Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers. Today’s question comes from Andrea who asks,
“I have a 4-year-old who was diagnosed with autism within the last 6 months. He is extremely hyperactive and inattentive. What medication do you find to be most helpful?”
Hi Andrea, and thanks for taking the time to write. I am sorry to hear about your child being diagnosed with autism but he is young so there is ample time to get appropriate intervention to help him.
Please know that as a behavior analyst and special educator, I am not licensed to practice medicine. So, making recommendations about medication is out of my preview.
However, as behavior analysts, we are trained to address all types of behaviors, including hyperactive and inattentive behaviors.
Before we address any behaviors, we first complete assessments to better understand why the behaviors are happening. The assessment includes record reviews, interviews, and asking those who know the child to complete rating scales. The assessments also include observations of the child to better understand when the behaviors are good versus when the behaviors are bad. Finally, we may even conduct analyses to determine which environmental conditions directly affect the behavior.
Once the assessments have been completed, the behavior analyst will help design interventions to address the behaviors of concern. Behavioral interventions can be designed to address attentive behaviors, impulsive behaviors, and skills related to following instructions.
In addition to behavioral intervention, parents should also consider whole body interventions that address the overall health of the child. Children need daily physical activity and I am not talking about using their fingers to control the remote or the iPad. Children need full body physical activity every single day.
Children also need a healthy diet. If your child eats mostly processed foods full of sugars, fake color, and other artificial ingredients, then you should change the diet before considering the use of medication to treat behaviors that may very well be caused by foods.
Finally, children need far more sleep than they are getting. Children need at least 10 hours of sleep each night. Children (nor adults) can make up for lost sleep so make sure that your child goes to bed early and sleeps as late as possible.
When All Else Fails
If you have followed all of the other advice above (consistently) and your child continues to have behavioral issues, then consider seeing a behavioral pediatrician to assist you in determining if medication is the right thing for your child. Medication should not be your first stop, it should be your last.
If you have a behavioral question for me, email askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com.
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