Scottish autism charities have welcomed a crackdown by advertising authorities on therapists who claim to be able to cure the condition.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has sent an enforcement notice to all 150 UK practitioners of Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression (Cease) therapy – including at least three in Scotland – informing them that they cannot make direct or implied efficacy claims in their ads, including on their own websites.
The practice involves the removal of what practitioners describe as “toxic imprints” caused by vaccines, medications and other “toxic” substances and some diseases.
“Orthomolecular” support in the form of nutritional supplements – commonly high dosages of vitamin C and/or zinc – are often recommended to “patients”, along with dietary restrictions. Experts have warned that too much zinc conflicts with NHS advice, risking anaemia and weakening of bones.
The ASA has already taken action against one practitioner – Sussex-based Bubbling Life – and has recently referred several cases to Trading Standards for further investigation. Any breaches of criminal legislation could lead to prosecution. Charlene Tait, deputy chief executive at Scottish Autism, said: “We wholly endorse this action by the ASA. There is no proper scientific evidence of any kind that autism is in any way a ‘curable’ condition, a point supported by virtually all autism organisations and within NHS guidelines. Any products or therapies claiming otherwise are simply not credible and are exploitative.
“Autism is a lifelong condition and a key part of what makes autistic individuals who they are. The focus needs to be on supporting autistic people and their families to ensure they are able to maximise opportunities to help them live full and enriched lives.”
Websites promoting the Cease therapy practice often promote training courses that last three to five days, after which practitioners will be “qualified” to administer the “treatment” unchecked.
Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: “There is an ongoing wider problem and that will require concerted and co-ordinated regulatory intervention. We are aware of around 150 Cease therapists operating in the UK.
“Our compliance team has issued an enforcement notice to all of them setting out clearly that they cannot make direct or implied efficacy claims in their ads, including on their own websites. Those failing to get their houses in order will be targeted with further sanctions.”
He added: “Our work in tackling this will continue. We’re determined to put a stop to misleading and harmful ad claims for a treatment that poses potentially severe health risks. Anyone claiming to cure the incurable, something that is part of the fabric and fibre of an individual’s personality, really needs to stop.”
There are three Scottish practitioners listed on the Cease Therapy website – in Stirling, Moffat and Perthshire.