Individuals labeled with autism fit into a wide range of deficits and abnormalities. Even among similar types and subgroups, autistic individuals vary in behavior, communication, and social ability. These deficits have created the need for individualized treatment plans. Specialists and therapists attempt to correct or alleviate many of the issues, but sensory dysfunction and developmental delay compound the problems and make autism difficult to treat.
Currently, an autism spectrum diagnosis comes from a collective set of observed behaviors, signs, and symptoms. There is no actual test for autism. Since those on the spectrum remain classified under mental health, most treatments and therapies lean toward alleviating these symptoms, controlling or changing undesirable behaviors, and teaching children to function more appropriately at home and in society. The goals for all therapies include improving the individual’s quality of life; yet, most medical professionals reject the idea that biomedical therapy is a legitimate treatment for autism.
What is Biomedical Therapy?
Biomedical therapy for autistic children is an approach that combines the science of biochemistry with the practice of traditional medicine. A biochemist studies the physical, chemical, and other vital processes within a living organism. He conducts research studies and experiments. Biomedical therapies look at, analyze, and attempt to correct individual biological malfunctions, deficits, and imbalances within the body.
Traditional medicine often turns to drugs to alleviate or mask symptoms, but biomedical approaches prefer to use the natural methods of diets, dietary supplements, and biological supports to repair the damage. Biomedical methods focus on the fundamental principle of uniqueness and seek out the best path for each individual’s recovery. That path differs for each child depending on his specific medical problems.
Just as each child sits on a different spot on the autism spectrum, each biomedical diagnosis will differ too. What autistic children have in common is that particular biological systems, such as those used to detox the body, are more likely to result in problems. Each system will break down in its own unique way, but once those abnormalities are addressed and corrected, children with autism can begin to recover.
How Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) Came to Be
The late Dr. Bernard Rimland, a psychologist, author, and father of an autistic son, sits at the heart of the biomedical movement. In 1965, he published the book, “Infantile Autism." His original purpose was to refute the current notion that uncaring and emotionally cold parents cause autism. He suggested that it was a neurological disorder with biological causes, rather than a psychological one, and advocated for vitamin and mineral replacement as well as a gluten-free casein-free diet.
He received an overwhelming response from the parents of autistic children self-experimenting with mega doses of vitamins and minerals. Their pleas for help sent him on a quest that resulted in the birth of the Autism Research Institute (ARI). When Rimland’s son was born in 1956, autism was rare. Only one or two children out of 10,000 received an autism diagnosis. While the institute devoted itself to doing research, it also sent the results to professionals and parents worldwide. It established a laboratory to perform specialty tests not available commercially. It also recruited a vitamin and mineral manufacturer to help create a formula specifically designed for autism.
In 1994, the biomedical movement took another step forward when Dr. Sidney Baker and Jon Pangborn, a biochemist and father of an autistic son, created the organization Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!). At its first conference, experts from all over Europe and the United States convened to combine their expertise into a safe, useful approach for treating autism. These experts came from the fields of:
The consensus was to unite their best ideas and practices into a single document they could share with physicians and parents looking for help. That initial pamphlet grew into a book, and today, the DAN! organization uses a specific protocol to empower autistic children through the use of biomedical therapy.
What is the DAN! Protocol?
Dr. Baker stresses the fact that each autistic child or adult is an individual with unique medical issues. DAN! doctors and other medical professionals who belong to Defeat Autism Now! thoroughly test and evaluate each individual for potential biochemical abnormalities. Unlike typical autism therapies that focus on changing behavior through modification and manipulation techniques, DAN! protocol zeros in on the underlying physical problems that often cause most autism behaviors. Typically, potential issues fall into one of four major areas:
- food intolerances, nutrition, and dietary treatments
- gastrointestinal inflammation
- heavy metals and environmental toxins
- cellular metabolism issues
DAN! doctors handle each of these divisions separately as a unit, but the order they are handled in and the individual treatment for each area depends on test results. Testing is very thorough. Some of the tests physicians might run are:
- basic genetic screenings
- blood and urine analysis
- vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- organ function tests
- stool analysis
- food intolerance tests (IgG)
- brain scans like an MRI or an EEG
- hair mineral analysis
- viral immune screenings
- Natural Killer activities
- thyroid tests
In addition, a thorough developmental history is required. While typical doctors are trained to think in terms of current symptoms only, to fine-tune the intervention, DAN! doctors need a complete history of the child’s past. With test results and a detailed history in hand, physicians are able to target the best medical treatment options for that particular child.
Do Biomedical Treatments Work?
When it comes to any treatment for autism, the bottom line always centers on whether or not the techniques work. Despite the opposition, the biomedical movement continues to grow. Parents of autistic children testify to amazing results, but like those who confront other autism treatments, opponents like to bring up the lack of scientific literature.
It is true that the Autism Research Institute has done most of the significant studies on the effectiveness of biomedical therapy. In fact, more than half of all autistic children who go on the gluten-free casein-free diet experience favorable results. However, biomedical treatment has little outside scientific research support. Of the biomedical studies conducted so far, most of them follow the effects on a single individual, but those studies have all been positive.
Biomedical therapy is not new, but few physicians look for those types of problems in autistic children. Today’s medical mindset focuses more on symptom relief and drug therapy, than causation. Parents can certainly consider the biochemical possibilities and try various autism diets without medical supervision; but attempting to correct major health issues like seizures, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmune problems, yeast overgrowth, and vitamin deficiencies take accurate test results and a physician well trained in handling those types of medical problems.
The DAN! protocol is a successful biomedical therapy that offers children with autism a chance to recover from their medical issues. Like all autism therapies, however, biomedical treatments work better for some autistic children than for others. Some children go on to recover fully from their autism. Some children see a partial recovery, and a few experience no benefit at all. Timing sometimes plays a role in that – the younger a child begins biomedical intervention, the better his chance for a full recovery.