Because we’ve lived a lot longer, we autism grandparents usually have much more personal experience with medications than do the parents of our grandchildren. We know that medications can be extremely helpful, and we also know that almost all medicines are accompanied by one of those small-print documents that tells about all sorts of side effects and contraindications.
So even if we are not personally on the autism spectrum, we can, and should if our opinions are welcome, offer our wisdom regarding the use of medications to treat our autistic grandchildren.
Medicines have been effective with persons on the Autism spectrum in reducing self-injury, aggression, irritability, repetitive behaviors, anxiety, tantrums, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, hyperactivity, withdrawal, lack of focus, panic disorders, seizures, etc.
There are ten basic things that we need to know and should share with our grandchildren’s parents if our input is welcome.
No medication cures autism. Even though some medications can help with problem behaviors, no medicine has yet been found effective in totally eliminating any problem behavior.
All of the few dozen medicines that are prescribed for autism behaviors come with negative side effects, some with very serious side effects.
All medicines for autism are most effective when combined with non-medicine therapies (such as ABA).
Medicines for autism are always prescribed on a trial basis. It may take weeks or even months to determine whether a specific medicine is helpful and what dosage maximizes its effectiveness.
Most of the time it is best to use only one medicine at a time.
Medicine should be tried only if non-medicine therapies have been ineffective.
Medicines for autism are expensive, so you should see if insurance pays.
There are five major reasons for using medicine if other therapies have not helped sufficiently. Aggression and/or self-injury, too much stress at home and/or elsewhere, problems at school, problems with community activities, problems that affect learning, and problems that affect sleep.
The following four things are usually not helped by medicines: following directions, slow learning, communication skills including talking, social skills.
All members of the child’s “team” should be informed about the child’s medicines: teachers, therapists, caregivers, healthcare providers, etc.