Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Because there are no definitive treatments for Asperger's syndrome, some parents may turn to complementary or alternative therapies. However, most of these treatments haven't been adequately studied. It's possible that by focusing on alternative treatments, you may miss out on behavior therapies that have more evidence to support their use.

Of greater concern, however, is that some treatments may not be safe. The Food and Drug Administration has warned about over-the-counter chelation medications. These drugs have been marketed as a therapy for autism spectrum disorders and other conditions. Chelation is a therapy that removes heavy metals from the body, but there are no over-the-counter chelation therapies that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This type of therapy should only be done under the close supervision of medical professionals. According to the FDA, the risks of chelation include dehydration, kidney failure and even death.

Other examples of alternative therapies that have been used for Asperger's syndrome include:


Sleep problems are common in children with Asperger's syndrome, and melatonin supplements may help regulate your child's sleep-wake cycle. The recommended dose is 3 mg, 30 minutes before bedtime. Possible side effects include excessive sleepiness, dizziness and headache.

Other dietary supplements

Numerous dietary supplements have been tried in people with autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome. Those that may have some evidence to support their use include:

  • Vitamin B-6 and magnesium
  • Vitamin C (usually in combination with other vitamins)
  • Carnosine
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Avoidance diets

Some parents have turned to gluten-free or casein-free diets to treat autism spectrum disorders. There's no clear evidence that these diets work, and anyone attempting such a diet for their child needs guidance from a registered dietitian to ensure the child's nutritional requirements are met.


This gastrointestinal hormone has been tried as a potential treatment. Numerous studies have been conducted on secretin, and none found any evidence that it helps.

Other therapies that have been tried, but lack objective evidence to support their use include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, immune therapies, antibiotics, antifungal drugs, chiropractic manipulations, massage and craniosacral massage, and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Nov. 18, 2010

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