Research Autism Media Response to Hyperbaric Treatment for Children with Autism Trial

News Release Date: 13 March 2009

Richard Mills, Research Director of Research Autism says:

"The term autism is used to describe a diverse range of neurological conditions, present from birth or early life of varying but largely unknown aetiology. Genetic factors are important.

Just as there is no single explanation for autism there is no single treatment that has been shown to be effective - except in clearly identified metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria. Usually, a combination of behavioural, drug and other approaches are used to improve social and academic functioning and adaptation and reduce the negative effects of the condition

What seems to help in one case may not help in another. We need well designed studies of autism treatments to determine the underlying mechanisms. By this we mean we need to know about the individual characteristics of the children and the nature of the treatment. We also need to know what happens in the longer term. If we understand these aspects we will be better able to individualise treatment approaches that are more likely to be effective. It may also shed light on the origins of the condition itself.

Research Autism encourages impartial, well designed controlled studies of intervention. At first reading this study appears to meet most of these criteria and the results are interesting. The effectiveness of this particular treatment in cases of brain injury and other neurological disorders is well established but this is the first relatively large study where it has been shown to help in autism. Even so, we note that over one third of the non treatment group also improved and that no long term conclusions are yet possible. We know that children with autism frequently present with other medical, neurological and psychiatric disorders. It would be interesting to consider the varying response to this treatment and whether these other phenomena played any part in the treatment outcome.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is an expensive intervention and although generally regarded as safe is not completely free of side effects. We can understand that it is likely to appeal to many parents who are desperate to help their children. Currently the long term picture in autism is not a good one and we welcome all attempts to improve the quality of life and outcome for children with autism and their families."


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Notes to editors:


Bernard Fleming, Information Manager, Tel. 020 3490 3091, email info@researchautism.net

Research Autism


Research Autism is the only UK charity dedicated to the production of quality, trusted information on autism treatments and other approaches. Its Information Centre is informed by world experts and accredited by the NHS Information Standard, an independent kite-mark of reliability and quality. It guides people through the minefield of interventions on offer, allowing them to make informed decisions based on impartial, factual information, including risks and hazards. Its research programme is derived from the priorities of autistic people and families and addresses areas that affect everyday life. 

The study referred to in this press release is Rossignol D.A. et al. (2009). Hyperbaric treatment for children with autism: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. BMC Pediatrics, 9(21).

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