Luke is one of a growing number of children receiving alternative treatments for autism. Photo: Oran Hardcastle, THV 11
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Autism Society of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans live with autism. Their symptoms range from having difficulty in social situations to being unable to speak.
Doctors and families are now turning to alternative therapies for help. Those therapies range from medical treatments to diets to eastern and holistic interventions.
Each day, Shelly Armstrong of North Little Rock gives melatonin to her son Luke, who is autistic, in order to help him sleep better.
"Because he gets his rest now, his behaviors have gotten better and he tends to have less tantrums," says Armstrong.
Luke is a triplet; Armstrong says his sisters, Emily and Gracie, were developing fine. But with Luke, she noticed a huge difference right away. At two-and-a-half years old, doctors made the diagnosis.
"At that moment, my mind exploded," says Armstrong. "I wanted to know if Luke was going to play football. Would he go to college? Would he have to live with us forever?"
Armstrong was referred to Dr. Richard Frye at Children's Hospital. There, they practice traditional therapies along with alternative treatments. Popular alternative approaches include vitamin supplements and practicing certain dietary methods, which Dr. Frye says have some validity.
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There's also chelation therapy, which is the removal of heavy metals in the body. Dr. Frye says those results are minimal.
And then there's melatonin, which Armstrong uses and Dr. Frye says works.
Shelly also uses Omega 3 fatty acids, a substance generally known for its cardiovascular benefits. Dr. Frye says it helps to improve cognitive development.
Armstrong says she draws hope from other parents. They've become their own network of sorts, providing each other with information.
Dr. Frye says because there are many causes for autism, the treatments are very different.
For more information on research that Frye and Arkansas Children's Hospital has presented, visit the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute's website.