Thousands of U.S. children undergo these therapies and many more at the urging of physicians who say they can successfully treat, or "recover," children with autism, a disorder most physicians and scientists say they cannot yet explain or cure. But after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.
The therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly, the investigation found. Many are unproven and risky, based on scientific research that is flawed, preliminary or misconstrued. Laboratory tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted. And though some parents fervently believe their children have benefited, the Tribune found a trail of disappointing results from the few clinical trials to evaluate the treatments objectively.