Early Intervention for Behavioral Problems in Autistic Children Could Negate Medication

While it is often said that children do not come with training manuals, one type of child just might. The Science Daily recently posted a release that examined a study evaluating the serious behavior problems associated with children suffering from autism and related conditions. This Yale University study found that serious behavior problems can be reduced with a treatment plan that includes medication combined with a structured training program for parents. The study, a 24-week, three-site trail, was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network and took place at Yale, Ohio State University and Indiana University. The benefits of medication alone were compared to medication plus a parent training program that actively involves parents in managing their children’s disruptive and noncompliant behaviors. After six months, the group that received combination therapy showed greater reduction in disruptive behavior, tantrums and aggression compared to the group receiving medication only. The combination group also ended the trial on less medication than the medication-only group. One thing that children in both groups had in common was weight gain, demonstrating the need to learn more about the metabolic consequences of medications like risperidone. “The results show that the parent training intervention can be delivered in a reliable manner and results were the same across all sites,” said the lead author of the study. “This is important because it shows that the intervention is exportable — and ready for dissemination.” Overall, this group hopes that if intervention starts early enough, behavioral problems can be handled without medication. Future studies will focus on looking for ways in which the parent training program can be used in schools and community clinics.

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