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Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine among Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder


This study examined the prevalence of the use of different types of conventional, complementary and alternative therapies by children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Of 112 families surveyed, 74% were using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for their child with ASD. CAM use was most strongly associated with parent report of child’s diagnosis. Most CAM was reported by families to be either helpful or without effect, but not harmful. The main reasons for choosing CAM were related to concerns with the safety and side effects of prescribed medications. Conventional health care providers should be aware of the high prevalence of use among children with ASD and be prepared to discuss the use of CAM with families.

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Correspondence to Ellen Hanson.

Appendix: Therapy Categories and Descriptions Listed in the Survey

Appendix: Therapy Categories and Descriptions Listed in the Survey

  1. 1.

    Modified diet (e.g., additive-free, Feingold diet, sugar-free, wheat-free, vegan, etc.)

  2. 2.

    Food supplements (e.g., blue green algae, evening primrose oil, fish oil, omega 3 fatty acids, pycnogenol, etc.)

  3. 3.

    Herbal remedies (e.g., chamomile, gingko biloba, ginseng, kava, skullcap, St. John’s wort, valerian, wild oat seed, etc.)

  4. 4.

    Vitamins/minerals (e.g., Biometics, Cytobuddies, KidsPlex, Restores, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc etc.)

  5. 5.

    Biofeedback (e.g., EEG, EMG)

  6. 6.

    Chiropractic and Osteopathic manipulation (craniosacral therapy)

  7. 7.

    Educational Techniques (e.g., ABA, TEACCH, Floortime, Higashi, PECS, speech therapy, behavioral modification, behavioral program)

  8. 8.

    Guided imagery/hypnosis

  9. 9.

    Healer/healing touch (e.g. spiritual, psychic, Reiki, energy, non-contact therapeutic touch, etc.)

  10. 10.


  11. 11.

    Meditation/relaxation response

  12. 12.


  13. 13.

    Sensory therapies (e.g., art, dance, music, sensory integration, white noise, etc.)

  14. 14.

    Special exercises (e.g., yoga, tai chi, qi gong, etc.)

  15. 15.

    Medication (Adderall, Clonidine, Concerta, Cylert, Depakote, Dexedrine, Focalin, Metadate, Paxil, Prozac, Risperdol, Ritalin, Tegretol, Tenex, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Other)

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Hanson, E., Kalish, L.A., Bunce, E. et al. Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine among Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 37, 628–636 (2007).

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  • Autism
  • Complementary
  • Alternative medicine