Mayo Clinic Weighs in on Restrictive Diets for Autism

Elena Schweitzer

Recently, on
a Q&A portion of its website
, the Mayo Clinic weighed in on the gluten
free, casein free (GFCF) diet for autism. Dr. Jay Hoecker, emeritus consultant
for the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,
stated that there was "no evidence that special diets are an effective
autism treatment" and that "restrictive diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies."

Thanks in large part to a lack of autism awareness, there are many alternative treatments
and therapies (including the GFCF diet) that desperate parents seek out and end
up being more harmful than helpful.

Any home-brewed diet based on a lack of evidence, should not be used haphazardly. A professional nutritionist or doctor should be overseeing any type of diet being used on a child on a
regular basis. Without these measures, a child’s health can be severely
affected. Not many caregivers have access to the knowledge and diagnostic tools
such as blood work, urine samples, blood pressure, vitals or are nutritionally savvy
enough to keep a child’s well being properly monitored. 

I too, tried the gluten-fee, casein-free diet for my son and ironically enough,
his healing began when I ended the diet and put him back on milks, yogurts, Happy Meals, Pediasure and Ensure. 

We’re spinning our wheels and are more interested in fads rather than facts. I have never read a single
report stating that ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), floor time, complete dedication,
or any other behavioral modification therapy was harmful. These are the things
we should be focused on.

Temple Grandin’s mother did not use the GFCF diet. Neither did the majority of parents of the greatest known adults
with autism who are now fully functional in our society. 

One can search any number of alleged "fixes" and find someone touting
results. My son is my result. The parents I study with and blog with are real
and the diet did not work for them either. The positive results in GFCF studies could have
very well been brought on by other underlying factors.

Granted, there are instances when a gluten-free casein-free diet is warranted if
a child with autism has been diagnosed with allergies related to certain foods. However,
this is often the exception and not the rule.

The GFCF diet is expensive and often forces already strapped families to spend their last
leaving them discouraged and distraught when the results don’t come.

I, like many other parents, am witnessing first-hand the behavioral modification
approach and a complete turnaround in my son’s life. It is remarkable, miraculous and above all, it
does not cost us anything other than our time.

Early detection and intervention of autism is the best approach to help our
children.  Let’s stay focused and base decisions on
recommendations from organizations like the Mayo Clinic instead of jumping on
bandwagons and treatments that have yet to be proven by research.