CAM for developmental-behavioral disorders

October 28, 2013

“What is important,” said Thomas Challman, MD, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and medical director of the Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, “is to teach families what is a potentially valid therapy from one that really is not beneficial.”

 

“What is important,” said Thomas Challman, MD, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and medical director of the Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, “is to teach families what is a potentially valid therapy from one that really is not beneficial.”

In a Sunday, October 27, session titled, “CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) for children with developmental-behavioral disorders: The good, the bad, and the ugly,” Challman discussed the factors that lead families of children with developmental-behavioral disorders to seek CAM therapies and reviewed those CAM treatments that do and do not have evidence for their inclusion in the treatment of children with these disorders.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, approximately 17% or about 1 in every 6 children in the United States has some form of developmental disability, defined as “a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas.”

Challman explained, “Some therapies start out as being a popular alternative therapy but then migrate into a more mainstream approach.” He said melatonin is a good example of this. “There is a decent amount of evidence to show that it is beneficial for certain sleep disturbances in children with developmental disabilities.”

He said that special diets, supplement or vitamin therapies, acupuncture, and energy therapy, for example, really have no good basis in science for these disorders.

“Energy healing or therapeutic touch doesn’t mesh well with what we know about how the body works and with basic principles of science and physics, and so those types of approaches are ones that are unlikely to have any type of beneficial effect,” Challman commented.

He advised pediatricians to ask families what therapies they are using and to counsel them to do what they would when evaluating a therapy, which is to “look at the medical literature and try to assess whether there is evidence to support or refute the value of a specific therapy,” and “not to rely on anecdote.”