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Drugs to Treat Severe Tantrums in Asperger's Kids: A Bad Idea?

“What is your opinion about using drugs to treat certain symptoms of Asperger syndrome? We have been told by our doctor that our son may benefit from Abilify for treating his angry outbursts and bad temper tantrums, but we are not sure if we want to ‘medicate’ him.”

Drug therapy is not the ultimate treatment for autism spectrum disorders, but it has a definite place depending on the severity of the symptom in question. Drugs can be a critical element in a comprehensive treatment plan. There is a wider range of drugs with more specific biologic effects than ever before. For children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), these newer agents are safer and less disruptive. When paired with professionals who are becoming more skilled at recognizing and managing symptoms, these “special needs” children have a greater opportunity to reach their potential and lead pleasurable lives.

The treatment of complex, disorders like AS and HFA always brings a particular challenge to drug therapy. Also, the specific traits associated with AS and HFA introduce unique complications to childcare and place unusual demands on a therapist's skill and experience. To provide safe and effective treatment, the therapist must understand the core features of the disorder and the manifestations of the disorder in his or her client. Furthermore, a thorough understanding of the family, school, and community resources and limitations is necessary.

Once an assessment has been made, focusing on target symptoms provides a crucial framework for care. Knowing manifestations of symptoms and characterizing their distribution and behavior in the AS or HFA child is crucial. It is particularly important to coordinate behavioral and pharmacologic objectives. The target symptoms should be tracked carefully and placed into a priority system that is based on the risks and disability they create for the child. The skill of drug therapy also means setting out realistic expectations, keeping track of the larger systems of care at school and home, and working closely with moms and dads.

There is an expanding range and pace of biologic and intervention research into AS and HFA. The genetic work has produced exciting leads that are likely to be helpful to future generations. As researchers discover more about the complex neural circuitry that underlie social cognition, repetitive behaviors, and reward systems associated with the disorder, there are good reasons to believe that drug treatment will become more sophisticated and specific. Drug therapy is also moving to design drugs that target more specific populations of receptor and brain functions. This is likely to produce drugs that have fewer side effects, are more effective, and are more symptom-specific.

==> The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


•    Anonymous said... Ability is NOT FDA approved for use in kids. Long term effects are unknown. Do your homework before putting your child on such a strong drug. It is commonly used for schizophrenia in adults.
•    Anonymous said... Abilify is used to treat irritability and symptoms of aggression, mood swings, temper tantrums, and self-injury related to autistic disorder in children who are at least 6 years old.
•    Anonymous said... My 4 yr old son was diagnosed with ADHD just 6 mos ago and put on Quillivant and Guanfacine... the doctor has thought he may also have a mild spectrum autism so I spoke to a specialist who is sure that he has Aspergers and wants to see him ASAP. Meanwhile the doctor is now ready (after hearing the specialists opinion) and after several very physically violent outbursts from my son which has caused him to have to leave one daycare and now on the verge of having to leave another- now the doctor has put in a request to have him approved for Rhisperdal. I am scared to death. I have heard so many class action lawsuit commercials lately about men and young men developing breasts and other claims because of this drug... and now my 4 yr old sons doctor wants to put him on it. I am already having such anxiety struggling with accepting the fact that he may have autism and Aspergers and trying to do all the research I can on it.. and now I am struggling with accepting the anxiety of putting him on yet another "dangerous" drug. I just don't know what to think. He is soooo young. He is only 4!!! The ADHD medicine he has been on for the past few months was hard enough for me to accept as it is labeled a "controlled substance". The doctor assures me that these drugs are "safe" under the care of a physician. But he is just 4! So unsure And just a single mom so don't even have a hubby to share my thoughts and concerns with.
•    Anonymous said... Personally I wouldn't .Try to figure out his "triggers" and avoid them before medication .
•    Anonymous said... The decision to medicate my son was not made until he was 9 years old. My advice is that when the "side effects" of the disorder get worse then the side effects of the drugs, you do it! My child had grown to hate himself, and he needed us to see the importance of his own self esteem. Now he is 12, and he values himself again! For us a thousand hugs meant nothing without the drugs. Our meds were Zoloft and Concerta.
•    Anonymous said... These are such tough decisions. We can't presume to fully understand what another family goes through, and everyone copes with the stresses of life differently. There is much to be said for strenuous exercise and energy output. Acquaintances of ours noticed how calm and clearly spoken their often violent autie became once he exerted himself in some kind of exercise. The said it was like meeting their son for the first time. There's lots of stories like that. I wish there was a silver bullet for everyone. Perhaps meds can be seen as just a phase, until more skills or tools are learned, and maturity sets in. It's still a tough decision.

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