There is no treatment of autism per se. There is only treatment of some of the more troubling behaviors that accompany the disorder. There is also no guarantee that these treatments will work since the autistic brain is already and altered brain, in chemistry and neurology. Still, some medications have proven effective in helping a child or young adult with autism cope better.
Verbal or nonverbal seems to make no difference. Antidepressants have, for the most part, been a failure, although there are one or two medications in this drug classification that have shown some signs in the display of frustration. Where outbursts were more common before, Risperdal and one other antidepressant have shown to have a calming effect, rather than an antidepressant effect. Again, it has to be kept in mind that an autistic brain is different from an average child’s brain and not to be messed with lightly.
For behaviors that almost appear ADHD in nature, Adderall and Ritalin have been prescribed off-label to help with impulse control and slowing the child down long enough for him or her to focus on verbal expression rather than attack, aggress, hit, punch, bite, or kick. For some kids, it works too well and they become hyper focused on unimportant things, like the proximity of desks and tables to each other. They will obsess to the point that it seems like they have gone the opposite direction to what the medication was expected to do for them. Switching gears to a medication that isn’t legalized speed for the average brain is often the new approach when this occurs.
As for the child with autism that continually obsesses about specific topics or tasks to the point nothing is ever completed, meds often reserved for adults with OCD might be prescribed in lighter amounts. Because this is a very serious class of medication, the problem has to be much, much worse in order for a pediatrician to prescribe such a medication.
For the parent that would prefer to avert using medications to control his or her child, there are ways to cope. There are behavior modification plans you can develop and seek out assistance with to alter the troubling issues everyone is facing in the care and education of your child. This is preferable to any form of medication out there, as it is still out for debate on how drugs will affect the autistic brain long term. Not making your child a guinea pig for the drug companies is a perfectly acceptable response for a parent who wants to exhaust all other efforts first before offering their child a pill.
The problem with the “no medication” approach to treating the symptoms of autism is that you may have well meaning individuals report you for neglect to Child Protective Services, or CPS. Teachers are likely to do this if the child has caused them some harm and they don’t want to deal with the interruption during their day. Ex-spouses who are not capable of handling situations effectively may also try to put an autistic child on pills. As a parent you have the right to say that you will raise a drug free child and you must advocate strongly for it and your child. It’s a tough battle, but ultimately the choice is yours, and you need to do what you think is best for him or her.
Disclaimer: We are neither medical professional nor researchers. We just express our opinion. Please make sure to consult an appropriate licensed doctor or professional before using any medication.