Where I wish quacks would CEASE to fleece the parents of autistic kids

Someone on Twitter brought the CEASE “therapy” to my attention and suggested I read the book. That is not going to happen, unless he sends me a free copy, as I have this aversion to supporting quacks monetarily. So instead I went Googling and found the CEASE Therapy site.

Where to start on such a target-rich environment? The first statement on the site is absolute pure nonsense:

That is Dr. Smits’ conclusion after having seen over 300 cases of all levels of severity. In his experience autism is an accumulation of different causes and about 70% is due to vaccines, 25% to toxic medication and other toxic substances, 5% to some diseases. With isotherapy (see below), a form of homeopathy using the causative substances themselves in homeopathic preparation, the toxic imprints can be erased.

You have to be kidding me. Where is the control part of it? Which group of children who do not have autism did Dr Smits use in his observations and how large? This sounds like someone is trying to convince prospective customers that a set of anecdotes equals data. It just does not work that way.

Would someone also kindly enlighten me precisely how Dr Smits arrived at his results that “autism is… about 70% is due to vaccines”? What tests were performed to detect which substances and how were they determined to cause autism? What are these “toxic imprints” and how are they detected?

The next statement that caught my attention was:

CEASE therapists are trained during a 5 day course, given by certified CEASE therapy instructors, to guarantee the high quality of treatment and to ensure the correct application of this method.

A whole 5 day course? I bet that is some intensive, since real therapy courses can last up to 4 years full time.

Then they tell the prospective dupe errr… customer that their treatment uses something called “isotherapy.” This is described as “using the causative substances as a homeopathic remedy.”

This means that since Dr Smits believed – without any real evidence I could see – that vaccines are toxic, these preparations are vaccines diluted so many times that no original molecules can be left. They also add to this Classical homeopathy, which is meant to work on the similar principles, but it uses more substances than just vaccines, some of the more weird being the Berlin Wall, Vacuum and English Sunshine. The remedy in essence is just diluted water (or diluted water sprinkled on a sugar pill), and as such, completely inert. It will have no biological activity on the human body.

The next statement makes it clear we’re no longer even hypothetically dealing with medicine, but have entered the realms of magic:

Even illness, medication and vaccination in the energetic field of the father and mother before pregnancy can be transmitted to the child by energetic transfer.

What is the “energetic field”? What is “energetic transfer”? What is the energy involved in it? How is it detected and measured? How are vaccines and medicines transferred by it?

The people who run the website would not be able answer these questions, since what they are promoting is a faith-based belief.

In addition to homeopathy, comes orthomolecular “medicine”:

Along with the isopathic treatment we also add orthomolecular medicine to properly nourish the brain of these children and to restore proper bowel function.

Orthomolecular “medicine” is a form of quackery that prescribes megadoses of vitamins and nutrients, particularly of vitamin C, for various illnesses. It was popularised by Linus Pauling, who thus showed pretty conclusively that winning the Nobel Prize does not confer expertise in an area the Nobel winner has not thoroughly studied. Its basic concept is that if a little of something is good for you, then a massive overdose of that same something must be even better for you. What the proponents neglect to tell you that even vitamin C, though water-soluble, can with certain rare conditions be deadly as it can cause fatal nephrotoxicity. Other vitamins and minerals can have even more severe toxicity, and there have been cases where children have died from overdoses of vitamins D and E and from multivitamin formulas. Nowhere on the site did I see any warning about the dangers of such treament with vitamin overdoses.

What is also interesting is that homeopathy is the polar opposite of orthomolecular “medicine”. Homeopathy relies on diluting the substance into nonexistence and orthomolecular relies on massive overdoses. I’m not surprised that the proponents of this kind of irrational treatment are unable to see the basic discrepancy between the two modalities, and fail to understand even the admittedly irrational principles behind both.

And, of course, as with all the charlatans, the use of anecdotes abounds, since quacks without fail resort to anecdotes when they don’t have any science to back their claims. A brief perusal through the anecdotes reveals a few interesting things. First of all, Smits – or whoever wrote the anecdotes – appears to believe that autism is the complete cessation of development. This is not the case, as autism is simply developmental delay, not developmental stasis. The following case history shows clearly what is going on:

He has been vaccinated according to schedule from three months on. Apart from the DTPP/HIB and MMR he also received the Meningococ-C vaccination. I decide to detoxify both the MMR and the DTPP/HIB and to give three series of a month each of every shot. The MMR series lead to violent reactions and seemed to aggravate his autism, but after each DTPP/HIB series he clearly improves. Contact has increased, he looks you in the face, makes jokes and engages in question and answer games. Language comprehension improves and he displays a more extrovert attitude.

I prescribe three additional short series of the MMR as well as three of the DTPP/HIB. I don’t see him again until a year later. The series have had much effect. He talks a lot more and contact has greatly increased. Things no longer obsess him. He has found his place in the family. Serious behavioral disorders no longer exist. Before detoxification he would often spend hours in a corner of the room turning the wheel of a toy car. At times, he still flutters when very excited. His developmental retardation has not been fully restored, neither his motor skills or his cognitive abilities are up to par. His speech is somewhat staccato. Playing with other children than his sister still proves to be problematic at times. Now, after a meal he is satisfied, whereas before he continued eating.

The child is developing naturally, as can be expected, and the quack is taking credit for what his nostrums had nothing to do with at all. Moreover, as is clear from the case, the child is by no means “recovered” despite the claim of “a very effective way to treat autism with amazing results”.

This potentially dangerous nonsense does not come cheap either. Most of the registered CEASE practitioners were more than a little coy about their prices, but one posted them on her website. She cites £95 for the first appointment which lasts 1-2 hours and then £70 for follow-up appointments lasting up to one hour. Given that this protocol would demand multiple appointments before the parents finally give up on it when it does not work – unless the practitioner can convince them that natural changes were caused by their “treatments” – it is going to be a nice little earner.

It really makes me angry to see such worthless quackery promoted to vulnerable people. It’s giving people false hope while dipping deep into their pockets. Were I a parent with a child on the ASD spectrum, I’d never subject my child to such an unproven protocol.

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15 responses to “Where I wish quacks would CEASE to fleece the parents of autistic kids

  1. Hi Dragonblaze – I’ve just read your first few paragraphs. In response to these I would say that Smits is doing empirical science – he’s using an intervention where the parents and teachers assess behaviour before and after the intervention and they are seeing marked, permanent improvements in behaviour, cognition and communication. And he’s done this for 300 children.
    What is the problem. Autism is ‘incurable’ most approaches. This is simple, non-toxic, permanent and cheap. Sick children are no longer sick. That’s the bottom line.
    Why are you so angry with this empirical work? It works in practice, even though difficult to understand in theory. Sorry.
    Please, for the sake of sick children have 1 read of the whole book and come back to me.
    Thank you.

    • That site appears to be mainly sales site, and the science – if any – behind Dr Smits’ research is not mentioned anywhere. Moreover, if you read the whole post, I question the modalities he employs and the principles behind them.
      I also do not like the use of anecdotes or “success stories” since the one I quoted points to what can happen naturally to autistic children, since autism is not, as I said, developmental stasis, it’s developmental delay – and there are even cases of autism reversing itself without any intervention. That is precisely the problem with anecdotes, as without a proper statistical analysis of a cohort study or a case-control study – not to even mention proper RCTs – it is impossible to tell whether the treatment had anything to do with what happened with the patient.
      Why am I angry with empirical science? As I said, this appears to be a sales site, and I’m always very suspicious of claims made by people who have a product or a service to sell.

    • Dude, it’s not hard to understand why anecdotal evidence is unreliable. I’m a complete amateur and even I managed to write a half-decent explanation. Please permit me to link my blog : http://cannabisforautism.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/your-childs-autism-will-reverse-or-why-the-kurz-study-is-no-better-than-anecdote/

  2. Hi – thanks for replying. I think if you talk to 300 parents of autistic children, you’re not going to see 300 improvement/cure cases. Yes, it is known that a very small % of autistic children improve, but not at the levels seen with CEASE Therapy.
    Yes, there are no RCTs, but until that time, what’s the harm in trying this therapy? There are no RCTs for hip replacement surgery and that’s carrying on and its a tad more invasive than this. Come on, lets get this in proportion in the real world. CEASE = minimal cost, intervention and looks like it may help. All other interventions are going to cost as much and have a fraction of the benefit.
    Sales site? The book costs a few Euros, so I don’t think this really counts. Any homeopath can follow this protocol, because its so easy. If he wanted to make money, he wouldn’t be spelling out his technique in complete detail.
    I’m very sorry your prejudice is blinding you to something that MAY be very useful. Worth a look, at least?
    Best wishes.

  3. Hi there. Well, to start with, your saying that “I think” tells right off that you do not have data but are speculating without data. This is not how I work. This also ties to the problem with ‘success stories’ or anecdotes – we hear from people who believe the therapy had an effect on their children, but we never hear from the ones who found no benefit, and that leads to skewed view, since it’s impossible to calculate the percentage of children improving. What is also needed is a case-control study, that is, a comparison to a similar group of children who have not received the therapy and what percentage of the children in that group have improved. This would be just the beginning of testing the protocol.
    Comparing hip replacement surgery – which cannot have RCTS, since you cannot double-blind surgery – to a substance-using modality is akin to comparing apples to oranges. Do you see why this is the case?
    The real problem is relying on a modality that has no chance of working – homeopathy – and another that has a potential for harm – orthomolecular – without a single real indication that either have any benefit beyond the placebo effect. I rather strongly object to selling people false hope, wasting both their time and money.
    And please do remember, even if people strongly believe in their therapy, it still can be wrong.

  4. Jan Willem Nienhuys

    Maybe I should point out that Smits died of cancer on april 1, 2010, aged 63. His websites are maintained by his devout followers, many of who are not even MDs.

  5. There is an epidemic of therapies, modalities, etc. on the internet that promise to cure our children of autism and to cure a thousand other chronic ailments. Many resemble cults, with charismatic leaders. All are supported by scientific sounding theories and explanations, testimonials, and claims of astonishing success (70-80 percent is the figure typically used in my observation). The variety is seemingly endless. A favorite technique seems to be to include notions of physics and Chinese medicine and blockages. Many, if not most, read like parodies. All share the characteristic that they will separate you from a lot of money.

  6. I would highly suggest for anyone opposed to CEASE treatment for ASD to get a life. I am a homeopath and mother of a child with autism and I have done this with my daughter now for almost 2 years and she is now talking. I think you are the biggest quack yourself. Get a life because it seems like you really don’t have much to do. I feel for your ASD child to have to deal with a paent like you. How ignorant!!!!

    • I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I do not provide any kind of health services, so I cannot be a quack in any sense of the word.

      I also am NOT a parent – reading for comprehension would be a useful skill for you – as I state “WERE I a parent with a child on the ASD spectrum” thus clearly indicating I am not such a parent.

      I’m glad that your child is talking, but as is known, autism or any ASD condition is not a development stasis, it’s development delay, it’s highly likely she would have learned to talk even without such a worthless protocol. I won’t be able to prove otherwise, of course, doing so would require a large study.

  7. Oooohhhh, Dragonblaze – you really should confine yourself to things you have some primary knowledge of. Autistic children are often static in their development – two years from mute to talking is pretty good. I bet the doctors predicted she’d hardly talk. A friend of mine has an articulate and polite 13yo for whom she was told they’d never get him out of nappies. I suggest if you want logic and reason, you keep your O level biology understanding of health to yourself. Your naivite combined with your barbed malicious cynicism is a nasty combination. Stick with cats and physics or maths or computer sciences or whatever you got your degree in. Leave mother’s with autistic children (who are largely left to their own devices by a medical system at a loss with what to do with the epidemic) to themselves or at least respect their effort and acheivement. I’d give you 48 hours with an autistic child until you were tearing your hair out. Back off things you just don’t have the live experience to have ANY understanding of whatsoever.

    • How many autistic pets do you treat, my dear vet? You’re equally qualified to treat human autism as I am – so don’t try to appeal to your false authority. Given that your understanding of science is extremely lacking – to put it charitably – as you believe in such impossibilities as homeopathy, you have no room to criticise anyone about their understanding of science. BTW, Dunning & Kruger called, they want you back.

      Incidentally, my knowledge about autism does not come only from studying, but also from talks with mothers who do have children on the ASD spectrum, so kindly try not to denigrate their experiences.

  8. I’ve treated three dogs, successfully. I have two under treatment at the moment, both improving, actually. And its not just stasis that’s become unblocked. ‘Stasis’ – the poorest excuse for a diagnosis I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve studied alot of human medicine as it related directly to my work with dogs. I’m using the Tinus Smits model for treatment, by the way – so bang goes thoughts of placebo.
    You cannot tell me my understanding of science is lacking BECAUSE I use homeopathy – this is a bogus argument. I’ve studied science and medicine for 25 years and I use homeopathy precisely because it allows me to cure disease that I am otherwise unable to.
    Dunning and Kruger? Don’t even know who they are, but I presume this is an insult – very good intellectual debate, scientific discussion.
    I’m really sorry, I’m not answering any more of this petty mud slinging. I just wish you would do some research and realise the world has moved on since you did o level biology.
    I hope you become a little wiser, and a little less angry with age.
    Very best wishes,
    Nick.

    • So how did you manage to diagnose autism in dogs?

      Could you actually learn to read for comprehension? I said that autism is NOT stasis, it’s developmental delay. Or are you so desperate that you have to construct straw man argument by twisting what I actually said?

      Oh, the old dear “it works on animals, so it cannot be placebo” excuse. If you did a little bit of reading, you’d find out it’s a fallacy. A brief overview can be found here, with references: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/is-there-a-placebo-effect-for-animals/

      You may claim you’ve studied science and medicine for 25 years, just as I can claim I’m the long-lost dauphin – without evidence such claims are meaningless. I’ve yet to see you say anything that would be evidence of such studies.

      Dunning & Kruger refers to a paper describing a phenomenon you’d do well to study and learn from, since it appears to apply to you. It can be found here: http://mastercodeprofessional.com/library_files/Kruger-Dunning—Unskilled_and_Unaware_of_It_(2009).pdf

      And don’t get on your high horse, with comments like “Your naivite combined with your barbed malicious cynicism is a nasty combination” you seriously can’t afford it.

      How old would I need to be? 60? What you ran into is that I cannot stand quacks who either through self-delusion or charlatanism set out to fool people into trusting worthless modalities and protocols, and it can show.

  9. Thanks to the “placebo” effect of homeopathy, you say. Shame allopathic remedies don’t seem to work the same way.

    My son was diagnosed with autism last year. He is 3 years old. Since starting CEASE therapy 10 months ago he has been improving tremendously. His occupational therapist and speech therapist are perplexed with the pace at which his communication is improving.

    Like me, other children who are 5, 6 10 years old who didn’t react to any intervention, are now improving with CEASE therapy. And this is all under discussion right now in a Facebook group devoted to parents who are treating their kids with CEASE.

    If you are a parent of an autistic child and you found this article, please don’t feel discouraged, please give it a try. It’s cheap and all children seem to progress to some degree. It doesn’t really matter if science can’t explain how it works, the point is that it does.

    • Would asking you to back your claim about “allopathic” remedies not working with valid evidence bring any results? By valid evidence I mean real studies, and not claims made on “alternative medicine” propaganda sites.

      There is a problem with anecdotes. There is a large chance that an anecdote may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases. Cognitive biases such as confirmation bias can distort an anecdote badly. This applies to all anecdotes equally.
      Testimonials, such as yours, have the sample of one, and all the Facebook discussions in the world cannot replace a real study.

      Science-based medicine is not very concerned about explaining why something works, just that it works. We did not know until fairly recently why aspirin worked, but as it showed a statistically significant effect in randomized controlled trials, it was accepted as efficacious. But as both homeopathy and orthomolecular medicine have been shown not to work in several studies, and so they should be discarded as useless.

      A few links to such studies:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630613

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1828703

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20605859

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20402610

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