Over the past few years the autistic community, especially parents of autistic children, have been bombarded with social media postings featuring pseudoscientific, controversial treatments. Among the most widespread methods of treating autism are gluten/dairy-free diet, vitamin injections, supplements, “GcMAF” or “Rerum,” a stem-cell treatment that can cause health problems, “chelation” – a therapy consisting of removing heavy metals from the body, “Miracle Mineral Supplement” – a toxic solution similar to an industrial-strength bleach, and many others.
Most of the misleading ill-researched information comes from major social media sources like Facebook pages and groups. According to the BuzzSumo analysis of the shared content about autism across various social media platforms, the most shared stories often present unevidences or hyped “cures.” One of the top stories titled “Courts quietly confirm MMR vaccine causes autism” published in 2013 was shared almost a million times and was proven false in another article later that year.
Facebook isn’t the only source for sharing news about fake autism treatments and linking autism and vaccines. Natural News, SafeMinds, Generation Rescue are among the websites that repeatedly promote unscientific treatments and anti-vaccine campaigns. One of the major concerns about these unconventional approaches is that many of them can be potentially dangerous and even result in death.
So why do parents of autistic kids appear to be particularly vulnerable to all sorts of fraudulent online activity? One of the obvious reasons is Google algorithms insistently providing them with the same type of information they once searched for or came across on the Internet. Getting similar content every day may influence parents’ decision making in a negative way. Another reason is the specific nature of autism. In most cases it reveals itself some time after the child was born which makes parents wonder what could be the reason and possible “cure” for this disorder. Sadly, many industries take advantage of the parents’ desperate situation and try to sell them their magical cure-all substances. As of today, there is known cure for this condition. Research is being conducted worldwide to find possible causes and treatments for the autism spectrum disorder.
Fortunately, more information is becoming available for parents and their children in regards to autism research and innovations. Major role in fighting against pseudoscientific treatments is played by autistic people’s firsthand experience and sharing it among autistic communities.
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