Does Medicine Designed To Improve Attention Deficits Have The Same Effect On Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders?

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

Answer: Hyperactivity is a very common symptom in autism. In fact, so common, that ordinarily one would not diagnose ADHD separately in someone who has autism. However, the response in the presence of autism is not as good. There's about a 50 percent response rate rather than 70 percent as found in typically developing children with ADHD. Further, the rate of intolerable side effects is higher, about 18 percent compared to less than 4 percent in typically developing children with ADHD.

So the risk-benefit ratio is not as favorable in the presence of autism for the FDA approved drugs for treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, it's worth a try. One nice thing about it is that you get an answer fairly quickly what's going to happen. If there's an intolerable side effect it will abate within a day or two after stopping the drug. If they happen to be a good responder, that's wonderful. If they don't respond the drug can be discontinued and something else tried.