Question: What are some of the types of medications that might be used to treat autism, and what symptoms are they used to treat?
Answer: Practically every psychoactive category has been used in one way or another. Ordinarily the target symptom for medication in autism is the associated symptoms rather than the core symptoms. There is one category of core symptoms that does seem to respond in some people to anti-anxiety agents like the serotonin reuptake inhibitors. And that's the repetitive, compulsive stereotype behavior, which constitutes one of the three core clusters. However that is not a consistent response in every case.
Other associated symptoms that are not part of the three core symptom clusters, that do have medications for them, include aggression, which has an FDA approved medication (risperidone) and other antipsychotic agents with good scientific evidence that they help aggression.
The anticonvulsive mood stabilizers also are useful for aggression. And the anti-anxiety agents are sometimes useful because the aggression may be a symptom of kind of a fight or flight reaction.
Then the anxiety itself is a very ubiquitous problem in autism and may respond to an anti-anxiety agent. Hyperactivity is another very common problem that may respond to similar medications as with typically developing children with ADHD. Sleep is another problem area, and that may respond to a pharmacologic agent when other means of helping the child attain sleep fail.