More and more parents of children with autism are beginning to explore alternative treatments to improve their children’s symptoms, but could these therapies carry serious health risks?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against the use of chlorine dioxide (CD/MMS) and other miracle cures for autism.
They stress that it is important to bear in mind that there is no cure for autism despite many product claims. Furthermore, these products are largely unregulated and may contribute to other health risks.
Specifically, the FDA lists the following as bogus autism cures:
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
- Miracle/Master Mineral Solution (MMS)/Chlorine dioxide
- Detoxifying Clay Baths
- “Chelation Therapies"
- Coconut kefir and other probiotic products
Read: Beware of online autism cures
A closer look at chlorine dioxide therapy
One such treatment that involves giving children doses of chlorine dioxide is highly controversial and is currently the subject of intense debate across the globe.
A recent article by Times Live entitled ‘Autistic kids fed bleach’ brought the practice to South Africa’s attention, where Jenny Buckle, the founder of Reach Autism was accused of promoting the practice in South Africa.
Jenny, who has used the treatment on her triplet sons who all have autism, explained to Health24 that she had become increasingly frustrated with traditional treatments.
Her triplets were initially on Risperdal to manage their symptoms but Jenny found that the medication left her children in a “drugged-out state”.
Her sons’ symptoms continued to deteriorate to such a point that one of them was almost permanently “frozen” in a catatonic state whilst another triplet was extremely reclusive, self-injurious and needed to be physically restrained.
Struggling to cope, Jenny began to explore alternative therapies to manage her symptoms. She came across CD therapy and heard that other parents had seen dramatic improvements in their children.
Jenny decided to fly to the USA to attend the Autism One conference where CD advocate, Kerri Rivera was presenting on the topic.
Watch this clip of Kerri Rivera's presentation called "Healing the symptoms known as autism"
The pathogen claim
On her website, Rivera claims that autism is “made up of” a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria and parasites as well as other aspects such as heavy metals, yeast, inflammation and food allergies.
While researchers are currently investigating the role of viral infections and chemical exposure in the development of autism, they are yet to find concrete evidence that connects the two, the US Autism Society explains.
Rivera goes on to state that MMS or chlorine dioxide has been “proven to kill pathogens through oxidation, and to neutralise heavy metal compounds. In turn inflammation is reduced, as well as some food sensitivities.”
Chlorine dioxide has been shown to kill pathogens and for that reason, is used in water treatment facilities across the globe.
However, to claim that chlorine dioxide can therefore safely be used in children to reduce autism is quite a dangerous leap to make, especially since it there is no conclusive evidence that autism is even caused by pathogens.
Read: Is there really a link between autism and vaccines?
Are there health risks?
The FDA reports that several MMS users have become sick as a result of ingesting the formula, despite following the usage guidelines on the packaging of MMS products.
MMS has been seen to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration and as a result, dangerously low blood pressure.
As a result, the FDA is urging anyone using the products to stop immediately.
But why then are so many parents turning to the therapy?
Read: Girls with autism may need different treatment
Benefits vs. risks of MMS
Jenny Buckle, like many other parents of autistic children, was desperate to find a solution that would help her sons. She was not looking for a quick fix but rather a long-term solution that would enable her sons to have a better quality of life.
She began making her own CD at home, following Kerri Rivera’s detailed protocol. Rivera’s protocol requires CD to be added to 240ml water.
Her teenage triplets began to drink the chlorine dioxide solution diluted in water eight times per day.
She claims that after the first week, she began to notice massive differences in her teenagers’symptoms. They went on to use the formula for two years and are still reported to be reaping the results of the treatment.
Jenny says that her boys can now interact on a deeper level and have conversations that are more meaningful than the simple, repetitive sentences that they had been limited to in the past.
Despite having not been on CD for some time, Jenny’s triplets continue to see great results. She believes that this is due to the “detox effect” of CD that has cleansed her children of harmful parasites.
Another method of administering CD is via an enema. Many who have done this enemas claim to see worms in their enemas. In fact, it is quite popular for CD patients to post photos of the worms they have found on social media.
Jenny says that would also be willing to use the therapy in her teenage boys again, should their symptoms deteriorate. In fact, one of her sons has actually asked to go back on the treatment.
While Jenny’s boys did not experience any negative side effects in her children, she suggests that with those who have, incorrect dosages or failure to properly follow the protocol may be to blame.
Read: Autism drug cuts aggression
Autism Western Cape against CD therapy
Janine Chester, Director of Autism Western Cape, told Health24 that despite many parents reporting success, they do not in any way support the use of CD as a treatment for autism:
“Autism Western Cape endorses the FDA position that there is no scientific evidence of benefit from this treatment, and that there is clear evidence of harm, including very serious harm, or even death associated with CD/MMS. We do not condone the use of it.”
When asked what Autism Western Cape would like South African parents to know, Chester had the following to say:
“There is no scientific evidence to show that CD/MMS cures autism. In fact, evidence shows that the treatment may have harmful effects such as nausea, vomiting, renal failure, boils, breathing problems, diarrhoea and dehydration. Psychological effects include: aggressive behaviours and heightened anxiety.”
Read: Breast-feeding may affect autism symptoms
Legal issues around CD therapy
While general opinion of CD treatment differs drastically, many feel that it should be considered a form of child abuse and legal action should be taken against parents administering the treatment.
Autism advocates would like to see the therapy banned in South Africa and are currently attempting to negotiate with government to ensure the safety of autistic children in the country.
Autism Western Cape is not involved in legal issues and urges those who want to report cases of abuse to go directly to the police:
“We are an organisation which offers advisory and support services. We do not do statutory work or lay charges against parents administering the treatment or individuals who are promoting the product. We refer children who we feel are being abused/neglected to the Department of Social Development and Child Welfare who then take the legal process further. We will thus not be laying charges or issuing complaints to the SAP. We urge any concerned individuals to issue a complaint in their private capacity.”
Health24 does not in any way endorse the use of chlorine dioxide in children with autism.
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