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What Is a Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) Autism Doctor?


Updated July 22, 2009

Question: What Is a Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) Autism Doctor?
What Is a DAN! Autism Doctor? If you research autism online for more than a few hours, you'll no doubt come across the term "DAN! Protocol." Certain sites urge readers to find and work with a "DAN! doctor," who will use biomedical techniques to treat children with autism. So...what the heck is a DAN! doctor, what is the protocol, and why might a parent be interested?

What Is the DAN! Protocol, and What are DAN! Doctors?

Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) is a project of the Autism Research Institute, founded in the 1960s by Dr. Bernard Rimland. DAN! doctors are trained in the "DAN! Protocol," an approach to autism treatment which starts with the idea that autism is a biomedical disorder. Specifically, DAN! doctors feel that autism is a disorder caused by a combination of lowered immune response, external toxins from vaccines and other sources, and problems caused by certain foods.

What Do DAN! Doctors Prescribe?

In an article called "Advice to Parents of Children with Autism," authors associated with the Autism Research Institute say:

    Many physicians do not conduct extensive medical testing for autism, because they believe, incorrectly, that the only useful medical treatments are psychiatric medications to reduce seizures and behavioral problems.

    Some of the major interventions suggested by DAN! practitioners include:

    • Nutritional supplements, including certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids
    • Special diets totally free of gluten (from wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats) and free of dairy (milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc.)
    • Testing for hidden food allergies, and avoidance of allergenic foods
    • Treatment of intestinal bacterial/yeast overgrowth (with pro-biotics, supplements and other non-pharmaceutical medications)
    • Detoxification of heavy metals through chelation (a potentially hazardous medical procedure)

    How Are DAN! Doctors Trained?

    DAN! doctors are credentialed medical doctors who choose to attend a one-day DAN! training. There is no further credentialing, testing, or follow up. According to a spokesperson for the Autism Research Institute:
      We make every attempt to provide a comprehensive seminar for practitioners teaching them techniques for assessing, testing and treating children on the spectrum using the biomedical approach. We are now insisting anyone on the ARI Clinician's Registry attend at least one training or conference every two years. However, due to the overwhelming legal ramifications, we do not "certify" any practitioner.

      We encourage parents to thoroughly investigate the credentials and expertise of any practitioner, but DAN! nor ARI will not police practitioners.

      Our medical director, Elizabeth Mumper, M.D., and I are continually looking to improve this situation. However, at present, we do not have the perfect solution.

    Why Might Parents of Children with Autism Be Interested in Seeing a DAN! Doctor?

    The answer is simple: there are hundreds of parents who claim that their children were literally cured of autism as a result of the DAN! protocol. Whether their claims are absolutely true is uncertain - but there is no doubt that some children have done very well under the care of DAN! physicians and clinicians.

    Where Can Parents Find DAN! Doctors?

    The Autism Research Institute (ARI) has a list of doctors who have been through the one-day DAN! training. Of course, parents should be very wary, and follow the excellent advice offered by ARI spokespeople regarding selection of a local pediatrician. In addition, I recommend that parents consult with their own pediatrician regarding the safety of any DAN! treatmen and check in with parent support groups to be sure that the DAN! doctor of their choice is really what he appears to be.


    Email interview with Maureen H. McDonnell, RN DAN! Conference Coordinator and former DAN! clinician. March, 2007.

    Interview with Dr. Cynthia Molloy, M.D., M.S. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, March 13, 2007.

    James B. Adams, Ph.D., Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D., Autism Research Institute, San Diego, California . Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., Autism Research Institute, San Diego, California. "Advice for Parents of Young Autistic Children" Spring (2004): Autism Research Institute website

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