An article published today by the New Jersey Star-Ledger entitled "Questions, risks surround hyperbaric chamber treatments for autistic children" is an interesting story addressing the pros and cons of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for autism. In the article, writer Susan Livio addresses the key points involving the treatment, which is frequently implemented by parents of children with autism.
However, the story caught my attention because of its title, which I found to be very misleading. Other than a glancing mention of rare side effects, there are no inherent "risks" that Livio alluded to in her title, other than the fact that HBOT therapy can be expensive when not covered by insurance, hence posing a financial "risk" to families. However, this is significantly different from the inference that HBOT poses health risks.
With so much misinformation currently circulating within the autism community, these types of attention-grabbing headlines do not do any favors for those searching for the truth. Whether intentional or not, the article immediately casts HBOT in a negative light before a single sentence of the story is read.
I am neither a proponent or critic of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, but I do take issue when I see these kinds of headlines coming from the media as it pertains to autism, mainly because they needlessly create further division among a fractioned community that so desperately needs to come together.
While any form of medical treatment poses "risks," HBOT therapy is considered relatively safe, assuming that patients are properly supervised by a licensed medical physician (an important fact omitted by the author). And unlike some of the more controversial biomedical treatments such as chelation and IVIG, research has consistently shown HBOT to have minimal risks or side effects and in many cases, have proven beneficial. I personally know of parents who swear by HBOT therapy and have heard nothing but positive things by those who have tried it.
Yes, HBOT can be expensive, particularly for those who chose to buy a chamber for their own home, but we must be careful not to confuse the very different issues of financial risk vs. health risk.
Children with autism should have all potentially beneficial treatments at their disposal, regardless of cost. Just because something is expensive should not disqualify it as a treatment option nor should it be unfairly cast in a negative light, especially when it has the potential to benefit some of those who try it.