The trial, the largest study to date examining medication options for children with autistic disorder, was conducted at five U.S. institutions, including The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health.
The eight-week trial showed that 69 percent of participants showed a positive response to risperidone, an antipsychotic agent, compared to 12 percent of those taking placebo. Though increasingly sophisticated educational programs and behavior therapy are considered important elements of treatment for children with autism, the safety and effectiveness of medication is being analyzed for children with behaviors that can place particular strain on families, said Michael Aman, an Ohio State psychologist and lead OSU author of the study.
The finding holds promise in treating children with autism who have some of the most severe related behavioral disturbances. Most children with autism exhibit such characteristics as highly compulsive behavior, delayed language, learning challenges and a preference for isolation. Irritability, tantrums and aggression are not universal characteristics, but are "reasonably common," Aman said.
"Many of these kids present families with very serious challenges," he said. "Parents have to educate themselves about the disorder, and then access health care, occupational and speech therapy, special education and possibly applied behavioral analysis to help the children develop skills. Even then, the children may still present behavioral problems. That's a lot on your plate.
"Risperidone is popular in clinical circles, and this is one of those times when a drug's popularity is for a good reason
Contact: Emily Caldwell
Ohio State University Medical Center