Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Medicating Autism

I’ve been asked several times about medication for children with Autism. This is something I’m a little reluctant to dive into, only because we’ve never used medicines with Konner. However, the column I did two weeks ago reminded me of some advice from a professional that I would like to share.
I talked a couple weeks ago about visiting Dr. Steve Miller, a neurologist in Tulsa, with Konner to have an EEG. The conversation with him following the EEG was one of the most interesting and enlightening I’ve had with a professional dealing with Autism.
He had asked us if Konner was having trouble concentrating, or staying on task in the classroom. We agreed that he was, to some extent, but cognitively he was still fine. After a short conversation we decided not to medicate him until it did hinder his learning ability, but we have always kept this in mind. We still haven’t ruled this option out.
I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to take Tylenol unless I have to, but if it’s something that may help my son I will consider it. My concern is that I want my child to live as normal a life as he can. I don’t want a zombie on my hands. This is where Dr. Miller explained his philosophy, which I felt was very good.
He explained that most doctors have their favorite medications, which they like to give to every child with similar symptoms. The problem is that not every child is the same. He said that he likes to use six to eight different medications and alternate them in two-week periods. He will monitor the effects and find which ones seem to help the most. If a child seems to “zone-out”, or is in that zombie state, he will back off the dosage, or discontinue it. I can remember him saying that, if a child is in that state they are being over medicated. After the trial of several different meds, he would determine which one worked the best, and then work on the dosage. This all seemed extremely logical to me.
But why should someone with Autism be medicated?
According to,
No medication can correct the brain structures or impaired nerve connections that seem to underlie autism. Scientists have found, however, that drugs developed to treat other disorders with similar symptoms are sometimes effective in treating the symptoms and behaviors that make it hard for people with autism to function at home, school, or work.
However, it goes on to say that none have been approved for Autism by the Food and Drug Administration.
The symptoms that are being treated usually accompany autism. These include anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and aggressiveness.
Interestingly enough, I found that scientists are looking at ways to suppress endorphins for some autistic patients with an under sensitivity for pain. It appears that those patients are creating too many endorphins which are causing them to not feel pain as much (this is what happens for Konner). They are exploring ways to block those endorphins to help them be more “normal”.
Without going into the many different drugs available, I’m just going to provide a link to a list of drugs for different symptoms. This is from the child-autism-parent-café.com: This list includes generic names, what it is used to treat, and ages it would be appropriate for.
There are also vitamin supplements that are available to help with these symptoms as well. Magnesium and B6 have been known to help children with Autism be calmer and stay on task more. These two used together help stimulate brain activity. Don’t forget however, that just because they are vitamins does not mean they can’t be over used. Vitamins cause a change in body chemistry. Anytime you do this you have a risk of side-effects. They should be monitored as closely as medications.
On the other hand, there can be no change when using these as well. We purchased a fairly expensive “autism vitamin pack” that included the B6, Magnesium, fish oil, and several other oils and powders. We tried this for several months, but after a while we decided that we saw no change in Konner. That’s not to say that this will not work. There is documentation from many families saying that it does work. I would say try anything once if it’s going to help your child. I’m just saying that it doesn’t work for everyone.
There are also dietary changes that have been known to make a difference in autistic children. There are many of these including gluten-free diets. Jenny McCarthy and many others swear by this diet. This is something that we may get into in a different column.
No matter what you try, remember that it is the parent’s responsibility to monitor your child. Don’t rely on the doctor to determine what is best for your child. The doctor is going to depend on your input to let him/her know what is going on with your child. Nobody knows them like you do. You are the only one that will see the little changes.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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