Autism, Brain and Environment
Richard Lathe, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
STAR RATING: 1/5
When parents first discover that their child is autistic, they soon learn two things: doctors do not know what causes autism and they have no treatment for it, writes Michael Fitzpatrick.
Hence it is not surprising that parents provide a responsive audience for anybody who offers a plausible theory of causation, especially if this theory suggests interventions that promise to alleviate or even cure the condition.
If this alternative way of understanding and treating autism is advanced by somebody with apparently impressive scientific credentials, like Andrew Wakefield (who launched the MMR-autism scare) or Richard Lathe (formerly an academic neuroscientist), it is guaranteed to make a major impact on parents.
But hopes placed in wonder cures are invariably dashed, at some cost to parents and their children.
Lathe argues that the recent increase in the prevalence of autism results from children’s genetic susceptibility to environmental toxins (heavy metals, chemicals, infectious agents).
He recommends investigations and therapies including mercury chelation (a series of infusions into the body), exclusion diets, antifungal and antibiotic drugs, multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplements – all of unproven efficacy and uncertain safety.
This approach follows the model of a flourishing commercial laboratory and clinic business in the US.
Although one autistic boy from the UK has already died having mercury chelation therapy in the US, there are plans to establish a treatment centre on these lines in Edinburgh, where Lathe is based.
Despite this book’s aura of scientific rigour, its theory is a hotch-potch of speculation and hypothesis and popular environmentalist prejudice.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a GP, parent of an autistic child and the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know