Information for the public

Is there anything I should not be offered for autism?

Is there anything I should not be offered for autism?

There are a number of medical and drug treatments that you should not be offered specifically to treat the main symptoms of autism (see 'Autism'). These include:

  • a treatment called chelation (sometimes called detoxification) that involves taking one substance to remove other metallic substances from the body

  • diets that limit the amounts or do not contain some types of food (such as gluten-free, casein-free or ketogenic diets)

  • drugs usually given for problems with memory and thinking, such as cholinesterase inhibitors

  • hormones (such as oxytocin and secretin) and a procedure (called testosterone regulation) that involves using a drug to reduce the amount of the hormone testosterone (or oestrogen) in the body

  • treatment with oxygen in a pressurised chamber (called hyperbaric oxygen therapy)

  • vitamins, minerals and supplements (such as vitamin B6 or iron supplements)

  • medication usually given for seizures (called anticonvulsants), depression (called antidepressants) or serious changes in mental state (antipsychotics).

However, you may be offered antipsychotic or antidepressant medication for a mental health problem (see 'What treatments should I be offered if I also have a mental health problem?') or challenging behaviour (see 'What support should I be offered for challenging behaviour?'), or anticonvulsant medication if you also have epilepsy.

In addition, you should not be offered a programme called 'facilitated communication' where a therapist or other person supports and guides a person's hand or arm while using a device such as a computer keyboard or mouse. There is no evidence that it helps people with autism, and in some cases it has caused harm.

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