The FDA recently warned consumers about products and services claiming to treat or cure autism. There is no cure for autism at present, so

"products or treatments claiming to 'cure' autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to treat' autism or autism-related symptoms. Some may carry significant health risks."

Several treatments were singled out by the agency:

The FDA cites the non-profit Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), which

"says that since autism was first identified, there has been a long history of failed treatments and fads."

Where medical science has yet to understand the cause of a disease or condition and offers few effective therapies, quacks quickly fill the gap with pseudoscience. Autism is one of those conditions. Anti-vaccinationists have manufactured vaccination as autism's cause and charlatans offer a plethora of bogus treatments. Even where plausible and well-intentioned, unproven treatments abound.

In addition to the FDA's list, ASAT notes these disproven or untested treatments, complete with a helpful explanation the purported treatment and the evidence:

Interestingly, many of the treatments called out by the FDA and ASAT are used by naturopathic "doctors" who claim they can successfully treat autism. According to former naturopathic doctor Britt Hermes, who used some of these therapies herself when treating pediatric autism patients, vitamins, supplements "specially formulated for autism," "detoxification," herbs, special diets, homeopathy, hyperbaric oxygen and chelation, are all part of the naturopathic toolbox, sometimes recommended based on bogus testing. Pharmacist Scott Gavura found similar practices in his SBM post Naturopathy vs. Science: Autism, including bleach enemas and "detoxifying" foot baths.

In a medical climate that seems to bend over backwards to accommodate quackery, ASAT is refreshingly forthright in addressing pseudoscience. In addition to listing disproven and unproven treatments, ASAT's website offers tips on sniffing out bogus treatments.

"Parents and professionals can protect people with autism from the harms of bogus and ineffective treatments by exercising healthy skepticism, and asking several questions of everyone who claims to have an effective intervention for autism: What is the intervention, precisely? Exactly what is it supposed to do? Have its effects been tested in controlled experiments using direct, objective measures? If so, were those studies published in peer- reviewed scientific journals? What did studies show about positive effects and negative side effects? Did the effects carry over beyond the immediate treatment setting? Is there another scientifically validated treatment that is similarly effective but has fewer negative side effects? Who will administer this treatment, and how can I be sure they are qualified to do so? How will its effects on this individual be evaluated, and by whom? What will happen if we do nothing? Listen to the answers, but don't take them at face value. Seek out published research on the treatment, and, if necessary, someone with expertise in scientific research methodology to help you evaluate it. Also take note when no answers—and no solid supporting studies — are provided. What is not known or said matters, too."

Great advice for evaluating all treatments, not just those for autism.