Chamberlain College of Nursing
NR 222: Health and Wellness
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects those areas of the brain that deal with social and communication skills. It has been linked to abnormal biological and chemical activity in the brain. The causes of these abnormalities are not know, but some scientific research in the disorder have narrowed down some elements that may play a role in the development of the disorder such as genetics, environmental, and immunological factors. According to an article published by The American Academy of Pediatrics (2010), it states “The term autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has been used to include the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition…diagnostic categories autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.”
Autism typically appears during the first three years of life and is more prevalent in boys than girls. Once diagnosed, the main goal of treatment “maximize the core autism spectrum disorder features, facilitating development and learning, promoting socialization, reducing maladaptive behaviors, and educating and supporting families” (Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, para.1). Some interventions being utilized in the treatment of ASD’s focus on the behaviors associated with the disease. These behaviors include but are not limited to aggression, anxiety, attention span disorders, repetitive behaviors and sleep difficulties. Currently there is no cure for ASDs, but early intervention greatly improves the quality of life for children diagnosed with the disease.
Treatments utilized are broken down into four categories, those being behavior and communication therapies, dietary, pharmacological and alternative medicine. If the type of treatment used is pharmacological, “potential benefits and adverse effects should be explained, informed consent should be obtained, baseline data regarding behaviors and somatic complaints should be collected. In addition, potential strategies for dealing with treatment failure or partial response should be reviewed” (Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, para 16). Some pediatricians may prescribe medications not approved by the FDA for certain uses or for certain populations of people. They give these medications to try and help some of their younger patients, but additional research is needed so as to be certain that these drugs are indeed safe and effective for young children and teens with autism.
Some pharmacologic interventions include SSRI’s, antipsychotic agents, stimulants and adrenergic agonist antihypertensive agents. SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is class of drugs called antidepressants. They are used to treat depression, as well as in the treatment of anxiety and personality disorders. Fluoxentine and fluvoxamine are two drugs used in the treatment of ASD. These drugs treat the repetitive and maladaptive behaviors associated with autism. Studies show that these drugs improve repetitive behaviors, temper tantrums, anxiety, aggression and the symptoms of depression common in autism. Some side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, suicidal ideation and gastrointestinal discomfort to name a few.
Another drug widely used is Risperidone which is in the drug classification of antipsychotic. Risperidone is the first drug that has FDA approval for the treatment of some behaviors associated with autism, such as aggressive, temper tantrums, and the tendency for self- injury sometimes noted with individuals with ASD. Side effects include but not limited to weight gain due to excessive appetite, dry mouth, seizures, blood disorders