Is there a Cure for Autism?

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When her son was diagnosed with autism several years ago, comedian and actress Jenny McCarthy spearheaded a national campaign to bring awareness to the disease and its potential causes and treatments. With ample time and monetary resources at her disposal, she seemed the perfect proponent for advancement of research and to be the voice of frustrated parents of autistic children who are searching for a cure for the disease. Earlier this year, Jenny McCarthy shocked the media and medical community when she publicly announced that her son has been cured of autism.

A Celebrity’s “Cure” for Autism

Crediting a wheat free and dairy free diet for the dramatic improvements in her son’s condition, Jenny McCarthy has brought hope for improvement to many families struggling with autism through nutrition. Specifically, it has been reported that the child was on a gluten-free, casein-free diet for one year, in combination with vitamin supplementation, and anti-fungals for intestinal yeast overgrowth. These treatments are credited for recovering his neurological function after which speech and behavioral therapy quickly advanced the skills he was unable to grasp while battling autism. While the lack of enthusiasm from the CDC and medical community regarding her son’s condition and the catalysts for his apparent improvement are disheartening, Ms. McCarthy continues to encourage parents of autistic children to continue sharing and investigating any treatments that have brought positive results. She contends that the diet that has brought her son to recovery from autism may not work for other children, and each family must simply keep trying different methods until they find the one or combination that improves the condition of their own child. Also to be noted is that, although the condition of Ms. McCarthy’s son and reported many others with use of this diet has been very positive, the results should be referred to as “recovery” rather than a “cure”, as it is unknown whether reverting to old diet habits will reverse the recovery.

Widely Accepted Treatments in Lieu of a Cure for Autism

National and international organizations specializing in the diagnosis, care and treatment of autism still hold that there is no cure for autism. Rather, they do recommend specific physical, behavioral and drug therapies which are designed to result in improvement of social and communication skills. Educational and behavioral therapists implement intensive training sessions with autistic children to help them develop social and language skills with varying levels of progression. Much of the success of programs such as these is predicated on the consistent efforts and support of the family, and therefore continued emotional therapy for the family is also critical.

Historically, doctors have also prescribed antidepressant medication to counteract the symptoms of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder associated with autism, although they have been unsuccessful in curing autism itself.

Currently, research is being conducted on animal models to scan brain activity centers during intense episodes of autistic behavior to isolate the neurological impulses, and attempt to find a cure for autism.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke from the Autism Fact Sheet from Jenny McCarthy: My son’s recovery from autism Published April 4, 2008