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Autism Treatment Network Featured in Newsweek

October 10, 2007

Newsweek reports in the February 28, 2005 edition that many families are searching for alternative treatments to deal with the medley of symptoms associated with autism. The issue of treatment has brought six US medical institutions together to launch the Autism Treatment Network; they plan to evaluate therapies, pool data and ultimately create guidelines to help parents with a treatment roadmap. Cure Autism Now and the

Autism Treatment Network have formed a strategic alliance to accelerate ATN's efforts. As the Newsweek article suggests, ATN's standard of treatment cannot come fast enough for families confronted with the myriad of discrete, unproven and costly treatments:

With autism's medley of symptoms - which can include a heightened sensitivity to sound and picky eating habits - many families search for alternative treatments. Kacy Dolce and her husband, Christopher, recently took their son, Hank, 4, to see Mary Ann Block, an osteopath in Hurst, Texas, for a $2,500 assessment. Block prescribes vitamins and minerals, diets free of wheat and dairy, and a controversial treatment, chelation, which strips the body of metals like mercury. Block believes these toxins could come from vaccines and are at the core of autism. Mainstream doctors, pointing to scientific studies showing no connection, worry that chelation puts children at serious risk. Despite the possibility of dangerous side effects, like liver and kidney problems, the Dolces say they'd consider it. "We don't know enough yet to say no," says Kacy. "I'll do anything to help our child."

What parents really need is a road map. Earlier this month six U.S. medical centers joined forces to launch the Autism Treatment Network, which will evaluate therapies, pool data and, ultimately, create guidelines. "We can't have parents chasing down the latest treatment," says Peter Bell of Cure Autism Now, a research and advocacy group allied with the effort. "We need to understand what works." At the forefront of ATN is Massachusetts General's Ladders program, where Dr. Margaret Bauman is using a multidisciplinary approach. In addition to offering standard regimens like physical therapy and behavioral intervention, Bauman assesses overall health. When she saw a teenager crying and twisting her body, symptoms other doctors attributed to autism, Bauman sent her to a gastroenterologist, who found ulcers in her esophagus. The writhing was caused by pain. A boy's head-banging went away after he was treated for colitis. "We really have to start thinking out of the box," says Bauman.

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