Are There Things One Can Do To Reduce Aggressive Behavior In People With Autism In Addition To Medication?

Question: Does medication designed to improve attention deficits have the same effects on individuals with autism spectrum disorders?

Answer: Yes -- in fact, there's an FDA-approved medication, risperidone, specifically for aggression and autism. There are similar drugs also that have some evidence base -- some scientific evidence -- that they help aggression in such situations.

In addition to that class of agents, the antipsychotics, there are quite a few other medications that can also be useful in specific situations. For example, anxiety is a big problem with many individuals with autism. And anxiety, of course, can result in a fight-or-flight reaction and so, an antianxiety agent can be useful in those cases. Another class of agents that might be useful is the anticonvulsants, the mood stabilizers, which in some cases are useful when the others don't seem to work.

One of the things to keep in mind is that you can prevent a lot of the aggression by realizing that it results from anxiety or frustration in many cases. For example, if the child is going to change schools or have some disruption of the previous routine, forewarning of that so they can get used to the idea ahead of time might be helpful. Or possibly helping them communicate so that they don't feel the frustration and lash out as a means of trying to get their message across.