Some children have not looked at their mother’s for years. Some at the age of seven have never spoken a word, not even ‘Momma or Dadda,” and others bang their head until it bleeds. All of these children have autism. Autism is a life-long neurological disability that affects over 1 out of 55 individuals in the United States. Imagine your child disconnecting from the world and having a child whose eyes look, but don’t see, whose ears hear, but don’t listen, whose cries never end and doctors offer little help. Fad interventions such as auditory integration therapy, secretin therapy, and chelation therapy reveal how desperate parents are to cure their children of autism.
Auditory integration therapy claimed to cure autism in 1997. It was developed by Dr. Guy Berard in Annecy, France to help people with auditory processing problems. According to Dr. Berard, individuals with autism have auditory processing problems, and develop a distorted perception of the environment. He stated that autism could be cured by twenty sessions of this miraculous intervention. The therapy is accomplished by a device, which randomly selects high and low frequencies from a music source (a cassette or CD player), and then sends these sounds via headphones to the trainee. Any licensed audiologist can perform the therapy provided they have the magical device. Audiologist’s phones were ringing off the hook for this new miracle. A parent would wait patiently while their child sat in a small room with headphones on. The theory was simple; it would enable children with autism to perceive the environment as everyone else. Each 30-minute session cost approximately $300.00. Families would do whatever was necessary to raise the money for these sessions. Some children would utter their first word after the sessions, however, the progress did not continue. Soon, parents’ stopped talking about auditory integration therapy. It simply vanished, as did their money, and their children were no better off then when they started the program, moreover, some were worse than before they started.
Another ray of hope appeared when Virginia Beck, a mother of a young man with autism appeared on 20/20 and Dateline in 1998, stating her son was cured by secretin therapy. Secretin is a polypeptide hormone involved in the regulation of gastric function. It is prepared from the duodenal mucosa of pigs and is not licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of autism. Secretin could be purchased from a pharmacist provided a parent could find a physician to write the prescription and to administer the medication intravenously. To be cured of autism it would require 15 to 20 injections at $350.00 per injection. The children would bellow blood-curtailing cries to be freed while physicians used straight jackets to hold them down for the 45-minute sessions. Many children went into convulsions from this fad intervention, more important, others died. Once again, everyone stopped talking about the famous cure of autism. Secretin did not cure autism. Desperate and penniless parents stopped pleading with pharmacists and physicians to perform this grueling therapy on their children.
Another huge craze was Chelation therapy. Chelation therapy was first developed by the United States Navy as a way of removing toxic metals from the bodies of military personnel exposed to high concentrations of lead during the 1940’s. In 2002, it became another intervention for autism at $125 per treatment, because a physician in England stated that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine, which contained thimerosal caused autism. The only way to expel the thimerosal was through this treatment, however it would take between 20 and 100 intravenous dosages to show results. Parents believed this intervention made sense; after all, most of their children seemed to withdraw and exhibit bizarre autistic behaviors right after the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine. This therapy was thought to be without a doubt the cure for autism. Some children developed high fevers with hallucinations; others vomited uncontrollably for hours, while others kidney function diminished. Once again there was no change. Parents took their children home with little hope of every finding a cure.
Tomorrow will probably bring another fad intervention claiming to cure autism. Parents will continue to run to their banks to mortgage their homes, and borrow from friends and family. They will stop at nothing, regardless how bizarre or costly. If someone tells them it is a cure, they will believe it, because hope is one of the only things they have left. Hope that a cure will come in time and hope that they have the strength, courage, and commitment to try just one more time.
On the other side are many individuals who say seeking a cure is wrong, yet many seek and try to find reasons for autism.
Should autism be abolished? Is that the right thing to do? REALLY!!!
Will we ever be able to just accept things as they are?
Will we continue to put our children through these horrible “quack” cures?
Will we? When do we stop? Can we stop?