Parents New to Autism: Don’t Fall for Pseudoscience like DAN! or MAPS

Miracle Next ExitThis is an edited-for-privacy version of an article Shannon  Des Roches Rosa posted on an autism parenting board, in response to a parent asking for advice about DAN! doctors.

One of the loveliest features of this group is the opportunity for parents who are new to the world of disability and autism is to hear from parents with many years of experience — so those new parents can avoid some of the mistakes we veterans unwittingly made.

DAN! (or MAPS, or “biomedical” approaches to autism, doesn’t really matter) is pseudoscience. That means it is poppycock but sounds “sciencey,” so that parents who are given few answers for how to help their autistic child by the mainstream medical establishment, and who are often desperate to “fix” their autistic child because of negative media messages about autism, will grasp at such seemingly authoritative straws. Hence the need for such practitioners to mention Ivy League  credentials, etc., repeatedly.

Note that DAN! doctors don’t usually take insurance. So, erm, what are the families who can’t afford such treatment supposed to do? Don’t you think that if DAN! ideas were truly effective they would be embraced by the mainstream medical establishment and the government so that children of all income backgrounds could benefit, not just those whose families have sufficient income (or houses to mortgage)?

Here are some guidelines for identifying DAN!/MAPS and other autism pseudoscience: Don’t fall for it. Autistic kids need your understanding, not fixing. Yes, they need to learn how to cope with the world. But they also need to you help change the world, make it accommodate them, so they don’t become so traumatized by it that they can’t learn, or enjoy life.

…all autism approaches should mirror the physicians’ credo “First, do no harm.” But how do you determine when benefits outweigh potential damage? The pseudoscience so often promoted as “autism treatments” has a handful of consistent identifying characteristics. Ask yourself:
  • Does this practitioner or vendor promise miracles that no one else seems to achieve?
  • Is the person promising the outcome also asking me for money?
  • Do I find any scientific research supporting their claims, or are there only individual (often emotional) testimonials of effects?
  • Does the practitioner or vendor promise a blanket “cure” for unrelated disorders, such as grouping together allergies and autism; or autism and ADHD; or autism, diabetes, cancer, and allergies?
  • Does the practitioner or vendor have strong credentials as an expert in the therapies they’re promising, or in the field of autism?
Thinking critically is one of the most important actions we can take for those we love, and for ourselves.

Here are some other resources for parents new to autism:

Good luck. You are not alone. So don’t fall for anyone who tries to isolate you and turn you against the mainstream medical establishment — while gladly taking your money.

Reprinted with permission of the author from Squidalicious.

About Shannon Des Roches Rosa

Shannon Des Roches RosaShannon has three kids — one of whom is autistic — sand calls herself writer, parent, geek, cheerful grump . She has been blogging fearlessly and compassionately about parenting and autism since 2003, at Squidalicious. Shannon is also a co-founder and senior editor at  Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.

Follow her on Twitter and Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism on Facebook.

Editor’s Note:  Opinions expressed by Autism Daily Newscast Contributors are their own. We welcome all views and encourage you to enter your comments below. While we do allow for all views to be presented, Autism Daily Newscast does NOT believe autism is not a disease, nor needs a cure.  The treatments used by some DAN! practitioners is: Detoxification of heavy metals through chelation (a potentially hazardous medical procedure. Autism Daily Newscast opposes Chelation treatments and have written extensively on this subject.

  • Joyce says:

    Wow, this is the worse recommendation to a new parent ever. To tell a new parent to follow mainstream doctors’ recommendations about autism….that is an all time low. What mainstream doctors know about autism today, if anything, was brought about by the Autism Research Institute’s think tanks, reuniting parents and relatives of people with autism with medical and scientific background to challenge the “medical establishment” that blamed regrigerator mothers ( yes, you! and with NO scientific evidence was the official cause for over 40 years) for causing autism. And the DAN! Doctors work has improved the lives of thousands of kids and recovered many who can now lead normal lives. Yes, as with any new science there was trial and error, and obviously it doesn’t work the same on everybody… No treatment does. But there is no doubt in my mind that we would still be in the dark ages if brave people like them would not have stood up for our kids and created a protocol to start healing the underlying causes of autism.

    • Bonnie says:

      Shannon, you are very naïve if you believe effective ideas would be embraced by the mainstream medical establishment and the government. Mainstream medicine is totally controlled by the pharmaceutical industry. They would have to admit that their vaccines containing neurotoxins mercury and aluminum and many even worse ingredients are responsible for many cases of autism. Joyce is absolutely right. As an MD I treated many autistic people with nutrition and homeopathy with good results when all conventional medicine offered was psychiatric drugs to suppress symptoms and cause further brain damage. I know many DAN! Doctors personally and have been to their conventions. They have determined causes like heavy metals, gut flora imbalances and food sensitivities which are treatable. While they do not claim to totally cure every child, they have improved life for thousands. Dr Rimland of the Autism Research Institute surveyed thousands of parents about what they found most helpful for their autistic children. Some of the most helpful according to parents are vitamin B6 and magnesium, and avoidance of gluten and casein (milk protein), which his research showed beneficial for 66% of children who tried it. Bonnie Camo MD

  • Testimonials like these are, again, why we urge people to learn to think critically about autism and autism treatments. Rimland’s initial (appreciated) contributions to fighting the Refrigerator Mother myth are overshadowed by his support of autism pseudoscience. And Bonnie Camo’s testimonial above specifically is valuable only in being a near-textbook collection of long-debunked pseudoscience red flags.

    Autistic people deserve better than being told they’re broken and defective and in need of curing.

  • Darla Mohler says:

    Shannon, have you attended the MAPS conference? It is obvious that you have not. How can possibly sleep well at night when you advise new parents of Autism on something you know nothing about? MAPS, (Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs), offers incredible, evidence based information on aspects of Autism, Down Syndrome, etc. The speakers are absolutely brilliant doctors in their field. Most of them have dedicated their lives to research and teaching about Autism. This program is paving the way for doctors across the world to understand, therefore treat their patients with this complex disorder. For you to call this program Pseudo-science shows your ignorance on the subject.

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