Among the myriad treatments available to individuals with autism spectrum disorders today, alternative therapies have gained a great deal of attention in recent years. According to a 2006 study, about 50 percent of children with autism in the United States may receive some form of complementary and/or alternative medicine.
Alternative therapy generally refers to interventions or treatments that differ from and are used instead of (or along with) conventional treatments like physical therapy. Examples include music therapy, hippotherapy, and nutritional therapies. Alternative therapies have emerged as part of a growing assortment of treatments used with individuals across the autism spectrum. However, parents must be aware that effectiveness has often not been established for a particular intervention. Focus primarily on evidence-based treatments, and be wary of misinformation or claims that certain methods lead to drastic improvements. Many families who have chosen to use alternative therapies see them as fun, motivational, and potentially helpful treatment approaches for their child, even though little scientific evidence exists on the efficacy of treatments such as those briefly described below.