What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a traditional Indian healing system that uses a range of therapies to maintain good health and manage various health conditions. Some Ayurvedic therapies include herbal medicine, changes to diet, yoga, massage, acupuncture and Panchakarma.
Who is Ayurveda for?
Supporters of Ayurveda say that it can be used for people with a wide range of conditions, including autism, digestive problems, asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and skin diseases.
What is Ayurveda used for?
Ayurveda is used to prevent and treat many health conditions.
Supporters of Ayurveda as a therapy for autistic people say it can improve the characteristics of autism. They say it can improve behaviour, social skills, communication, anxiety, stomach and digestion problems, sleep, sensory difficulties, eye contact and ability to focus.
There is no scientific evidence that Ayurveda changes the characteristics of autism.
Where does Ayurveda come from?
Ayurveda originated in India thousands of years ago. It’s commonly practised today in some Asian countries, especially in India and Nepal, and has gained popularity around the world.
In Australia, Ayurveda is practised as a form of complementary and alternative medicine for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, digestive problems, vertigo, skin conditions and autism.
What is the idea behind Ayurvedic therapy for autistic people?
Ayurveda is based on the belief that good health happens when your mind, body and spirit are perfectly balanced. Any imbalances can lead to health problems.
Supporters of using Ayurvedic therapy for autistic people claim that autism is mainly caused by imbalances or problems with metabolism and digestion. These imbalances lead to a build-up of harmful toxins in the body. When Ayurveda is used as a therapy for autism, the idea is to remove these toxins and reduce the characteristics of autism.
These ideas are not supported by research.
What does Ayurvedic therapy for autistic people involve?
Ayurveda involves a combination of therapies. When it’s used as a therapy for autistic people, it can include:
- changes to diet – for example, avoiding processed foods and following a vegetarian or vegan diet
- herbal medicine
- breathing exercises
- sound therapy – for example, listening to music, reciting mantras or using sound bowls
The recommended treatments will vary for each individual. An Ayurvedic practitioner will assess your child’s physical, emotional and spiritual health and design a personalised treatment plan.
Does Ayurvedic therapy help autistic children?
There is currently no good-quality evidence that Ayurveda helps autistic people.
There’s also evidence that certain Ayurvedic medicines and therapies are harmful. For example, some Ayurvedic herbal medicines might contain toxic levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, which can seriously harm children. And some Ayurvedic therapies can be dangerous. These include vomiting, enemas and withdrawing blood.
Ayurvedic therapy for autism that involves a vegetarian or vegan diet will need careful planning to make sure children get all the nutrients they need.
Who practises Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic practitioners offer Ayurveda at private clinics. Some practitioners are certified by Ayurvedic associations. But Ayurveda might also be offered by inexperienced practitioners.
Although you can buy Ayurvedic herbal medicines in health food stores and online, many Ayurvedic therapies have not been proven to be safe and effective.
It’s always best to speak to your GP or paediatrician or a paediatric dietitian before using this therapy.
Where can you find a Ayurvedic practitioner?
If you’re thinking about Ayurvedic therapy for your autistic child, see your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. They can talk with you about its risks and benefits.
You could talk about Ayurvedic therapy with your NDIA planner, early childhood partner or local area coordinator, if you have one.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your autistic child is having Ayurvedic therapy, you need to take your child to a clinic for sessions.
You might also need to choose and buy Ayurvedic herbal medicine, plan and make changes to your child’s diet, and make time for daily routines like yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
The cost of Ayurvedic therapy for autism depends on which therapies are used.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.