Child Neurologist Questions Validity of DAN! Autism Ad

I was browsing the web and came across a Letter to the Editor of the Okotoks Western Wheel, a publication based out of Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. In this Letter to the Editor, Child Neurologist Robert H. A. Haslam takes issue with an advertisement placed by practitioners of the Defeat Autism Now! biomedical protocol. In the event that the Letter to the Editor is only temporarily stored on the website, I am reproducing it here for you to view.

Dear Editor,

As a child neurologist, I take exception to the advertisement “Defeat Autism Now Practitioners’ Views on: Autism Spectrum Disorders and Childhood Behavioural Disorders” by neuropaths Poole and Hartmann on page 34, May 19 edition of the Western Wheel.

The ad claims that autism spectrum disorders can be caused by an increased intake of heavy metals, vaccinations, other toxic exposures and immune disorders. It states that treatment with a gluten-free diet may be helpful because of an intestinal deficiency in the ability to digest protein. “Nutritional supplementation” is advocated and detoxification may be used to treat heavy metal intoxication.

The above information is misleading and puts the family of an autistic child in a difficult position. A gluten-free diet is useful for celiac disease; there is no scientific proof that it helps people with autism. The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is given around one year of age, a time when autism is often first recognized, thus leading to the disproven belief that vaccinations cause autism. Studies in several countries have shown that when the vaccinations are discontinued the mortality from red measles rises. Some critics of vaccination have blamed the preservative thimerosal (containing mercury) for autism, but thimerosal has not been used in Canada for 10 years. British physician Wakefield claimed that immune disorders of the gut cause autism. However, careful review of the study showed that the science was flawed and the Journal Lancet retracted the article. Finally, there is no evidence of heavy metal poisoning, including lead poisoning, in autistic children and the treatment with “detoxification” is potentially harmful.

There is no question that autism is on the rise. As the naturopaths mention, current research is suggestive that there is a combined genetic and environmental cause. Autism frequently occurs more than once in the same family and is very common in identical twins. Scientists are discovering that many individuals with autism have subtle chromosome changes and when exposed to a yet unknown environmental agent, autism may result. However, there is no scientific evidence that any of the environmental factors described in the advertisement are responsible for autism.

Finally, the current practice for the management of autism spectrum disorders includes a multidisciplinary approach and the use of specific behavioural modification techniques especially geared to the many diverse manifestations of this disorder.

Robert H. A. Haslam C.M., M.D., FRCPC.

What are your thoughts on the letter?

The letter originally appeared here: Ad concerning Autism Spectrum Disorder misleading.

About Melissa

Melissa is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and strives to provide information about all aspects of autism through her blog, The Autism Education Site. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Like me on Facebook.

© Melissa Hincha-Ownby and The Autism Education Site, 2008-2014.