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At a glance: Secretin
Type of therapy
Alternative
The claim
Reduces the behaviour characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Suitable for
People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Research rating

Find out more about this rating system in our FAQs.

Research shows this approach is ineffective or can be harmful.
Warnings
Warning The way that secretin is injected might be distressing to children. Secretin therapy also has some substantial side effects like diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation and irritability.
Time

Estimate of the total time for family in hours per week and duration

0-10 It doesn’t take long to administer secretin, but this therapy might need to be repeated regularly.
Cost

Estimate of cost to family per session/item or week

$30-120 The cost varies depending on whether trained therapists are involved in administering the therapy.
Visit the Autism Services Pathfinder to browse service provider information.

What is secretin therapy?

Secretin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the intestine. It’s important for a healthy gut and digestion. This therapy involves giving secretin to people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Who is secretin therapy for?

This therapy can be used for anyone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There are no age restrictions, although studies have focused on children and teenagers with ASD.

What is secretin therapy used for?

It’s claimed that secretin therapy can reduce the behaviour characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Secretin might also be given to someone as a way of working out how well the pancreas is functioning or to pick up problems in the digestive system.

Where does secretin therapy come from?

This therapy comes from observations of three children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These three children were given secretin when they were having endoscopies. It was claimed that the dose of secretin led to improvements in their behaviour. As a result, secretin gained popularity as a potential ASD therapy.

What is the idea behind secretin therapy?

This therapy is based on the idea that problems with the stomach and digestion in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can interfere with their ability to focus on and develop skills like communicating with others.

It’s claimed that when these digestion problems are managed, children with ASD are ‘freed up’ to focus on developing skills.

What does secretin therapy involve?

This therapy involves giving an injection of either natural or synthetic secretin to the person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

There are no standard therapeutic guidelines about the use of secretin for the treatment of ASD. Most studies have given people a single dose. Others have given more than one dose (usually 4-6 weeks apart).

Does secretin therapy work?

High-quality research has shown that this therapy is ineffective or might be harmful.

Australian and international guidelines state that secretin therapy should not be used as an intervention for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Who practises this method?

Secretin is not approved for use in Australia. If it is used, a doctor must supervise its use and administration (this is the case for any medicine).

Parent education, training, support and involvement

There are no support or training services available for this therapy.

Where can you find a practitioner?

Secretin is not approved for use in Australia, so no information is available on who might provide the therapy in this country.

You should talk with your GP or paediatrician or a paediatric dietitian if you’re considering this therapy. You could also talk with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child’s options.
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 25-11-2016