Tag Archives: Pharmaceutical drug

Autism Q & A: What are the side effects of medications used to treat autism symptoms?

By Daniel B. Kessler

I tell parents that you can see any side effect from any medication at any time.  Maybe your child has just started to take a new medication, or it has been several weeks since he or she started it. Maybe the dosage has recently increased.

Whatever reaction, response or side effect you are seeing in your child could be from that medication, or not.  If you are concerned, ask the provider who prescribed it and you should have access to someone who can answer that question for you.

Every medication has its own side effects profile and this information should be given to you. If it is not, ask for it. The general categories of side effects may include physical responses (weight gain, rashes, stomach difficulties, changes in blood pressure), behavioral reactions (hyperactivity, irritability, aggression, sleepiness or trouble sleeping), emotional overreactions (meltdowns, crying, agitation), unusual sensations (visual hallucinations) or unusual movements like tics or dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that causes twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures.

This can be confusing because some of these side effects  are just like the behaviors that are being treated!

Whenever you suspect a response may be a side effect related to a medication, you should consider whether or not there are other symptoms or behaviors that suggest another underlying cause, like seasonal or contact allergies to something else in the child’s environment. You may need to have your child seen by his or her primary care provider (or in an ER) if the reactions are confusing or potentially dangerous (such as a seizure).  Document what is going on so that when you report the side effect to your medical provider you can  explain when it started in relation to when the medication started, what time of day the reaction started in relation to when the medication was given, how long the reaction lasted (or is it ongoing) and what helped alleviate it.

Next: What about alternative treatments? 

Daniel B. Kessler, M.D., is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and medical director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals Southwest Human Development. His private practice, where he provides evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents, is located at Southwest Human Development.

The views he expresses in this series are based on his training, his reading of the literature and his more than 30 years of experience taking care of hundreds of kids on the autism spectrum. The series begins here.

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Meds Q & A

By Daniel B. Kessler, M.D.

In my last blog, “The Medication Equation,” I talked about fears and hesitations you may have about the all-important decision of placing your child on medication. As a follow up, given the complexities of this decision, I’d like to offer answers to some of the most common questions developmental and behavioral pediatricians like myself receive surrounding meds.

The usual disclaimers should apply to this information as this is not intended to be medical advice for your child. Rather, it is intended as a great conversation starter with your own pediatrician.

Q: Why does the doctor change my child’s medication?

A: Although much is known about the use of medications to treat certain conditions like ADHD, each individual situation may involve some degree of trial and error. For example, if one drug fails to help a certain symptom such as hyperactivity, that is no prediction of whether another member of the same class of drugs might not be helpful. Your child is unique and so is his or her body’s response to various medications.

Q: What information should the doctor give me about the medication?

A: The doctor should tell you when the medication is expected to work. Some medications may work in 30 minutes while others may take eight weeks to be effective. You also should be told what side effects might be expected. For example, will the medication make your child sleepy? You should also be told if the medication might interfere with any medication your child is taking or might take in the future.

Q: How do I know if the medication is working?

A: Your child’s doctor will share what to expect if the medication is helping. You may wish to ask your child’s doctor specific questions such as, “Will it be easier for Amy to concentrate at school?” There might also be a measureable way to assess the effectiveness of the medication for the condition being treated, even if it is just a behavioral questionnaire.

Perhaps the most important point to share with you is that medication should be viewed as just one part of an overall treatment plan for your child – but it may be a very important and useful part! Do not be afraid to ask your child’s doctor for more information, as they are there to help you and your child.

Daniel B. Kessler, M.D.

Daniel B. Kessler, M.D., is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and medical director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals Southwest Human Development. His private practice, where he provides evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents, is located at Southwest Human Development.