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Friday, June 4, 2010

A Simple Test?

A British researcher suggests that it may be possible to develop a simple urine test for the presence of autism. Lisa Jo Rudy sensibly urges caution:
While the possibility of a simple, definitive test for autism is extraordinarily compelling, there are plenty of questions to raise about its validity. I've written the researcher with specific concerns, and hope to hear back from him soon. Most important, of course, is the very basic question: "do people with autism really have more GI issues than other people?" Quite a few studies have suggested that this IS the case -- but many other studies suggest that it is NOT the case. Just last week, a study came out which shows that special diets are NOT effective for autism, and last year a study from the Mayo Clinic showed that children with autism are not more likely to have GI issues than anyone else.
Left Brain/Right Brain notes another reason for skepticism:
At the very least, relying on studies from Alternative Medical Review, studies co-authored by Andrew Wakefield, studies from Medical Hypothesis and studies co-authored by Jim Neubrander should give rise to questions over the credibility of this paper.
Bottom line: parents and policymakers should avoid raising their hopes too much when the media announce a "breakthrough" in autism treatment. In my book research, I came across an article in the November 2, 1969 Los Angeles Times that touted "holding therapy." Three UCLA faculty members knocked it down in a November 11 letter to the editor, saying its viewpoint rested on "unscientific and highly speculative notions as to the nature of the disease." Readers of Let Me Hear Your Voice may also recall Catherine Maurice's rueful comments on her experience with the "therapy."