Friday, April 23, 2010

Robert Sears' The Autism Book

I wholeheartedly and without reservation DO NOT RECOMMEND Robert Sears' The Autism Book. As a parent of a child with autism, I found almost nothing about this book valuable and, in fact, think that it contains a great deal of dangerous and misleading information.

There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to autism. This book, which is subtitled, "What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention" is squarely in the biomedical, "if you spend enough time and money, your child can recover from autism (except for a few of those social skills, stimming, and obsessiveness traits)."

Even the parts of this book that I agree with in terms of early intervention and therapies, I had a hard time taking seriously coming from Dr. Sears, who ended many of his sections with, "For more information go to the Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) website or talk to a TACA mom," and who lists Jenny McCarthy's book in his recommended reading section.

Sears heartily recommends, among other things, supplements. At one point he lays out a sample supplement schedule in which are included twenty-seven daily doses of supplements, plus an-every-three nights injection.

He has a section on the controversial practice of chelation (removing heavy metals from the body) in which he admits that "Metals that had been sitting (somewhat harmlessly) in the body fat may resettle in the brain [during chelation]." He goes on to dismiss this as "just a theoretical concern." And that's just one of my objections to this section. I don't know a whole lot about chelation, but I know for a fact that I would never subject my child to it.

What about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, in which children spend an hour a day in an HBOT chamber five days a week for eight weeks? In a box he titles "Start Saving Your Money," he says, "I believe that this is probably the most worthwhile multithousand-dollar therapy that you can spend your money on." I think I'll save my money for something else, thank you very much.

So vaccines. Sears has written a whole other book on vaccines, but here is what he has to say about vaccinating children with autism: "I generally recommend that any child diagnosed with autism not receive any more vaccines." This, despite the fact that studies have shown over and over that there is NO credible link between vaccines and autism.

I dog-eared pages in the book on which I found information that alarmed or offended me, or that I feel to be patently misleading or contradictory, with the intention of sharing some of that information with you. But honestly, I don't have the space in this review to do that (there are a lot of dog ears in my book), nor do I have the energy. This book mostly just depressed me.

There are a lot of parents out there who are devastated by the possibility of autism, and while I admit that it can be scary and heartbreaking, I don't believe that spending tens of thousands of dollars and making your child spend every hour of his or her day in therapy and taking vast amounts of supplements is the answer. Honestly, it sounds miserable to me. Hanging out with my autistic kid and organically teaching him to learn and be a good guy sounds like a lot more fun. And worthwhile.

I wish that there were a catch-all autism book with good, solid, specific information. However, this isn't it. I believe that this book will be latched on to by autism parents searching for a miracle and for whom "recovery" seems plausible and desirable. I wish them well, but I don't think the words in this book are much good for anybody.

I repeat: I wholeheartedly and without reservation do not recommend this book.

Honesty Clause: I was sent a review copy of this book at no charge.


Niksmom said...

I looked at this in the bookstore recently and pretty much came to the same conclusion without reading much. I specifically looked for what he had to say about some of the very things you've mentioned. What is scary is that I'm sure many well-intentioned family members or friends of newly diagnosed kids will see the name Dr. Sears and assume it MUST be valid and worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know - I don't think this is biomedical at all. Just because someone has an MD behind their name doesn't mean they are credible. As a physician, I find myself as offended by this as you do (?). Love, Ann

Melissa said...

Oh my...I actually don't like any of his books on child rearing. Do you think he actually spent any time with children who are autistic?

morninglight mama said...

Wow- I'm not at all well-read about autism, but I wonder what Dr. Sears would have to say about ADHD. If only my kid took some more vitamins, he'd be able to control himself?? It's sometimes scary when you realize how much counter-productive stuff is actually out there.

Sue @ Laundry for Six said...

Eek! Not to mention that so many dietary supplements simply pass through the digestive system, don't get absorbed and are excreted. That's some expensive excretion. (And don't even get me started on how supplements are not regulated by the FDA so who knows WHAT EXACTLY is in them anyway. Since random tests have shown that they frequently don't even have a bio-usable form of the active ingredient in them.)


Nyx said...

I wish I could have your confidence about all of this. My son was diagnosed over a year ago and I have not seen a DAN! doctor or done anything "biomedical." but it is hard for me to just shrug everything off that so many other autism parents have had to say about their experiences. I wonder about the grain of truth that may lie in what they say, keeping in mind that just because they cannot explain why something worked for them doesn't mean it didn't. I guess I had thought that the DAN! doctors were much more fringe-y than the Sears family, who like them or not, do have a regular practice and a reputation to uphold. Are they really all stupid? Dr. Sears says in his DAN! application, which I pulled, that he has treated over 500 children with autism. I should say also that after my son was dx, my regular pediatrician, who was previously so clueless about autism that she dismissed my early concerns about not enough eye contact, did a bunch of research and recommended that I look into HBOT! However, she does not recommend chelation. I tried consulting my best friend and my mother (!!!) who are both MDs and got nothing conclusive out of them. How are you so SURE? I'm really struggling with this.

Stimey said...

[Sorry, I accidentally deleted this comment from anjoo. Here it is in its entirety.]

I'm with NYX. I consider myself a fairly intelligent and unbiased person, but with 4 kids to care for and no seious scientific background I simply don't have time to do all the research. My spouse and I decided years ago that, if we had the time and money and it was humane and "safe" (ie. NOT chelation) we would do anything that seemed plausible to treat our son. Over the years that has meant saying Yes and No to many supposedly unproven interventions. In addition to a few supplements, what we've found most helpful are Sensory Integration OT and Relationship Development Intervention. By the way, when we started RDI 5 years ago it was considered "fringe" and *everybody* else was pushing the more "scientific" ABA, but RDI has clearly been a better choice for us.

My regular pediatrician is cautiously supportive but clearly not a cutting- edge source for autism information. I too would LOVE to find that truly unbiased autism treatment book and was disappointed that this isn't it. I was a fan of the older Dr. Sears years before we became autism parents.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sears IS my son's DAN! doctor and I love his book. It's the resource I instantly give all newly diagnosed parents that I encounter. My son is mainstreamed in Kindergarten with an aide, THANKS to this protocol which you've said is worthless. My son was very ill, but "mainstream" doctors seemed to care less about his chronic diarrhea, dark under eye circles and inability to sleep. Through Dr. Bob we tested blood, stool and urine and found out what recipe of vitamins and minerals my son lacked in and vegan supplementing. Our dietary change was the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and within three days (THREE!!) my son started having more normalized stools (after YEARS of diarrhea). There is too much good to type here on this comment, but we love Dr. Sears and he saved our son. All our kids are different (hence the need to test blood, stool and urine), but once Dr. Bob got my son healthy
again, my son began to learn. He went from non-verbal, to verbal to an outright chatterbox. It's hard work but SO worth it!!!

Unknown said...

Hmm. Just came across this post while looking for more info. I read this book two years ago when it first came out. We decided to try the diet and supplements as he recommends in the book, and my son recovered. We saw dramatic improvements from the GFCF diet and methyl-b12 shots in particular. I'm a PhD researcher, so I spent a lot of time reading over the scientific literature before we made our decisions, and I found strong evidence regarding immune and metabolic differences in kids with autism. Those findings pointed me to a better understanding of how these treatments could work, and I'm very glad we gave it a try because they did work for our son. Good luck to everyone else who is dealing with autism in their families.

Anonymous said...

Sad that so many are so quick to judge... Lots who don't have a child on the spectrum. My son is almost recovered as well. He regressed after "safe vaccines". And HBOT was one of the best things we have ever done for our son. Expensive? Yes, but to be above age level for speech now, worth every penny.

All supplements and diets have helped us. Some is trial and error, but I could not imagine being a parent who sat on my hands and not give it a try, knowing so many other families were experiencing recovery to a great degree. I will always strive to help my son recover.