In This Issue -- Autism Spectrum Disorder and Complementary Health Approaches

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Estimates of the prevalence of autism in the United States vary, but the most recent U.S. Government statistics estimate that about 1 in 68 children (or 1.5 percent of 8-year-old children) have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There is no cure for ASD, but research shows that early diagnosis and interventions, such as during preschool or before, are more likely to have major positive effects on symptoms and later skills. Many parents choose complementary health approaches for their children with ASD to help manage symptoms; however, despite this use there is a paucity of high-quality research focused on complementary approaches for ASD. Of the ASD research that has been conducted, most has been in the pediatric population; very few trials of complementary health approaches have been conducted in adults with ASD.

The existing evidence base indicates that melatonin may be beneficial for sleep disorders associated with ASD. Music therapy may have a positive effect on social interaction, and communication and behavioral skills in those affected by ASDs. However, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether other complementary health approaches such as modified diets, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin B6, or chelation are efficacious for ASD symptoms.

This issue of the digest provides information on the evidence base of several commonly used complementary health approaches for ASD.


Read more »

What the Science Says:
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Complementary Health Approaches

Learn what current research has to say about:

Bullet Melatonin

Bullet Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation

Bullet Probiotics

Bullet Secretin

Bullet Vitamin B6 and Magnesium

Bullet Chelation

Bullet Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet

Bullet Ketogenic Diet

Bullet Acupuncture

Bullet Music Therapy

Bullet Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Read more »

Additional Resources

Bullet Clinical Practice Guidelines

Bullet Scientific Literature

Bullet For Your Patients

Bullet 7 Things To Know About Complementary Health Approaches for ASD

Visit NCCIH’s website to read the full issue of this month’s Clinical Digest

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary and integrative health, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.


NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the NIH. The mission of NCCIH is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at