Easing Autistic Aggression

This drug is not without side effects. Make sure your doctor goes
over it with you.

Ivanhoe Newswire – Aggression and behavioral disturbances are often seen in children with autism, but a new treatment may have just made life a little easier.

Not long ago, this fun-loving family was consumed by fear. Emily
Himmelfarb says, “It’s been tough. It’s been really tough.”
Her son Michael has autism. He doesn’t talk, and until recently, his
aggressive, and sometimes violent, behavior posed a threat to him, his
sister and his parents.

“He would bite. He would scratch. He would run away,” Michael’s
father, Andrew, tells Ivanhoe. Emily says, “It would be basically like
hitting and pulling hair.”

That aggressive behavior isn’t uncommon in children with autism, and
successfully treating it hasn’t been easy, but pediatric psychiatrist
Elaine Tierney, M.D., offered the Himmelfarbs a drug that seems to work.
“We were treating children who had autism and who had either
self-injury, aggression, or tantrums and a lot of irritability,” says Dr.
Tierney, of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

In a recent study, children were given the anti-psychotic drug
risperidone or a placebo. Nearly 70 percent were much or very much
improved after eight weeks compared to just 12 percent in the placebo group. “It
was highly significant,” says Dr. Tierney.

It worked for Michael.

“When he started the stuff, it was a big difference, tremendous
difference,” says Andrew. He’s no longer biting or scratching, and it’s
eased his aggression.

Today, no words are needed to describe the love this family has for
one another. Andrew says, “I will not give up. I never will give up. How
can I? He’s my child. You just don’t give up on your child.”

The drug is FDA approved for other disorders so it can be prescribed
by any doctor as an off-label use. There are side effects, which include
weight gain, drooling and fatigue. In many children, those side effects
will decrease over time.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts
by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to:
If you would like more information, please contact: Kennedy Krieger
Institute 707 North Broadway Baltimore, MD 21205 (888) 554-2080

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