised immune system. Additionally, up to 65% of children with ASD have a secondary psychiatric diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because ASD is a multi-dimensional condition, it requires a form of medical intervention that takes the whole child into account.

Why is a holistic approach better suited for ASD? Because a conventional approach tends to artificially portion out and address individual or "target" symptoms, and this approach often leads to a long list of medications. For example, the same child may be on an antidepressant such as Prozac for obsessive behavior, a heart drug such as Tenex for tics, and an antipsychotic such as Abilify for tantrums. The more drugs a child is on increases the likelihood of unwanted drug-drug interactions or side effects.

Although approximately 55% of children with ASD are being treated with psychiatric medication, currently there is no conventional cure for ASD. And it is important to realize that no medications specifically address the core symptoms of ASD.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a 200 year old medicine proven safe and effective by numerous double-blind, placebo controlled studies published in medical journals such as the Lancet, British Medical Journal, and Pediatrics. Homeopathy is grounded in a basic principle of healing, the Law of Similars, or more simply, "like cures like." The Law of Similars says that whatever symptoms a substance from nature will produce when given to a healthy person, it can heal when given to a person who is ill. When the correct homeopathic medicine is prescribed, the body is stimulated to heal itself. Homeopathy trusts in the body's ability to bring itself into balance when provided with the right homeopathic medicine and a nutritionally nurturing environment.

What makes homeopathic treatment a good fit for children with ASD?

While psychiatric medications are likely to treat only your child's narrowly-defined target symptoms rather than the ASD itself, homeopathy treats the whole child-from their repetitive behaviors to their constipation to their tics. After a very comprehensive interview, a classical homeopath will prescribe the single homeopathic medicine that best matches all of your child's symptoms. When the child is addressed as a whole, both the common symptoms and the unique symptoms will diminish, sometimes dramatically.

Stephen Shore, an acclaimed author and adult with Asperger Syndrome (AS), has said, "When you meet one person with Asperger Syndrome, you've met ONE person with Asperger Syndrome!" This statement speaks directly to the enormous variability that exists on the autism spectrum. With such variability, we can't possibly think that one size will fit all in terms of treatment, yet this is the approach taken with conventional medications. The individual needs to be taken into account, and homeopathy individualizes treatment according to the needs of each child like no other medicine. Because homeopathic medicines are so highly individualized, ten different children with ASD are likely to need ten entirely different homeopathic medicines based on their unique and individual characteristic symptoms. The advantage is that the medicine is much more specific and tailored to the exact symptoms of your child than are even the most accurately-prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.

Finally, the homeopathic interview is a perfect opportunity for a child with ASD to talk about their special interests or "grand passions." Homeopaths love to engage kids in a lively discussion of their favorite subjects or activities. Even more than the background information parents may give, hearing the child talk about what fascinates him, observing his gestures and body language, and listening for impassioned tones of voice can lead a homeopath directly to the right medicine. Every word the child utters is of significance to us, particularly words or language that are unique. Whereas parents, teachers, and caregivers may roll their eyes if they hear even once more about the cube root of 4096, our eyes light up, and we record the words of the child feverishly, trying not to miss a single word.

First Do No Harm

When physicians of any stripe graduate from school and begin to practice medicine, they take a vow called the Hippocratic Oath to "first do no harm." As a naturopathic physician and classical homeopath, I remain mindful of this oath when treating these precious children. From a naturopathic perspective, it makes sense to start with the least invasive intervention possible when working towards balance and health. Homeopathy and dietary interventions are, when applied knowledgably, very safe and effective modes of treatment. Why not start with what's least invasive first, and then explore other, more invasive interventions if needed?

Conventional medicine cannot yet provide a conclusive answer as to why so many children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, much less offer a cure. Since an increasing number of parents feel their needs are not being met by mainstream medicine, we invite you to take a good look at another approach-one that treats the whole child, individualizes treatment, and is safe.