Published: 2020-12-23

Perceptions, attitudes and practices of physicians regarding use of complementary and alternative medicine in autism spectrum disorder

Ashwini A. Marathe, Koyeli S. Sengupta


Background: Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been reported as highly prevalent in literature. Our objective was to assess the perceptions, attitudes and practices of Indian physicians regarding use of CAM in ASD.

Methods: An online survey was emailed to pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, pediatric neurologists and psychiatrists. We had 417 respondents, 78% being primary-care pediatricians. Descriptive analysis was conducted. Results: Of 417 respondents, 75% physicians were unaware or minimally aware of the risks and benefits of CAM. 60% of pediatricians rarely or did not ask families about their use of CAM, and 57% felt that families too do not bring up CAM. 67% of pediatricians felt that less than 25% of their patients used CAM, though 50% regularly prescribed nutritional supplements to children with ASD. Pediatricians reported either not offering an opinion or referring to a specialist for questions about GFCF (83%), stem-cell transplant (69%), hyperbaric oxygen (71%) and ayurveda or homeopathic remedies (49%). Lack of ASD-specific intervention services, time, training and practice guidelines were perceived as barriers to care. 97% physicians desired autism training, while 81% also desired CAM training.

Conclusions: Most pediatricians perceive use of CAM in ASD to be lower than reported and do not discuss or opine on CAM modalities with families of children with ASD, possibly due to inadequate doctor-patient communication and limited awareness and knowledge about CAM in ASD, underscoring need for capacity building in this area.


ASD, CAM, Integrative medicine, India, Pediatrician attitudes

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