Journal of Autism

Journal of Autism

ISSN 2054-992X
Original Research

High use of complementary and alternative medication among children with autism is not associated with the severity of core symptoms

Joanna Granich1*, Anna Hunt1†, David Ravine2†, John Wray3† and Andrew J.O. Whitehouse1†

*Correspondence: Joanna Granich

†These authors contributed equally to this work.

1. Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Australia.

Author Affiliations

2. School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Australia.

3. State Child Development Centre, Child and Adolescent Health Service, The University of Western Australia, Australia.


Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is commonly used by individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). No study has examined individual, family and clinical characteristics associated with CAM use.

Methods: Parents of 169 Australian children with a clinical diagnosis of ASD completed a questionnaire about socio-demographics, medical history and CAM use. Children were administered the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

Results: The majority (54%) of this sample had used CAM. Fish oil was the most common type of CAM administered (48% of total sample) and the most common reason for CAM use was to ameliorate noncore ASD symptoms such as hyperactivity and irritability. Chi-square analyses identified no differences between CAM and non-CAM users in gender, age of child, age at diagnosis, parental age at birth, parental education, ethnicity or family income. No group differences in the proportion of children classified with different ASD, based on clinical diagnosis and ADOS severity scores were observed. CAM users (37%) were more likely than non-CAM users (22%) to take psychotropic medication (p<0.05).

Conclusions: This study provided evidence for high rate of CAM use in an Australian paediatric ASD population, similar to other countries. CAM use was not associated with core ASD deficits. There is a clear need for robust evidence to determine complex influencing factors on CAM uptake and its efficacy on ASD core and non-core symptoms with a view to assist with parental informed decisions and clinical guidelines.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, adolescents, psychotropic medication, correlates, therapies

ISSN 2054-992X
Volume 1
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