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Drugs and parent training work best for autistic kids with behavior challenges


A two pronged approach proves the best way to help kids with autism spectrum disorders and serious behavioral problems: combine medication and training for their parents. This works better than drug intervention alone.

“Serious behavioral problems interfere with everyday living for children and their families,” said senior author Lawrence Scahill, professor at Yale University School of Nursing and the Child Study Center. “Decreasing these serious behavioral problems results in children who are more able to manage everyday living.”

The team studied 124 children with autism spectrum disorders aged 4 to 13. In addition to ASD, they also had serious behavioral problems including tantrums, aggression, and/or self-injurious behavior on a daily basis.

The children were randomly split into groups. One group used medication alone and one used medication plus a structured training program for parents. Each participated for six months. The parent training was comprised of skills for how to respond to behavior problems in order to help kids adapt to daily living situations. Researchers used risperidone for the drug.

“In a previous report from this trial, we showed that the combined treatment was superior to medication alone in reducing the serious behavioral problems,” stated Scahill. “In the current report, we show that combination treatment was better than medication alone in measured of adaptive behavior. We note that both groups – medication alone and combined treatment group – demonstrated improvement in functional communication and social interaction. Bur the combined group showed greater improvement on several measures of everyday adaptive functioning.”

Source: ScienceDaily, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

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