Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain that appears in early childhood. The condition causes impairment of social interaction and communication, as well as unusual behaviours.
What are the symptoms of autism?
Symptoms vary but are characterized by a difficulty in relating to people, objects, and events. Communication problems may be present, such as a lack of eye contact or response when their name is called; fixation on specific subjects or toys; difficulty with changes to routine or surroundings; and repetitive body movements, such as head banging or hand flapping.
Dietary changes that may be helpful.
Preliminary research suggests that some autistic children may be allergic or sensitive to certain foods and that removal of these foods from the diet has appeared to improve some behaviour. As a result, one prominent doctor has recommended a trial hypoallergenic diet. Such a trial requires supervision by a doctor.
Nutritional supplements that may be helpful.
Uncontrolled and double-blind research shows that vitamin B6 can be helpful for autistic children. In these trials, children typically took between 3.5 mg and almost 100 mg of B6 for every 2.2 pounds of body weight, with some researchers recommending 30 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Although toxicity was not reported, such amounts are widely considered to have potential toxicity that can damage the nervous system; these amounts should only be administered by a doctor. One prominent researcher has suggested that vitamin B6 is better supported by research than is drug treatment in dealing with autism.
Some researchers have added magnesium to vitamin B6, reporting that taking both nutrients may have better effects than taking B6 alone. The amount of magnesium—10 to 15 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight—is high enough to cause diarrhoea in some people and should be administered by a doctor. Doctors will often try vitamin B6 or the combination of B6 and magnesium for at least three months to see whether these nutrients help autistic children.
In one double-blind trial lasting ten weeks, autistic children given 1 gram vitamin C for each 20 pounds of body weight showed a reduction in symptom severity compared with placebo. The authors speculate that vitamin C may play a positive role because of its known effects on a hormone pathway typically disturbed in children with autism.