An article written by the ABC today details the results of a study into the effectiveness of gluten-free caesin free diets in reducing the effects of autism in children. The study showed that this popular diet does not improve the symptoms of autism despite much anecdotal evidence.
The study authors raise a point that I think is really overlooked when we talk about treatments of autism and that is that many parents are trying many different things at the same time to help their children. These kids are on special diets, getting vitamin shots, doing behavioral therapy and getting oxygen therapy all at the same time. Therefore when their kids show improvements which therapy is the cause of that improvement? It is never clear and yet parents will chalk it up to the diet or the vitamin shots or the oxygen therapy when it is highly likely it is the behavioural therapy (the only one out of all of them that has been scientifically proven to work) that is causing the improvements.
However, it is also worth nothing that kids with autism can also suffer from gluten and lactose intolerances just like neurotypical kids do and being in constant pain doesn’t make any child behave well. When that pain is removed, the child’s behaviour, naturally improves. That is why if a gluten or lactose intolerance is suspected it should be followed up with your doctor and a suitable diet implemented under medical advice. But kids on the spectrum without these intolerances should not be placed on these diets based on anecdotal evidence. These diets can be nutritionally poor if not properly supplemented which can affect development.
I guess the bottom line is if you think your child or yourself has a gluten or casein intolerance, see your doctor. If not, stay away from this diet and focus your energies on therapies that have been proven to work.