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Tammi Reynolds, BA & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA

medication bottle In addition to behavioral, communicative and social learning approaches, autism spectrum disorder is also often treated with medication. To be clear, medications are useful only as a means of managing symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. They do not cure autism spectrum disorder, or in any way, make it go away. Symptom management is not a small thing, however. A variety of medications are used with children with autism spectrum disorder, including antidepressant, anti-anxiety, psychotropic and stimulant medications that help regulate behavior and mood.

  • Antidepressants and Anti-Anxiety Medications. Antidepressant drugs, generally of the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) type, including brands like Zoloft, Luvox and Paxil, are sometimes prescribed to help children reduce self-stimulatory behaviors, repetitive movements and tantrums. These same drugs are prescribed for people with depression and some anxiety disorders (including obsessive-compulsive disorder) in other situations.
  • Psychotropic Medications. Commonly thought of as anti-psychotics, psychotropic medications are frequently used to treat the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. They help reduce aggressive behaviors and repetitive movements . They have been found to lessen social withdrawal in some cases. Popular brands prescribed today include newer medications like Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa. In other situations, these medicines are used to treat schizophrenia, and some forms of depression.
  • Stimulant Medications. Stimulant drugs, such as those used to treat ADHD, have been found useful for treating some symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are known to reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness. This helps those with ADHD and some people with autism spectrum disorder to concentrate better and remain on task longer.