A new report was published today on Autism and Diet. The lead author is Timothy Buie, MD a pediatric gastroenterologist at Harvard Medical school who runs a clinic at Massachusetts General for kids on the autism spectrum. The report, published in the January issue of Pediatrics includes the views of more than 25 experts who met in Boston in 2008 to write the consensus report after reviewing medical research. The Autism Society and other autism groups funded the report but did not contribute to the discussion.
The panel concluded that there is no rigorous evidence that digestive problems are more common in children on the autism spectrum compared to other children, or that special diets are successful. They do conclude though that digestive problems can trigger problem behavior in children with autism and these digestive problems should be treated medically.
Another point that Dr. Buie makes is that kids on the spectrum often do not get the "right" kind of attention when visiting the doctor's office as the office may not be friendly enough for the child to feel comfortable or equipped to make adjustments to provide care. In addition, he points out that many doctors are also uncomfortable addressing GI issues and autism due to many of the theories that have been discredited with newer researcher.
So what does this mean! While the panel does not support global dietary recommendations, it does support further research and addressing each child's needs. If your child is doing well on the diet they are following, keep it up. If your child does not appear to have benefited from restrictive diets, give it up. Each child is unique and the approach should be tailored to your child's individual picture.
Dr. Buie does recommend seeing a dietitian if your child has a limited diet to help expand the diet and look for any deficiencies.
To view the article, look for the January issue of Pediatrics.