AEIOU Media Statement following The Autism Enigma Documentary on Four Corners
Tue, 28 Aug 12
MEDIA STATEMENT – AEIOU Foundation responds to ABC Four Corners Story: The Autism Enigma
AEIOU Foundation CEO Alan Smith issued the following statement in response to the ‘Autism Enigma’, a documentary broadcasted on the ABC’s Four Corners Program on Monday August 27, 2012.
“The Autism Enigma is a Canadian documentary which presents one theory about the cause of autism, exploring the idea it may be related to immigration, antibiotic use, and linking gut bacteria with autism.
AEIOU commends The ABC for its balanced and careful introduction and conclusion to the story, but cautions parents and carers that there is little scientific evidence to prove the benefits or risks associated with changing a child’s diet to improve characteristics of autism and arguments in the documentary are so far unsubstantiated. Any change to a child’s diet should be administered in consultation with a medical expert.
Experts believe autism may be caused by a number of factors, but these factors have not yet been confirmed. While Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects up to one in 100 people internationally, it is important to understand that this figure relates to the entire spectrum of the disorder. The diagnosis of autistic disorder is estimated to affect on in 250 children and is specific to children who present with profound difficulties in communication, social interaction, repetitive routines or behaviours, and /or intellectual impairments.
According to a Cochrane Review of current research into the diets of people with autism, it is common, and somewhat natural for parents to use complementary and alternative therapies such as exclusion diets for their children with autism.
The Cochrane Review explores the efficacy of gluten or casein free diets as an intervention to improve the symptoms of autism (for example behaviour, cognitive and social function in individuals with autism) and finds the evidence in proving this theory is poor. Importantly, the review demonstrates there is a lack of research into the’ potential harms associated with such diets’. Therefore, AEIOU strongly cautions parents to approach such methods with caution and in collaboration with their paediatrician or medical specialists.
The review (by Millward C, Ferriter M, Calver SJ, &Connell-Jones GG) concludes there has not been a large scale, good quality and randomised controlled trial, and without such research, it is impossible to conclude the peptides in gluten and casein cause autism or that instilling a diet free from such peptides is effective.
Another Cochrane Review studies the 1998 introduction of Intravenous Secretin for treatment of ASDs. The introduction of the drug was based on anecdotal evidence, and later scientific reviews debunked the theory that its use could improve behaviours associated with autism, such as a lack of social interaction, communication and restrictive or repetitive behaviours and routines (Williams K, Wray, J, Wheeler, D). This review clearly shows that the use of this drug does not change any of these behaviours in well-controlled studies.
At AEIOU Foundation we emphasise to families that it is vital to explore the facts, conduct research and consult with the medical practitioners and allied health providers before altering a child’s diet. To date, there is no known cause of autism and there is no cure. The best practice guidelines in Australia state children with autism have the best chance of reaching their full potential if they engage in between 15 – 25 hours of therapy per week for two years.
We invite families, media representatives or community stakeholders to visit one of our centres to see how the program works, and its benefits to children, their families, and the community,” Mr Smith said.
About AEIOU Foundation
AEIOU Foundation is one of Australia’s leading providers of best practice early intervention for children with autism who are aged between two and a half and five years. AEIOU supports up to 200 children each year in 10 locations across Queensland in its reputable program which aims to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their maximum potential.
Research Source: Gluten-and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder (REVIEW), 2009: The Cochrane Collaboration, published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Intravenous secretin for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (REVIEW), 2012: The Cochrane Collaboration, published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.