It is not easy to find encouraging news about autism. More often than not, we hear reports about the rising rates of this devastating developmental disorder. It’s heartbreaking because many of us understand the challenges that people with autism and their families to go. Autism is characterized by a profound disruption of communication skills (both verbal and nonverbal), the inability for social interaction and a tendency to obsessive thoughts and behaviors. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 150 children are affected by some form of autism – collectively referred to as ASD (autism spectrum disorders).
Today I am pleased to be optimistic news to report on the autism front. Please note that the research is preliminary. But, it’s a good start and hopefully it is only the beginning of further exploration.
Oxygen the brains
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HPT) is a treatment that helps increase the oxygen in organs and tissues. HPT is in a special pressure chamber. With the receiving of hyperbaric oxygen, can lie in a sealed capsule, and the air pressure inside increases beyond those found in the atmosphere. This pressure effect the body can “absorb” more oxygen. Traditionally, HPT is used to treat conditions such as burns and wounds, decompression sickness and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Now, a new study published in the online journal BMC Pediatrics provides strong evidence for a new application for this veteran technology – the treatment of autism. Previous research hinted at the potential benefits of hyperbaric treatment in other neurological disorders such as brain injury, cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol syndrome. There were also a number of “uncontrolled studies” and many anecdotal reports of success with HPT in autism. All these instructions allowed for these larger, better controlled (more scientifically valid) research to take place.
This groundbreaking study enrolled 62 autistic children with ages ranging from 2 to 7 years. The children were divided into two groups. Both groups received 40 one-hour treatments in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. One group received a higher oxygen (24%). This was considered the “treatment group”. The other infants had a lower level (21%). This second group as a control / placebo group. The outcome of the study was measured using standardized tests autism symptom.
- The group that received 24% oxygen showed significant improvements in some symptoms, such as maintaining eye contact, general function, receptive language and social interaction.
- 30% of the treated group was judged to be “much improved,” or “substantially improved”. Only 8% of the control / placebo group from the same way.
- A total of 80% of the treated group is as “improved”. Only 38% of the control group met that same classification.
Moreover, other advantages have been observed when more specific test was administered. The results of the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) and the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) after treatment showed improvement in the following areas:
- cognitive / sensory awareness
You may wonder why the control / placebo group derived any benefit at all. There are two possible reasons. Firstly, the placebo effect is a real phenomenon. Second, even the control group received oxygen therapy. They receive less (21% vs. 24%). Therefore, it is possible that even the lower dose of oxygen was sufficient to have any advantage to provoke.
The authors of the study offered these concluding remarks, “Given the positive findings of this study, and the shortage of proven treatments for people with autism, parents who hyperbaric treatment for their child to pursue with autism can be assured that it is a safe treatment modality the pressure in this study (1.3 atm) and this may improve some autistic behavior. ”
These new findings may well herald a new day in the treatment of autism. Future research will contribute to the potential role of HPT in the treatment of autism and related disorders. I keep a lookout for any updates that come down the pike. Until then, please share this information with anyone who can benefit.