Controversy Over Autism and Medication
I hope that any parent considering medication for an autistic child will read Beth Arky's piece inspired by recent research showing that most kids with an ASD are on psychotropic medication:
While there is no medication that affects the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—difficulties with communication, social interaction and restricted, repetitive behaviors—these kids are being treated for conditions often associated with autism, including anxiety, hyperactivity, and aggression.
The drugs clinicians are increasingly prescribing are aimed at curbing a range of problematic and sometimes dangerous behavior patterns that include everything from sleep disorders to violent meltdowns. These episodes aren't a toddler's tantrums; autistic children unable to express their anger and anxiety, regardless of how verbal they might be, may become so overwhelmed they put themselves and other family members at risk. Some examples: breaking glass, throwing heavy objects, biting and head-butting. The fact that they often have sensory issues dysregulates them further; if a caregiver yells at a child in an effort to rein in behavior, it tends to have the opposite effect.
Beth talked parents, doctors, and self-advocates, including me:
This notion angers former teacher and advocate Landon Bryce, who blogs at thAutcast. "I think if medication worked as well as doctors, parents and school administrators like to pretend it does, this would make a lot of sense," he says. "But it doesn't. You are talking about giving kids meds to make them more manageable. You are talking about making them stupider—I never taught a kid who did not feel that way about his meds—in the hope of helping them learn more. That is stupid."
Dr. Elliott says that with younger children, under 5 or 6, he "absolutely pushes" for other types of behavioral interventions with the child and family first to address problem behaviors. But he acknowledges that society's expectations and a lack of resources can prevail over this approach. "School tells the family, 'We can't keep your child in this classroom because of his behavior, so why don't you try medication?'" he says. "There can be a real pressure to do it."
It's exactly this type of outside pressure that has Bryce up in arms. "I spent 20 years as a classroom teacher," he says. "I was consistently alarmed at the pressure parents are under to medicate their children and the pressure on kids to continue taking medication that they hate being on. I think medicated kids are easier to control. I think they are much harder to teach."
It's an honor to be included in an important piece of writing like this, with smart people like Ari Ne'eman, Jennifer Byde Myers, and and Shannon Des Roches Rosa.