The number of drugs we went through with Thomas that had no effect or bad effects was numerous. It was and is an ongoing experiment. I do not like the experimenting on an individual who cannot give verbal feedback on what they are taking. There are people that try to manage without pharmaceuticals. The decision is very individual.
One Person in Charge of the Drug ScheduleSince there can be a number of drugs given at different times, different quantities and changes in drugs, it is best to have one person in of the drug schedule and giving the drugs to an individual with autism. This helps insure that the drugs are given in the correct amounts and times without over or under medicating an individual.
If the person in charge of drug regime will not be able to fulfill their duties for a short period of time they should set up the drug quantity in a pill box* or similar with the times the drugs should be given to the individual with autism. Another person should be the sole person in charge of the drug schedule while the main person is away.
*pill box is box with separate compartments like what fisherman use for lures. Both could be used.
Side EffectsAsk the doctor and do search of side effects of the drug(s) that you are using to familiarize yourself as to what to look out for. Drugs affect people differently and side effects may not appear until after a certain time on a drug or at different dosages.
Since people with autism may not be able to express how they are feeling, people around them should be observant of new behaviors after the start of a new drug. Nothing like starting a new drug and then an individual not feeling like themselves or having adverse side effects and you cannot communicate or understand what is going on.
Then there are the unintended drug side effects that can have longer effects. One time, Thomas started Geodon and right away started peeing in his bed. Thomas never peed in his bed before except for once when he was little. He got so upset about peeing in his bed that one time he never did it again until Geodon. The drug disconnected him from a feeling of his full bladder. The drug was not helping him in other ways so we quickly took him off. The damage had been done. He realized that he could use peeing in his bed as a weapon and cause attention to it. It was another thing in his arsenal to manipulate situations and people around him and have some control over his life. He would be in school and pee in his pants to get out of things or get people upset. In his group home he would lie in his bed, look straight at the 1 on 1, smile and pee in his bed. He has stopped peeing in his bed or pants for now.
ConstipationAnother side effect that many of these drugs cause is constipation so it is important to track bowel movements. Constipation can be offset by including fiber, apple juice, stool softener and or use of laxative like Dulcolax (Bisacodyl). I find stool softeners to be the least effective in counteracting constipation caused by a drug side effect.
When you really need to get things moving and out use a saline enema. It is very effective and quick. If after using a saline enema, there is no movement to empty the bowel in 30 minutes call a doctor. With Thomas it was always immediately but a bowel movement should occur in five minutes. Thomas knew the saline enema was available and would weigh whether he needed it or not. Saline enemas can easily be found at drug stores and are cheap about $1.50 or less. They are relatively safe, salt water (saline), but you do have to worry about dehydration.
All these constipation relief tactics whether increasing fiber (bulking stool), added sugar (apple juice), laxative, and salt water moves water to the large intestine and colon. Constipation occurs when the stool gets dehydrated. Water is absorbed through a number of paths from the large intestine to hydrate the body. When there is too little water available, the stool becomes dry, hard and difficult to move through the colon. So what we are doing is rehydrating the stool and bringing water /food into the large intestine to create downward pressure. A lot of water can leave the body during a bowel movement. It is normal to feel like you need to drink water after a bowel movement.
Minerals, Vitamins, and FoodEverything we intake has some sort of effect on our body. A lot of parents play around with these intakes. I would say take a data driven approach to try and separate facts from feelings. You do not want to have to deprive your child of pizza because you feel he has a gluten allergy. Children with autism are generally very picky eaters with a small number of foods that they will eat you do not want to make it smaller.
Personal Story on Picky Eaters:
When Thomas was little, he had relative small diet. He was sitting on my lap and I was about to have apple pie. I offered him some telling him it was very good and he should try it. He shook his head vigorously that he did not want to try it. I ate a few bites and then snuck in a taste into his mouth before he knew what happened. The light bulb went off. He proceeded finish my pie and had another piece. Another thing happened after that, every time I asked him to try something he would. Somethings he liked and somethings he would not like, but he always good about at least trying one bite. It may work for other kids when they are really young and with something like apple pie. Thomas still likes pie.
It does make sense to test for allergies. While being allergic does not cause autism, having allegoric reactions, even a mild allergy can affect behavior and learning.
LithiumLithium is a natural occurring chemical element that can be found in mammals and is classified as an important trace element. Lithium is also used as a drug having been in use for a long time. How it exactly works is unknown but it appears to be important for health and works as a mood stabilizer. As a drug, lithium has an important band of effectiveness which must be monitored by regular blood testing. Too much lithium has serious side effects and toxicity.
I bring up lithium because it straddles element/mineral/drug. Lithium is found in very small amounts in about everything but legumes including dry peas and beans, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans contain some of the highest amounts of lithium available in food. Other vegetables like sea vegetable kelp, blue corn and mustard from fresh mustard seeds also contain trace amounts of lithium. Pistachio and coffee contain more lithium comparatively as do salt water fish, crustaceans, and mollusk.
Fresh drinking water from river beds picks up lithium. There are drinking water supplies around the world that have greater traces of lithium Several research studies have confirmed that link between high levels of lithium in tap water and low incidences of suicides, admissions to mental hospitals, murders and rapes.
In 1971, a Texas biochemist named Dr. Earl Dawson noticed that the murder and suicide rates around El Paso were significantly lower than the rest of the state. He investigated. He discovered that the lower rates of suicide, murder and admissions to mental hospitals were linked to the high levels of lithium found in El Paso’s water supply.
Since that investigation other research studies from around the world reached similar results.
In 1990, a study was published looking at 27 Texas counties with a variety of lithium levels in their water. The authors discovered that people whose water had the least amount of lithium had significantly greater levels of suicide, homicide and rape than the people whose water had the higher levels of lithium. The group whose water had the highest lithium level had nearly 40 percent fewer suicides than that with the lowest lithium level.
A study from the University of Oita in Japan found that low lithium levels were associated with increases in rates of suicide and depression. The researchers examined the natural lithium levels in the tap water and the suicide rates of 18 communities south of Japan. They found that suicide rates were lowest in those areas with the highest concentrations of lithium in their tap water.
A recent review of epidemiological studies of lithium in drinking water reported that 9 out of 11 studies found an association between higher levels of lithium in local water and “beneficial clinical, behavioral, legal and medical outcomes.”
For Thomas, lithium as a drug had the most noticeable mood stabilizing effects on him compared to other drugs we tried. The downside of using Lithium is the periodic blood drawing for lithium level testing. If your child has problems with needles and or visiting doctors that will be a problem. Thomas has no problem with needles and blood drawing so we are lucky.