Antipsychotics and Autism: Weighing the Benefits, Eyeing the Risks

Source: Interactive Autism Network
Written By: Marina Sarris

Children and adults with autism are sometimes prescribed an array of psychiatric drugs for hyperactivity, poor attention, or challenging behaviors. One type of medication, called antipsychotics, has become something of a “go-to” treatment for the most severe behaviors. According to the latest studies, one in five or six youth with autism has taken them,1,2 along with 43 percent of adults with autism, on average.3 Antipsychotics are the most frequently used type of psychiatric drug in autism.3

That may be because two antipsychotics are the only drugs approved specifically for certain behaviors in children and teens with autism.1 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to aripiprazole (brand name Abilify) and risperidone (brand name Risperdal) for “irritability” in autism – namely self-injury and aggression – almost a decade ago. More recently, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality weighed the scientific evidence on those medications. It found significant benefits and also “harms,” or bad side effects.5 The drugs reduce challenging and repetitive behaviors when compared to no treatment. They also are associated with significant weight gain, sedation, tremors and movement disorders, it noted. Click here to read the rest of the story

Global Developmental Delays

Global developmental delays describes when children do not meet their developmental milestones. Generally from the age of 2 months to 5 years old. Although each child is different in their development, milestones are established in order to determine functional skills on age specific tasks.

Delays can occur in the following area:

Gross motor- Involves the use of larges muscle groups such as walking, crawling and standing. May impact children diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Fine Motor- Small movement in the fingers used for drawing, painting, buttoning, coloring, and shoe tying.

Speech and language delay- A delay in language may be due to motor-oral problems.

Cognitive- Delays can be caused by, infections, ,metabolic, toxic, trauma, and chromosomal abnormalities (Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, etc.)

Social/Emotional Skills- Shows signs of delay in responding and interacting with other people. Common cause may be autism spectrum disorder

The following articles provide information on understanding global developmental delays:

6 things I’d tell the parent who just heard the word ‘Global Developmental Delay’

Causes and symptoms of developmental delays

Developmental delays and disabilities

Global Developmental Delay

How a child develops

Recognizing developmental delays in your child

Types of developmental delay in children

Understanding developmental delays

What causes developmental delay?

What you need to know about developmental delays

Signs of Autism and Down Syndrome

Studies show that 5 to 39% of children with Down syndrome are also on the autism spectrum. There are overlaps in some of the symptoms which delays the signs and symptoms of autism. This observation is slowly growing and informing parents to look for specific signs and symptoms.

The importance of getting the diagnosis
Most often children with Down syndrome are treated for the characteristics of having Down syndrome which overlooks giving children the appropriate treatment for Autism such as social skills and sensory issues. A child or young adult with both diagnosis will likely experience aggressive behaviors, meltdowns, and show signs of regression during their early development. The following are signs and symptoms to look for in your child, or student:
  • Hand flapping
  • Picky eater
  • Echolalia
  • Fascination with lights
  • Staring at ceiling fans
  • History of regression
  • Head banging
  • Strange vocalization
  • Anxiety
  • Seizure Disorder

If you suspect your child is dual diagnosed, make an appointment for a medical work up which should include:

  • audiological evaluation
  • lead test
  • complete blood count (CBC)
  • Liver function test
  • EEG