MURIETTA, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in children. No cure exists, and there is no one remedy that works for every child. Treatments range from the tried-and-true to the controversial, and even to the experimental.
Julia Berle watched her baby fade into sickness and silence.
"Loss of speech, loss of eye contact, loss of socialization, loss of everything," she told Ivanhoe.
Her son Baxter went from a bubbly baby to an unresponsive toddler.
"I knew what they were going to tell me, and I knew they were going to tell me there was no hope," Berle said.
Baxter was diagnosed with autism.
"I didn't like the crystal ball, 'Your child may never talk. Your child may never get out of diapers. You may need to institutionalize him," Berle said.
The concerned mother pulled wheat and dairy from Baxter's diet to avoid the proteins gluten and casein, which she thought were harming his brain.
"When I pulled those things, he went into huge withdrawal," Berle said. "He had detox-like symptoms, but in 24 days, he started talking."
"As a basic remedy that helps a large percentage of kids -- a good 65 to 70 percent -- the gluten, casein-free diet is a tried and true remedy," Kurt Woeller, D.O., a biomedical autism physician specialist at the Stillpoint Center for Integrative Medicine in Murrieta, Calif., told Ivanhoe.
It helped Baxter, but not enough. The next thing Berle tried many doctors call dangerous.
"I'm adamantly opposed to chelation," David Childers, M.D., a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and Chief of the Division of Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Fla., told Ivanhoe.
Chelation therapy uses a drug that binds to metals and other toxins, carrying them out of the body -- but it can also remove electrolytes and calcium, putting a child at risk for brain damage, cardiac arrest, liver damage and kidney damage. Berle tried it anyway.
"He had a great lead burden and a pretty huge mercury burden," Berle said. "We cleaned that stuff out, and he just got better and better."
Baxter's doctor reversed his autism diagnosis.
Rebecca Estepp used many of the same treatments for her son Eric. Although she hasn't seen the same results, she does see improvement.
"He started feeling better, and then when he felt better, he could behave better, and when you can get a child with autism to behave, they can learn," Estepp told Ivanhoe.
Many pediatricians are against chelation because they say it has no research behind it. The National Institute of Mental Health recently canceled a proposed study on the effects of chelation because of its risks.
Mary Underhill turned to another experimental treatment for her son James: an autism patch. It works by targeting a specific virus that Rick Hunt, Ph.D., research director at the Children's Mental Focus Foundation in Henderson, Nev., believes causes autism.
"We are restoring the body's natural energetic or informational system," Dr. Hunt told Ivanhoe.
The patch turns the immune system on to fight the virus. Other doctors are skeptical, but Underhhill doesn't care.
"It sounds crazy, but it's working," she told Ivanhoe.
What works for one, doesn't work for all.
"The real key is learning to live with autism, not hoping to cure autism right off the bat," Dr. Childers said.
The universal symbol for autism is a puzzle. Some puzzles, like Baxter, are solvable. Others are a constant work in progress.
Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, where a therapist works one-on-one with a child, is the treatment with the most scientific support. Other treatment options for autism include hyperbaric oxygen therapy; supplements like Methyl-B12, magnesium and folic acid; and sensory integration therapy, which reduces a child's sensitivity to touch and sound.