Will medication help Autism?

Psychiatry and ABA 
As the role of child and adolescent psychiatrists (CAPs) continues to evolve into primarily medication management, a task that extends into the treatment of autism, we must be mindful of the fact that ABA therapy stands as the most evidenced-based treatment for autism. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Practice Parameter for ASD states, “ABA techniques have been repeatedly shown to have efficacy for specific problem behaviors.” In fact, AACAP recommends behavioral interventions like ABA ahead of all other treatment modalities, in particular pharmacotherapy. 

The reality is these kids do not do well with polypharmacy. Medications simply do not work as well in autism, owing to the complex biochemistry and thus highly variable nature of the disorder. Early screening and identification of autism are crucial, as a delay in diagnosing and treating too often leads to further impairment in social, educational, and occupational functioning into adolescence and adulthood. No existing medication treats the core features of socialization, communication, or theory of mind, but rather the peripheral symptoms that can make life challenging.

From a clinical perspective, the benefit for those patients who receive ABA beginning in their early developmental years can be remarkable. Of course, there are other therapies, in addition to ABA, that those with a diagnosis of ASD could benefit from (Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy).  Youth with autism have certain needs to which we need to be receptive. CAPs and AACAP members will continue to support and provide a voice for this service that remains a limited resource, but one with significant evidenced-based results.

Dr. Matthew Krause, D.O. 

About Dr. Krause

Dr. Matthew D. Krause is board certified in psychiatry and board eligible in child and adolescent psychiatry. He received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his psychiatry residency at East Carolina University, where he continued in the child and adolescent fellowship program. Following the completion of his training, he will be working for Primary Health Network in Latrobe, PA, serving delinquent and dependent youth, in a residential setting.  His areas of interest include autism, juvenile justice, and child welfare. He and his wife Molly have a daughter named Callie. 

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