There is no completely effective medication to treat autism. In some cases, children may need sort-term medication while others require life-long treatment due to specific symptoms or behaviors. In fact, many autistic children do not need medication at all, a lot of unusual behaviors and distressing symptoms can be improved without using prescribed drugs. Instructing autistic person in how to deal with distressing symptoms without drugs can improve individual ability to participate in community and educational programs and also reducing stress experienced by caregivers and parents. Behavioral issues may involve motor problems, hyperactivity, uncooperativeness, defiance to aggression, self-abusive behavior and uncontrollable tantrums. Although many behavioral problems can be treated with modification techniques like ABA, dangerous, severe or refractory behaviors should be treated with drugs. When an autistic child develop new behavior, especially if it is violent, caregivers and parents should quickly identify possible causes of such behavior, for example conflict at school with friends, injuries or allergies. Even behaviors that take form slowly may have repairable causes. Because these children have communication problems, it would be difficult for them to explain their problems. The frustrations can be manifested in self-injury or aggression, especially if the child is expected to continue his activities and daily routines.
When behavior deterioration occurs, these are a few possible causes to consider:
• Social conflicts: Consult with teachers and your child’s close friends to see if there are problems at school.
• Infections: Physical problems, such as influenza, abscesses and earaches can cause problems.
• Undetected injuries: Hyperactive child is vulnerable to injuries and those injuries may not always visible to naked eyes. An autistic may suffer a fractured upper arm, which can be undetected for a few days, as the perceptible symptoms are only loss of appetite and emotional withdrawal.
• Medication side effects: Many common drugs for allergy and cold have behavioral effects in autistic children.
• Worsening chronic condition: Changes on behavior can be caused by intensifying chronic medical conditions, such as stomach ulcers or migraine. It is important to discuss new behaviors and also symptoms like change in gait, lethargy, diarrhea or fever with your pediatrician.
Symptoms and other conditions determine what medications that should be used for an autistic child. Stimulants, sedatives, neuroleptic medications (antipsychotic medications), anticonvulsants and antidepressants are commonly prescribed. Although many of them can be used for years without problematic side effects, there are can still health consequences should be considered. Medication treatment should have balanced benefits and risks.
This is a quick look on medications an autistic child may need to take:
1. Antipsychotic: These drugs are often used to treat behavioral problems, including insomnia, tantrums and aggression. The drug is used when behavioral therapy seems to yield little results, so make sure that you’ve used all options before resorting to these medications.
2. Anticonvulsants: It can help your child to control possible seizures.
3. Anti-anxiety: It can be difficult for your child to control their feelings. He may cry and laugh without any trigger. Anti-anxiety drugs can control random outbursts and feelings. Unfortunately, these drugs may cause serious side effects. If your child needs to take these drugs, observe any behavioral changes that weren’t present previously.
4. Sedatives: They are used to treat autistic children who have insomnia or other sleeping problems. You may want to use natural alternatives before giving your child sedatives.
5. Stimulants: It helps autistic children to have better focus, especially when they are hyperactive. Stimulants can help them to pay attention at school and improve their education performance.
Before a medication treatment, these are a few things you should do:
1. Consult an expert: An autistic child may have a different response to specific drugs when compared to normal children. Given the unpredictability of drug interactions and complexity of medications, it is important to work with a health professional, like a physician to find the best way to treat your child. The physician should be able to inform you about the right dosage and how a medication (injection, liquid or pills) should be administered.
2. Make a close observation: Like anyone who takes a new medication, a child with autism should be observed closely by medical professionals and parents. Ask the doctor how the child should be monitored. They physician will also tell you about symptoms and signs you need to look for, which can signal a problem. The doctor may also order a laboratory test before or during the treatment.
3. Start with lowest effective dose: Because the severity of side effects can increase when the dose is larger, it is necessary to start with a minimal dose, the doctor will observe the results in a few months. Some adjustment may be necessary to minimize side effects and maximize benefits.
4. Observe possible side effects: When a drug is being prescribed or discussed, ask whether it is really safe for an autistic child. To have the medication. Even if the doctor assures you that there would be minimal short- and long-term side effects, keep a journal on your child’s responses to a medication at certain dosage. Check the insert to check the drug’s contraindications, monitoring requirements and side effects. Keep the product insert inside the journal for quick reference. This step can be really helpful if your child use several prescribed drugs.
5. Beware of food or drug interactions: During a discussion with your doctor, it is important to notify him about OTC medications, nutritional supplements and home remedies your child is taking. The doctor will tell you whether there will be likely interactions.
Most of the time, medicines should be your last resort when treating your children. You shouldn’t let your child to become dependent on drugs, which can make his situations more difficult. You should rely on drugs only after you have exhausted all options, such as, behavioral therapies and herbal remedies.