Round 3 of ADHD/autism treatment

Posted on: May 20, 2009

Ritalin – strike one; Strattera – strike two; and now on to Risperidone to try to tone down my son’s anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and autistic tendencies.

My son, Sage, had a big week losing a front tooth and getting his first buzz haircut. Here he is with his Daddy, my husband, Jeff.

My son, Sage, had a big week losing a front tooth and getting his first buzz haircut. Here he is with his Daddy, my husband, Jeff.

After explaining to the child psychiatrist that the Strattera (atomoxetine) did somewhat lessen Sage’s hyperactivity but altered his personality, she immediately said to discontinue its use. When we first decided to use Strattera in early March, the doctor said the side effects may include depression, insecurity and mood swings so we needed to closely monitor him.

Sure enough, shortly after Sage started the doses, his kindergarten teachers began to recognize he was more argumentative and just not his sweet, happy self most of the time.  At home, he started crying for no reason. We thought he just needed to adjust to the new medication. But after two months, and one dosage increase, we knew it wasn’t the right treatment for him.

A little to our surprise, the doctor readily agreed. She said the typical steps of treating ADHD and autism spectrum disorders include first trying stimulants like Ritalin and then antidepressants like Straterra. If those don’t work or have negative side effects (Ritalin use was stopped after a couple of days due to aggression), the next step is Risperidone or Risperdal.

Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic drug used to treat bipolar disorder in adults and autistic disorders in children. The doctor explained that it is used in children with Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD-NOS. Sage was diagnosed with PDD-NOS in 2005 when he was 3 ½ and the child psychiatrist he is seeing now recently reaffirmed the diagnosis.

All these medical terms get confusing to me, to the point while I was asking the doctor questions, I confused her. She explained that patients with PDD-NOS have characteristics of those with classic autism, but not all. Impulsivity and hyperactivity are common characteristics. I did know that.

What I remained confused about was why Sage was not diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning disorder similar to autism. In 2005, specialists at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital could not diagnose him with Asperger’s because he was not verbal enough at the time. I assumed that was still the case, but his current doctor said he was too communicative to have Asperger’s. He can carry on a conversation and look you in the eye – which is typically lacking in those with Asperger’s or classic autism. That was good to know.

So tonight we begin the new regimen. The biggest side effect is drowsiness so we will give him a small dose with supper. After a week, we will add a morning dose to the evening one and see how that goes.

Do you have experience with Risperdal or Risperidone? Please e-mail me at

6 Responses to "Round 3 of ADHD/autism treatment"

My 9 year old son has been on Risperisone since he was 6. He get’s 1mg daily, which we break in half and give in the am and pm. This med is a life saver. No side effects have been noted.

have you tried the risperisone yet, how is it going? My daughter’s doc wants her to take it. She is 7 and I am concerned about this for many reasons.

Yes, my son has been on Risperdone for about two months and it’s working just fine. He does seem more focused and it doesn’t have the side effects of Straterra – sadness and confrontational.

good to know, thanks. did you get much feedback or find useful websites with more info?

We’ve run through the same drill – our son has been diagnosed ADHA and Autistic (after 4 years of knowing something was wrong, but no one being able to determine what it was). We started with Metadate in Keindergarten at a low dose, it helped a little but when we upped the dose he got extremely agitated. So we did the switch to Strattera with the same results you saw, it was a mess and took a few weeks to get him back to himself. From there we started with Adderall, and then added in Tophrenal in the morning and evening – but we’re still seeing the hug over-the-top emotional outbursts over pretty insignificant things. We’re meeting with the pyschiatrist today and hopefully we’ll be able to figure out if it’s a side-effect of the medication or just another behaviorial issue to overcome. I’ve done some reading on the Rispedrol and thought it might be worth trying – how has your son done on it?

Risperdol has been working just fine. He’s been on it for several months and we haven’t seen any of the side effects like the others. He’s in first grade now. Staying pretty focused in the mainstream room but still needs some one-on-one with the special education teacher.

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