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When children are first diagnosed with autism, it is not only a difficult time for the child but also for the parents adjusting to this new approach to life. Autism is a relatively common disease in modern society and can affect 1 in 68 children born in North America every day. It is a disease that is more likely to be seen in boys and is about 4 times more likely compared to girls.

Contrary to population belief, autism is due to a number of complex and often unpredictable changes in utero instead of vaccination protocols so fear not, vaccinations are safe. 

Another unfortunate truth is the degree and severity of autism. Autism is usually unique to each patient and can make having guidelines for treatment extremely difficult. Typical symptoms that are often seen in all patients falling under the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder would be difficulty with social development and communication as well as repetitive behaviors. Irritability and sleep disturbances are also commonly associated with children suffering from autism. [1

Thankfully, treatment options are available to help children develop and cope with their disability. The most common type of behavior is referred to as applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and is a type of behavioral therapy to help teach children with autism useful life skills to be independent. It generally consists of specific behavioral goals followed by repetitive positive reinforcements in order to help develop this desired behavior. Studies show that if aggressive management is incorporated at a young age, children will have marked improvements in their IQ scores and can even be placed in classes appropriate for their age with the general population. 

Although behavioral therapy can make significant improvements in the lives of these patients, pharmacology is another pillar of medical management to ensure that patients can manage mood swings and irritability often associated with this condition. Standard treatment options include: 

  • anti-psychotics like risperidone and aripiprazole,
  • serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • anti-depressants
  • and other alternative medications

in order to help children manage their symptoms.

Although these medications are proven to be effective at helping patients find a more stable personality, parents often worry about the side effects of this cocktail of medication as well as long-term influence chronic usage of these medications can have. [2]

A newer medication that has received attention as a potential treatment option for patients suffering from autism would be clonidine. This is an alpha-2 receptor agonist that not only targets behavioral changes like irritability seen in autism but also works as a mild sleeping aid to help patients "kill two birds with one stone." Being able to organize treatments into fewer medications is more desirable in any patient but especially in patients who may be unwilling to take medications at times due to a distressed mood.

In a study done on 19 children suffering from autism spectrum disorder, clonidine was able to make a significant difference in not only reducing impulsivity, inattention and hyperactive but also helped decreased sleep onset latency so children could get a better sleep. This medication also has a lower panel of side effects compared to other traditional treatment options so it should definitely be considered a treatment option for patients dealing with ASD. [3]

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