What's it like?
Vitamin B6 and magnesium supplements can be purchased online, or from almost any grocery, drug, or health-food store (see Resources).
Vitamin B6 is found in many foods; avocados, liver, nuts, chicken, fish, wheat germ, and bananas are good sources of the vitamin. Vitamin B6 is often included as one of many vitamins in a multivitamin supplement, but check with your child's pediatrician before starting a supplement. Vitamin B6 supplements can be taken every day, but may be difficult to give to children, since some children may find that vitamin B6 tastes bitter in tablet or powder form. Liquid B6 supplements are also available and may be better tasting (4). Doses of vitamin B6 in research studies varied from 0.6 mg/kg/day (about 10.8 mg/day for a 40-pound child) (3 ), to 30 mg/kg body weight/day (about 545 mg/day for a 40-pound child) (5, 6).
By comparison, the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin B6 is 1.3 to 1.7 mg/day for adults, and 0.5 to 0.6 mg/day for children ages 1 to 8 years old (7).
Magnesium is found in many foods, but is especially plentiful in green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. A supplement containing magnesium can be taken every day, but check with your child's pediatrician before starting a supplement. While it is not clear what the proper dose for children with autism should be, research reports used a dose in the range of 6 to15 mg/kg/day (or about 108 to 270 mg total daily for a 40-pound child) (3, 8).
For comparison, the U.S. Daily Reference Intakes for magnesium is 320 to 420 mg/day for adults, and 80-130 mg/day for children ages 1 to 8 years old (7). Some parents supplement magnesium by giving their children Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths. While magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, it is hard to say what dose of magnesium a child is getting from an Epsom salt bath.
If you choose vitamin B6 and magnesium as an alternative therapy, ask your child's pediatrician about the dose appropriate for your child. Vitamin B6 can cause upset stomach when not taken with a meal, so also ask a physician to provide a sample schedule for taking B6 and magnesium (see Is it Harmful?).