The first thing you have to pay attention to is what type of medicine your child is taking. I’m not talking about Ritalin vs. Concerta. I’m talking about the size and shape; whether it’s time released or not; etc. There are two main types of solid medicine forms. There are tablets, and capsules. Tablets are also solid forms, but can be different shapes. Capsules are medicines enclosed into dissolvable shells to be taken orally (usually).
If you have a capsule then it is usually okay to break the capsule apart. This is what we had to do with Konner. We break apart one of his medicines and sprinkle it on his tongue. This is followed with a glass of milk to wash it down. I think, of course you can use any type of drink that the child likes. One parent explained to me that she was told as a child that orange juice is the only thing that can help the medicine work (or something to that affect), so to this day, even as an adult, she has to have OJ to wash down her medicine.
However, if you are taking a tablet this technique will not always work. You can purchase a tablet crusher and/or cutter to reduce the size of the tablets. This is what we do with Konner’s second medicine. We purchased a pill crusher, you can get one at just about any drug store or pharmacy around, and use it to compress his pills into dust and sprinkle that on his tongue. This again is washed down with milk. One parent recommended that you mix it with something like apple sauce or pudding.
One thing to watch for is time released tablets though. Some tablets are made to release a second dosage of medicine after the first layer has dissolved. You don’t want to cut or crush those. This will cause the product in the middle to be released all at once, and may cause more serious issues.
One family found a special cup that they use and said their son does well with it. There are a couple different products on the market to help with swallowing pills. Oralflo makes a Pill Swallowing Cup. This one seems to be very popular, but is hard to find in this area of the country. The other cup was a shelf cup which had a specially designed ledge to set the pill on called the Pill Taker’s Cup. When the liquid comes to the top it picks up the pill and helps it flow into the mouth and down the throat easily. This is the one that was suggested by the aforementioned parent. I looked all over for this; in Wal-Mart, Sullin’s Drug Store, and Walgreens. I never found one, but I did find it online, so this may be where you could get one.
Along the same lines, one family just lets the medicine dissolve in a cup of liquid and then uses something to mask the taste. This is not a bad idea, I would recommend that you check with the pharmacist or doctor to make sure that it doesn’t take away from the potency of the medicine.
Several families said that they practiced with candy to help their child get used to the swallowing reaction. They recommended that you use Tic Tacs, Smarties, or M&Ms and use them. On Aboutourkids.com I found similar advice that said to use the smaller candy and work your way up to a larger candy until you have something comparable in size to the pill you are expecting the child to swallow. One thing I would say about using candy is to make sure that your child knows the difference between candy and medicine.
Another uses an oral syringe and shoots the medicine in the child’s mouth. This is a great idea. We couldn’t get Konner to take medicine this way though. He just kept spitting it out.
The main thing I would do is try to work with your doctor to find something that is a good fit for the situation. We were fortunate enough that Dr. Jon Roth was willing to change his medicine after realizing that we had to crush the pill and couldn’t cut the time-released tablet.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter what technique you use as long as you can get your child to take the medicine, and your method doesn’t change the way the drug works.
As mentioned before, always ask the doctor or pharmacist before trying any of these methods. I’m not an expert, and can only speak from my experiences. If you are unsure of anything it is best to consult an expert.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.