One hundred and fifty therapists who claim to be able to “cure” autism have been served an enforcement notice over warnings their claims have no scientific evidence and could seriously harm children.
Some therapists claim that Cease (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) therapy can “cure” autism, but have now been told they “have to stop” those claims by the Advertising Standards Watchdog (ASA).
The therapy often involves the removal of what they call “toxic imprints”, which they claim are caused by vaccines and other substances.
The “treatment” is taken in the form of dietary restrictions and high doses of nutritional supplements, such as vitamin C and zinc.
Guy Parker, the CEO of ASA, said claims by Cease therapists have no scientific credibility and go against NHS guidelines.
He also warned that advising against vaccinating could result in life-altering or even life-ending consequences for children, and that an overdose of vitamin C could result in vomiting, cramps and diarrhoea.
The NHS advise that too much zinc risks anaemia and weakening of bones.
Mr Parker added that “sadly” there were too few barriers to becoming a Cease therapist and that various websites advertise training courses that lasted only five days.
Participants would then be “qualified” to administer the “treatment” unchecked.
Health products are subject to strict guidelines, namely that they do not falsely claim to cure an illness or disability, nor must they advise against essential treatment for conditions that require medical attention.
ASA banned a claim by Cease therapists in 2018 that they could “address” autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and depression.
The watchdog said the issue was ongoing and that they had sent enforcement notices to 150 therapists still operating in the UK.
It has referred several cases to Trading Standards for further investigation, with prosecutions possible.
Mr Parker said: “It’s the mental and physical well-being of young people in particular that concerns us here. Typically, Cease therapy is promoted as a treatment for autistic children.
“As the National Autistic Society makes clear, autism is not an illness or disease. It cannot be cured. So to see some people claiming to do just that is a serious concern. Misleadingness and offering false hope aside, there’s potential harm behind such claims. So we’re taking steps to stamp them out.”
The National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism’s director, Caroline Povey, responded to the enforcement notices, saying: “Autism is lifelong. It’s not a disease or an illness. And many autistic people feel that their autism is a core part of their identity.
“It is deeply offensive for anyone to claim that unproven and even harmful therapies and products can ‘cure’ autism – and particularly appalling where people target vulnerable families.
“We are really pleased that Advertising Standards Authority is taking action against the bogus claims by people peddling Cease therapy.”
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