December 17, 2012

How I took my autistic son off his meds

Shannon Des Roches Rosa

My 12-year-old autistic son Leo was on the black box anti-psychotic medication Risperdal for almost four years. As of this writing, he's been off it for almost four weeks. Will he be okay? I hope so, but I'm not sure. Not yet.

We'd finally arrived at the point where Risperdal's side effects outweighed its benefits. Leo was no longer the desperately agitated and distraught boy of four years ago who seemed to feel assaulted by the world and so needed to assault it right back... which was good. But after one of the periodic medical check-ins that should accompany any Risperdal use, we found out he was also on the verge of becoming an unhealthily overweight boy with dangerously elevated cholesterol levels. It was time to stop Risperdal and try something else.

The doctor who prescribes our boy's psychopharmaceuticals was sympathetic, both about the decision we'd need to make, and his own inability to give us guarantees about medications and autism -- because there aren't any. Autistic people as a population don't always react typically to medication, plus they can have very different reactions to the same medication. Leo's doctor couldn't tell us what was likely to happen if we changed Leo's meds; he could only tell us what he's seen in other patients.


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