In many cases, medications are used to treat behavioral problems that keep people with autism from functioning more effectively at home or school. Doctors often prescribe these products "off label," which means that they have not been officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children. Parents should ask their child's doctor about any side effects the medications may have.
Medications for Autism: An OverviewMedications are often used to treat behavioral problems -- such as aggression, self-injurious behavior, and severe tantrums -- that keep the person with autism from functioning more effectively at home or school.
The "autism medications" used are those that have been developed to treat similar symptoms in other disorders. Many of these medications are prescribed "off-label." This means they have not been officially approved by the FDA for use in children, but the doctor prescribes the medications if he or she feels they are appropriate for your child.
A child with autism may not respond in the same way to medications as typically developing children. It is important that parents work with a doctor who has experience treating children with autism. A child should be monitored closely while taking a medication. The doctor will prescribe the lowest dose possible to be effective.
Ask the doctor about any side effects the medication may have and keep a record of how your child responds to the medication. It will be helpful to read the "patient insert" that comes with your child's medication. Some people keep the patient inserts in a small notebook to be used as a reference. This is most useful when several medications are prescribed for autism.