As a parent, the most important thing to do at home is to work closely with the pediatrician and occupational therapist to moderate the medication being taken by the child.
Moreover, it is important to keep track of the benefits being seen in a child so it is easier to gauge what works for a child and what does not.
Also, it is highly advisable for a parent to be aware of the side effects associated with some of the medicines and drugs. This is to help both the child, as well as the pediatrician and occupational therapist gauge the effects of a specific drug on the child.
Medical management of autism can be at done at anytime, since it works to alleviate the symptoms associated with ASD. This, however, should be strictly done under a registered medical practitioners supervision.
Different countries have different standards regarding the prescription of some drugs such as antidepressants or SSRIs, so depending on the country's laws, a licensed pediatrician or doctor can prescribe the medication that is to be taken.
Vitamins and other supplements help improve symptoms of self-injurious behaviour, aggression and tantrums, and can be taken in combination as advised by your child's doctor. Always keep a regular follow up with your child's doctor.
Omega-3 plays an important role in the functioning of the brain. It also reduces inflammation and thus, improves immune balance in autism.
Omega-3 supplementation improves cognition and motor skills, concentration, eye contact, sociability and sleep, along with reducing hyperactivity, repetitive behaviour and aggression
A small study of folinic acid, which is a naturally occuring form of folate, showed improvements in communication in children with speech and language impairment
According to researchers, oral vitamin D supplementation may safely improve symptoms of autism.
In a study, autism symptoms including hyperactivity and social withdrawal improved significantly in patients receiving Vitamin D3 supplementation as compared with the placebo group.
Individuals with autism may be associated with deficiency of vitamin B12 due to poor dietary intake, poor absorption, or metabolic abnormalities.
Methylcobalamin is the most active form of vitamin B12, which is required for healthy development of brain, immune system and nervous system.
These supplements may help in controlling the behavioural symptoms in autism.
These can be given in the form of injections or tablets.
Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
The combined intake of vitamin B6 and Magnesium may result in improving social interaction, communication, alertness, and reducing self-mutilation and repetitive behaviour.
Side effects of high doses can cause neuropathy and diarrhoea.
It is an antioxidant which prevents oxidative damage in brain, reduces metabolic stress and improves immunity.
It may help improve repetitive behaviour in children with autism.
It is also an antioxidant.
It helps in neurodevelopment of the brain and immunity.
It has shown to improve speech and behaviour in autism.
Zinc deficiency is commonly observed in autism.
It is one of the important components for neuronal functioning.
Zinc supplements improve cognition and reduce hyperactivity.
Iron deficiency has been observed in some children with autism.
This may be associated with psychomotor retardation, poor sleep, neurological and behaviour problems.
It has shown to improve sleep significantly without any side effects.
Dimethylglycine and Trimethylglycine (DMG / TMG)
DMG and TMG supplements may improve eye contact and social interaction, improve speech communication and increase tolerance and decrease aggressive behaviour, by increasing oxygen uptake in the blood and increases circulation.
L – Carnosine
L-carnosine is a naturally found in high concentrations in muscle, heart and brain tissues.
It has been shown to possess potential for improving language and behaviour in children with autism.
Probiotics are microorganisms which improve digestion and immune system.
They help to reduce self-stimulatory behaviour, aggression, stereotypical behaviour, hyperactivity and improve socialization.
It is a mitochondrial enzyme required for optimum cellular functioning.
It helps to reduce irritability; and improve communication and socialization.
You may hear of some common medications which usually prescribed for children or individuals with Autism. Here are a few options which you can consider only after consulting your child’s doctor.
These drugs must be taken with caution and under supervision of a doctor only. Report any early signs of side effects to the doctor immediately.
They are used to treat irritability that is associated with behavioral problems like aggression, self-injury, temper tantrums and mood swings.
Risperidone and Aripiprazole are the only two US FDA approved medications for Autism.
They act on the chemical substances which carry signals across nerve connections- serotonin and dopamine- which have been found in abnormal levels in many individuals with autism.
The most common side effects of Risperidone and Aripiprazole include drowsiness, constipation, fatigue, hyperglycemia and weight gain. In some individuals, side effects like tremors, abnormal involuntary movement and rigidity have been observed.
Other Antipsychotic medicines used to control aggression and hyperactivity are Clozapine, Olanzapine, Quetiapine and Ziprasidone. These medicines are usually prescribed to older children or adults as they are associated with serious side effects. In some cases, when the symptoms are too severe or unresponsive to standard drugs, these medications may be required.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used for treatment in autism. They include drugs namely Fluvoxamine, Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Escitalopram and Sertraline.
Treatment with these medications may help decrease frequency of repetitive behavior and improve eye contact and social interaction.
Side effects of SSRIs include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite and weight changes, mania or hypomania, aggressive behaviour. Suicidal ideation has not been reported as a possible side effect in studies on SSRIs in autism.
Other drugs prescribed are Nortriptyline, Amitriptyline, Clomipramine, Desipramine, and Imipramine.
Drugs such as methylphenidate, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine belong to the category of stimulants which act on the dopamine system and are primarily used to treat hyperactivity and inattention.
However, adverse effects such as loss of appetite, sleep difficulties, irritability, emotional outbursts, anxiety, depression, headache, and diarrhea have been reported.
This group of drugs can be used to treat behavioral symptoms such as aggression, self-injurious behaviors, impulsivity and conduct disorder.
Antidepressants can be used to treat depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder in autism.
Mood stabilizers possibly used include substances like lithium, lamotrigine, valproic acid, carbamazepine, topiramate, oxcarbazepine and levetiracetam
Antiepileptics are usually prescribed to control seizures associated with autism.
A commonly used Antiepileptic in autism is sodium valproate.
This drug has also shown improvements in the various core symptoms such as hyperactivity, receptive language, affective instability, aggression, and social skills.
Side effects of these drugs are a major concern. Routine liver function tests should be performed before and during treatment. Monitoring the drug levels through regular blood tests may be required.
Other drugs used are levetiracetam, phenytoin, topiramate, carbamazepine, lamotrigine, clobazam, etc
Midazolam nasal spray may be prescribed to keep handy with parents for emergency or during travel.
Divalproex sodium, an antiepileptic, is also prescribed to control hyperactivity.
Glutamate antagonists used for autism are amantadine, memantine.
They lead to improvement in memory, hyperactivity, irritability, language, social behavior and self-stimulatory behavior.
Few patients were reported to have experienced adverse effects like worsening of autistic behaviors.
Some of the other adverse effects include nausea, diarrhoea, hyperactivity and irritability.
Medicines like melatonin are prescribed in case of disturbed sleep cycle.
Triclofos is helpful to put the child to sleep during travel and also for insomnia.
Promethazine and haloperidol can be used when child is extremely aggressive, violent, excessively hyperactive or undergoing any medical procedures.
These medicines have to be used very carefully and under the supervision of a doctor only.
The side effects can be excessive drowsiness, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, lethargy, etc.
You might often find yourself confused, or skeptical about the need and use of medicines for your child with Autism. While this does remain your choice, the importance of medications in managing a few symptoms of Autism, cannot be understated. Most parents have found that symptoms of hyperactivity, their child’s sleep disturbances, gut related issues, etc. have shown improvements with the help of medications. If your child has seizures, a medical intervention under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner is strongly suggested.
You can always make an informed decision with regards to what’s best for your child, once you have adequate information about the risks & benefits involved. Research has shown that 70-80% of children with autism have been prescribed medicines at some point. Along with prescription medicines, many of these children are on complimentary or alternative medicine treatment. Vitamins, Probiotics & mineral supplements are also widely used.
According to sources, there’s a severe dearth of medicines that treat the three core symptoms of autism; communication difficulties, social challenges and repetitive behavior. It has also been found that only a few drugs currently available, are effective in relieving these symptoms and the results usually vary from individual to individual.
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