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Friday, April 5, 2013

Saunas For Autism?

  It seems there's no limit to how far people are willing to stretch the selling points of their products to include the argument that autistic symptoms can be alleviated via their use. Think chelation, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, bleach enemas, homeopathy, chiropractic, coconut oil and so on. If ever there was a case to be made for ongoing research into the actual causes and effective treatment of ASC's  it is this relentless marketing by both flim flam merchants and legitimate companies seeking to exploit the fears and frustrations of desperate families.

For the first couple of weeks of April a company called Sunlighten are offering to contribute "a portion" of their income from sales to the National Autism Association in the US. I don't doubt Sunlighten sell a perfectly nice product. I myself enjoy a sauna, even if I believe the health benefits are overstated. But can you imagine being someone who's heat sensitive, or finds the smell of saunas unpleasant, or is claustrophobic or like my son, doesn't like to be still for more than a minute being forced to spend any considerable time in one of these sweat boxes? That is, quite simply cruel, particularly given it's unlikely to bring about any lasting benefit.

Furthermore it's astounding to me that any association that purports to support autistic people and their families would promote such a product and its fanciful claims. It dismays me to the point of discombobulation. And then just when I think my disappointment levels have hit their nadir, I see parents arguing in support of this 'experimental treatment' as you just never know what might work. So I say, with great despondency, our children are not science experiments. There are evidence based interventions that really do work. Trying to find the quick fix for a life long condition is like trying to walk on water, doomed to fail and you tend to look a bit silly for trying in the first place.


  1. The hyperbaric chamber thing boggles my mind, and yet, I've read articles about kids who were practically cured by them. How??? I've always said that autism doesn't lend itself to scientific method. Too many variables. To deal with some aggression issues, we changed meds, added therapy, cut out dairy, and added vitamins--all at once. Guess what? He's doing better, but damned if I know what worked! But a sauna? A hyperbaric chamber? People who are willing to take advantage of our desperation...

  2. I think you make an excellent point about so many variables Mel. Its difficult to know what's really making a difference and what is natural development. I think there's some room for looking at what we Do know about autism as a neurological condition that is probably about 90% genetically determined, and then based on neuroscience and pharmaceutical knowledge etc make some guesses about what might work and why. But oxygen, saunas, bleach and so on?? Not buying it. I always say about anecdotal evidence, if it cant be replicated independently then Houston we have a problem :)

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