Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive children often suffer from a lack of attention. This is because those with ADHD have an imbalance in certain neurotransmitters within their brains which help control how they behave as well as their focus. In the brain, there are two main neurotransmitters that play a role in ADHD: norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepinephrine helps regulate arousal in the brain, while dopamine is responsible for focus and attention. When a student with ADHD takes drugs that raise levels of these neurotransmitters, they are often able to concentrate better and behave more appropriately.
Ritalin or Adderall
It has long been known that stimulant medications such as Ritalin or Adderall can help to treat symptoms found in ADHD. The problem is that these medications ‘help’ the neurotransmitters get used up faster, meaning they would need to be taken more often or in higher dosages. Stimulant drugs work by binding to dopamine and norepinephrine transporters (DATs) which are proteins on neurons that take neurotransmitters away after they have been released. Blocking the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, therefore, means more dopamine and norepinephrine are available to bind to receptors in the brain, leading to increased focus and concentration.
The most common stimulant drugs used for ADHD treatment work by blocking DATs. Drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine (Adderall) are very effective in treating ADHD symptoms, but they also block the reuptake of two other neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. These drugs increase the levels of all three neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, although to varying degrees.
Medications that increase dopamine levels in the brain are typically effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD. A study at Stanford University found that children with ADHD had fewer symptoms when they took doses of methylphenidate. The findings were based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, which showed reduced levels of dopamine transporter binding in participants.
The study at Stanford used a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the amount of dopamine in specific regions of the brain. In participants diagnosed with ADHD, brain scans showed that drugs like methylphenidate did result in a significant increase in dopamine concentration. This is important because an excess or shortage of dopamine can lead to hyperactivity or inattentiveness. In fact, according to a study done by Harvard Medical School, drugs that increase dopamine concentration have been used for decades to treat schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.
Methylphenidate can be an effective drug in treating ADHD symptoms because it blocks the dopamine transporter, making more dopamine available within the brain. However, for this to work, the drug needs to cross the blood-brain barrier. A study at Cardiff University found that administering drugs that are too ‘large’ or have a complicated chemical structure often has problems crossing this protective layer of cells. According to the study, one factor that affects how well drugs can cross into the brain is their size and complexity.
Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant medication that is used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drug works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which results in increased focus and concentration. Methylphenidate can be effective in treating ADHD symptoms, especially in children. However, the drug may not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier as easily because it is too large or complex.
I take Contramyl XR 36mg every morning. It has saved my life because it ‘calms’ my brain. This allows me to focus on whatever task I am working on, and since I work from home, this is highly beneficial.
Lily is the harried mother of Connor, a 12-year-old with autism. After years of special education services, he’s gotten much better socially, but he still struggles with reading and writing assignments. His teachers say that he tries hard, but he needs support to get his work done. Homework is a nightmare, even with a reward system and a fine-tuned routine. Connor hates it, and can’t focus without his mom sitting next to him. Lily is worried because she knows he can do the work, but he isn’t keeping up with his classmates.
Autism, a developmental disorder primarily defined by delays in social and communication skills, relies on non-medical interventions for children to progress. Behavioral and speech/language therapies are central to autism treatment. Occupational therapy refines fine motor skills and improves self-help abilities, as well as addressing sensory issues (such as being hypersensitive to touch or noise). Many families report benefits from alternative care.
Despite such intensive non-medical approaches, various symptoms sometimes remain in children who have an autism spectrum disorder (a term that has replaced both Asperger’s Syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS). When that happens, families face a tough question: Are there any medications worth trying?
In fact, several medications may benefit children with autism when other options are inadequate. These medications do not treat autism itself, but they offer relief from symptoms that commonly occur along with it. The first step for providers and parents is to collaborate in deciding on what most affects a child’s life and to balance the pros and cons in making a choice for or against autism medication.
There are three groups of medications considered appropriate for autism: those used to treat co-occurring ADHD symptoms, antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications, and atypical anti-psychotic medications. While none directly addresses the developmental disorder of autism, they can profoundly benefit children. Here’s what to consider when discussing medications for someone with autism:
At one time an autism diagnosis automatically precluded a diagnosis of ADHD. Not so anymore. We now know the two conditions frequently occur together. In fact, nearly half of all kids with autism demonstrate ADHD symptoms — an added burden that undermines academic, behavioral, and social progress.
With or without autism, ADHD requires comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care that usually includes, at minimum, both behavioral and educational interventions. As part of this broad approach, ADHD medication can be life-changing for some children.
There are two groups of medication currently used to treat ADHD: stimulants (such as Ritalin or Adderall) and non-stimulants (such as Strattera or Intuniv). When prescribing ADHD medications, the goal is to avoid persistent, significant side effects. Yet finding a good fit is harder when autism and ADHD occur together, for reasons not yet known.
Research shows the success rate for stimulant use is near 80 percent. These medications can bring substantial improvement to “core” ADHD symptoms that undermine social, behavioral, or academic progress in a child with autism, such as poor focus, inability to complete a task, and impulsivity. Medications are not as useful for other ADHD-related issues, such as difficulty with time management and planning. For anyone struggling with both autism and ADHD, removing the added burden of ADHD can have direct benefit at home, in the classroom, socially, and even during the therapy sessions meant to address autism itself. Reading, writing, and other academics often improve as well.
Generally, stimulants are not active after the medication wears off on any given day, allowing for fairly rapid adjustments if a medication is not working well. Side effects are easily managed and, after a period of sustained trial and error to find a best fit, often entirely avoidable. Since side effects are reversible when medications are stopped, a trial of use — as long as it is carefully observed and monitored — should not bring long-term problems.
ADHD non-stimulants cause side effects less often than stimulants, but succeed less frequently. They are called “non-stimulants” in contrast to the stimulant group, but have similar effects as the stimulants; they work by increasing activity in underactive parts of the brain responsible for ADHD. Advantages of non-stimulants are that they may provide 24-hour coverage, as well as helping with sleep or being overly reactive (quick to anger, frustrate, or upset). Side effects vary, but include excessive sleepiness (Intuniv and Kapvay), irritability, stomach upset, or headache (Strattera).
Antidepressant and Anxiety Medications
Common challenges for children with autism include persistent anxiety or obsessive behaviors. These behaviors, such as avoiding or running away from new or unknown situations, separation anxiety, or compulsive checking or washing behaviors, cause big problems in day-to-day life. Anxiety is often associated with strict black-and-white thinking, a combination that can be a trigger for explosive behaviors. Children with autism are also at risk for developing depression, another family of symptoms that sometimes become severe enough to require medication.
For these symptoms, the most commonly prescribed medications for children are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac). Some of these medications have been studied and approved for use with children, although not specifically for autism. This group of medications may help with mood, anxiety, or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. As with most mental health medications, side effects should be closely monitored.
hese medications, such as Risperdal or Abilify, are the only group of medications specifically approved for children with autism. This is because studies show them to benefit autism-related irritability. However, atypical anti-psychotics may also improve anxiety, impulsivity, or mood.
Along with the wide range of potential benefits comes a larger risk of side effects. These include weight gain and a risk of developing diabetes, among others. Weight, blood sugar, and other measures are monitored when children remain on these medications for any length of time.
Non-medical options are the best first choice for behavioral challenges, but they do not always succeed. Sleep problems are common in autism, though first-line treatments, such as behavioral therapy, should provide tools for managing it. However, sleep aids, non-stimulant ADHD medications, and other pharmaceutical interventions can be considered when needed. Anti-seizure and other psychiatric medications may be useful in children with autism and mood disorders, or self-injurious behavior associated with autism.
Most parents and providers agree that avoiding medication is best when it comes to managing autism. And yet, for many individuals, non-medical care falls short in resolving their intense symptoms. These difficulties, such as rampant inattention, may undermine work with teachers and therapists, slowing overall progress.
Medications for autism are no better or worse than those for most other medical disorders. There are potential benefits and side effects. Used judiciously, and integrated with ongoing therapies for autism, medication may allow children to take significant steps forward in their lives.
Three months later, Connor comes in smiling and holding a book. His third ADHD medication seems to be a good fit. He isn’t as hungry at lunchtime, but he’s making up for it at dinner. His teachers and therapists say he is able to get his work done better. And at home, he’s having longer conversations and reading for fun for the first time. It was a tough choice, and there’s a lot more to work on, but Lily says Connor has taken a big step forward.
I have porridge, not too hot, not too cold, just right…
I have yogurt and fresh fruit. I enjoy an omelette with cheese and bacon bits. I wash it down with a cup of coffee. I take my medicine with a glass of apple juice. I take a shower and get dressed. Today is Saturday…
The nurse informs me that the Psychologist is here to see me. I go to the consultation room to find him sitting there in his usual chair already. He hands me multiple stacks of papers. They describe the diagnostic requirements according to the *DSM -V criteria manual which Psychologists and Psychiatrists use globally to align their understanding of mental health conditions.
*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.
I scan through the headings on each little bundle:
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Dissociative Identity Disorder
“I hand you these today to go through when you want to. I picked up that you presented with possible signs in all of these areas, some more prevalent than others.” he states. “I can point out that most people will present with symptoms in general, but not enough to be diagnosed as such.” He continues.
“Thank you.” I say. “Just to be sure, I think I will read through all of them to see if I recognize myself. I will naturally entertain the thought without accepting it.” I continue.
“I do however feel very certain that my Psychiatrist hit the nail on the head when he confirmed that I was on the spectrum. He is also treating me for ADHD and OCD symptoms. The rest would still be interesting to read.” I say whilst reading through the first booklet he assembled with photocopied paper and staples.
He did a rush job because the sheets are not aligned and the streaks he made with the highlighter is not entirely covering only the parts he wanted to accentuate, but also irrelevant blank spaces on the side of the paper. This tells me that he tried to turn the page too quickly post highlighting a word or phrase and the tip of the highlighter grazed the side of the page as he turned it. I conclude that he must have been in a hurry to get it done and hand it to me to make a point. It feels like he want to show that I have a multitude of mental health challenges and I would need his help for at least a year to make sense of it all. It felt again like he was chasing money…
Then again, he is running a business, so technically he has to book sessions with clients in order to keep his boat afloat. I get that, its just kind of feeling like he’s dragging out the sessions, that’s all…
“Thank you for all the information. I appreciate it.” I say.
“Your welcome, I really enjoyed our conversations up to now and I hope you stay around for another week in order for us to really dig deep into your psyche and see where we can uncover unknown past memories which you haven’t dealt with’. He replies. “We can then unpack and come to terms with those feelings during our sessions over the next couple of months.” he adds and hands me his business card.
I let him know that I will see my Psychiatrist later that morning and that I will know what my next week would look like after my session with him.
We greet each other and he leaves.
I have a cup of tea.
The nurse calls me and informs me that my Psychiatrist is here to see me.
“Good morning.” He greets me, dressed in relaxed clothing similar to last Saturday.
We exchange pleasantries for 2 minutes (I don’t particularly like small talk)
“So, did you consider the possibility of returning to your life soon?” he asks.
“I did, yes” I say, “I think it would be great to plan my exit strategy and start facing reality again.” I finish.
“Okay, good, that’s a good sign. I’m glad you feel up to it.” he says, “When would you like to go home?” he asks.
“Well, today if possible, ha ha, but I assume you don’t release patients over the weekend so Monday would be fine. Just to give you time to prepare all the paperwork.” I say.
“No problem. We can do it today if you are sure you can handle it?” he states.
“Really?! I was not sure if it can happen today, it was just a quip really to lighten the mood. If its too much trouble Monday is fine, really.” I reply.
“Not at all, I just need to pop over to my practice next door to get my Prescription Pad and your file and I can complete your Release From, sign it, and let you go back to reality and your family and your home.” he smiles. “I’ll be just a minute…”
He gets up and leaves the room to go and fetch his paperwork…
It dawned on me that I now had to go back to Normal…
I feel kind of nervous, anxious, but in a healthy way. So anxiety and excitement has similar physiological symptoms, so it’s in how you frame it mentally really. I make a choice: I feel excited to go back to my life, my daughters, my home, my Alaskan Klee Kai, my family, my future!
My Psychiatrist returns and completes all the necessary documentation. He hands me my prescription for my medication for the next month. We book an appointment to come and see him in 2 weeks time. I gather my belongings and sign out at the Nurses Station. I thank all the Staff and wish them well, and I head out of the front door, through the security gates towards my SUV. I throw my bag in the back, get into the Driver seat and sit.
I see blood on the steering wheel, blood on the seat, blood on the gearshift, blood on the hand-break, blood on the passenger seat and a massive pool of dried blood on the plastic floor mat. I see the open switchblade with dried blood on the blade lying on the floor at the passenger side. I take everything in and I sigh…
It feels so long ago, a feint memory of a series of unfortunate events. I was a completely different person back then. I have come a long way out of the valley of the shadow of death. I’ll clean it up when I get home…
I start the engine and I start driving back to my house. To start my new life!
I have been there, I have visited Normal.
I always struggled and didn’t know why I felt like I do not fit in. Now I know. I am different. I am awesome and I am fantastic, so:
Awesome + Fantastic = Autistic!
I have been there, I have visited Normal, and now I am ready to go back there again.
The Psychiatrist informs the staff to tell me that he would only visit at 19:00 that evening. The Psychologist will only visit me at 15:00, so I have the morning to myself.
I start to work on what the Psychiatrist asked the previous day, and I try to ‘see’ if any of my family members present with behavior which might suggest that they are on the spectrum.
I was never close to my siblings, always felt like the outcast. The outsider, the weird one, the dreamer, the talker, the strange kid. I was always alone…
I have 3 brothers and 1 sister, I am the 4th child. I remember that I always asked questions. I always wondered about things, I was interested in how things worked and why they are the way they are. I hoped to get answers from my siblings but I soon realized that they became annoyed with me asking so many questions. I was told to keep quiet, stop asking questions and I was ignored. I was shunned from the rest of them and kind of dismissed as the creepy weirdo kid. I ended up reading the encyclopedia and books and magazines to quench my thirst for knowledge.
I would then go back to my siblings and would try to tell them about the interesting things I learnt but they would always just tell me to keep quiet, to stop talking.
I felt the distance grow between me and my brothers and sister over the years. I got this feeling that they didn’t like me, and I could never understand why.
Now, 4 decades later with the knowledge that I am actually different in an amazing way, I feel better about the lonely journey I had. I feel better about the fact that they showed no interest in me. I understand why I felt like an only child with absent parents. I am at peace now with myself. It is strange that ‘familiarity breeds contempt‘ in my life was actually ‘being unfamiliar with your brother and his autism breeds contempt‘.
Thinking about them now trying to identify autistic traits is easy, none of them have it, they are as normal as can be. I do see it in my extended family but not in my immediate family, they are all neurotypical, typically typical.
I am glad I never did fit in, and I am glad I can now stand out!
The Psychologist arrives and we start talking about my current mental state. How do I feel? Mentally, physically, emotionally, how do I feel?
Physically? I feel rested. I feel healthy. I feel great.
Emotionally? I feel strange. I feel like my effort to match emotions to facial features my entire life in order to read people has drained me. I feel relieved that I can now pay attention to how my emotions affect me and how others and their emotions affect me. I struggle to have sympathy and empathy display on my face, but I do feel it. In fact, I feel more intense than normal people. I feel that I would need time to process my emotional baggage I carry with me after 2 failed marriages and 2 divorces. At least I feel, I actually feel EVERYTHING all the time…
Mentally? I am strong! I have a fantastic mental gift which I never knew existed! I am only starting to discovery the immense power of my mind! I am absolutely overwhelmed with joy just thinking of the possibilities I can uncover with my new super power! My mind is a powerful resource and I can use it to solve problems! I am very very very happy!
The Psychologist tries to warn me that my happiness may be too much. I need to watch out for a relapse. I need to take it easy, I would need therapy for a long time to align my ego-states and to make sure I’m really coping.
I picked up a shift in his voice and his gaze and his body language. The air changed, his mood changed, he became colder and a bit distant. I know, he wanted longevity in this therapy approach between us. He wanted a patient for an extended period of time. Mmm…. He wanted money.
We spent so many hours talking through my experience and I made great progress and I was relieved that I have received an answer to my lifelong question. And this guy sitting in front of me starts to plan his future income stream? Well, well, well, it does seem to me that he became too familiar with me and now I do not like him, so….’his familiarity breeds my contempt’….
We finish the session and he leaves.
Psychiatrist arrives and we talk about the physical sensations of having dopamine and serotonin stabilizing. We double check that we are both happy with my prescription medicine and the dosage and the way I function. We agree that we have found the sweet spot with the pills. We chat about my family and my experience of being ‘different’ growing up. He assures me that my future would now be light and in focus and would make sense. He talks to me, he actually talks to me as if I am worthy of being spoken to. He listens to me and he believes me. He tells me that I need to start thinking about my career history and my current career choice. He has a feeling that I might have never really done what I am actually good at, and perhaps I need to take a look at what passions or interests of mine I had to bury in the past in order to ‘fit in’. I may want to revisit those ideas 🙂
We finish the session and I have a cup of coffee. I like the Psychiatrist more than the Psychologist.
I take my medication, get into bed and wait for the bliss that is sleep…
Nurse informs me that the Psychiatrist will only visit later that morning so I decide to take stock of the first week in this very interesting place called: Psychiatric Hospital.
The 3 gentlemen sharing my room with me has different reasons why they find themselves in this place.
Guy 1: Mid-thirties. I noticed him first when I entered the room last Sunday. Quiet, reserved, mentally occupied, does not make eye contact, watches movies on his laptop the entire time. I overheard people talking about him during meals, apparently he lost his wife recently and struggled to cope with the loss. He is being treated for depression and is receiving trauma counseling. When people die it is tough for the ones left behind…
Guy 2: Sixties. Grey, skinny, odd demeanor like an apologetic state of being. He is addicted to pain killers and has dementia. Keeps on packing his suitcase and heads toward the front door to go home. No idea why he is there. Its his last day today, he is going to stay at his daughter’s place according to the nurse.
Guy 3: Early twenties. Oily hair, smells like an ashtray, curses a lot, talks non-stop. He has multiple cuts on his forearms – self inflicted. He has ADHD and depression and is an alcoholic. He cuts himself to ‘feel’ something. His family is rich and his mom phones him twice a day. He told us all his life story, a couple of times. He seems to think being a rebel and a rule-breaker is something to boast about.
I wonder what they think when they look at me?
Suicide Guy: quiet, talks to no-one, reads all the time, eats alone, no eye contact, no interaction with anyone, does not attend group sessions, does not attend arts & craft sessions, never attend the support group chats, seems preoccupied, makes his bed even when the nurse tells him that he doesn’t have to, keeps his area neat and clean, keeps himself neat and clean.
The Psychiatrist meets me just after lunch. We start talking about how I feel with the medication. I confirm that there is less darkness and heaviness in my mind. I love being able to focus during the day. I do not feel tired.
He asks me about an observation the Psychologist made: I present with signs of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Would I mind to read up on it and tell him next day if I recognize myself?
I accept and he leaves.
The Psychologist arrives. We start talking about my adult life. I was married twice, got divorced twice, I have 2 daughters – one with each of my previous wives. I have a neutral relationship with both exes, which serves in the best interest of my daughters. I am a great dad. I have worked in various industries. I have lived in more that 60 houses over 4 decades. I have lost a lot of money and I have made a lot of money. I have been rich and I have been poor. I have no friends, but I am always the life of a party at work. We talk about Borderline Personality Disorder. I still don’t see it. I have a very stoic outlook on life, and optimistic and zen. I am well spoken and have a rather high intellect. I am extremely creative but also very analytical. I am complex. He says I should take the next day off and not think about anything that happened recently.
He leaves and I have a cup of coffee.
I take my medicine and wait to fall asleep.
Take the day off? What does he mean? And as I try to overthink and over-analyze what he said I fall into a deep sleep….
I wake up with the request from the nurse, who entered our room, to sit up and have my blood pressure monitored. She asks about my pain and for a moment I forgot what she was referring to…
Oh, yes, now I recall…the scar on my wrist. I received 11 stitches for the self-inflicted deep tissue damage I have done with my pocket knife with the serrated blade.
‘I am okay, thanks, it doesn’t hurt that much.’ I say in my croaky morning voice.
It was my second night of well deserved rest. I have never slept more than 4 hours a night my entire life.
I get up, have breakfast, take a shower and wait for my appointment with the Psychiatrist to talk about my situation.
After a cup of coffee the nurse informs that he is waiting for me in the consultation room and I finish my coffee before I enter the room. I felt it was the polite thing to do.
We did not share any small talk, and he started asking questions: ‘Tell me, did you read up on Autism as we discussed?’.
I confirm and he doesn’t say anything. I look at his face and I look at his hands and I look at his body language and I gather that he is probably waiting for me to elaborate.
I recite what I have read the day before:
What Is Autism?
Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complicated condition that includes problems with communication and behavior. It can involve a wide range of symptoms and skills. ASD can be a minor problem or a disability that needs full-time care in a special facility.
People with autism have trouble with communication. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it hard for them to express themselves, either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.
People with autism might have problems with learning. Their skills might develop unevenly. For example, they could have trouble communicating but be unusually good at art, music, math, or memory. Because of this, they might do especially well on tests of analysis or problem-solving.
More children are diagnosed with autism now than ever before. But the latest numbers could be higher because of changes in how it’s diagnosed, not because more children have a disorder.
Autism Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of autism usually appear before a child turns 3. Some people show signs from birth.
A narrow range of interests or intense interest in certain topics
Doing something over and over, like repeating words or phrases, rocking back and forth, or flipping a lever
High sensitivity to sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem ordinary to other people
Not looking at or listening to other people
Not looking at things when another person points at them
Not wanting to be held or cuddled
Problems understanding or using speech, gestures, facial expressions, or tone of voice
Talking in a sing-song, flat, or robotic voice
Trouble adapting to changes in routine
Some children with autism may also have seizures. These might not start until adolescence.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
These types were once thought to be separate conditions. Now, they fall under the range of autism spectrum disorders. They include:
Asperger’s syndrome. These children don’t have a problem with language; in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have social problems and a narrow scope of interests.
Autistic disorder. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “autism.” It refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and play in children younger than 3 years.
Childhood disintegrative disorder. These children have typical development for at least 2 years and then lose some or most of their communication and social skills.
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or atypical autism). Your doctor might use this term if your child has some autistic behavior, like delays in social and communications skills, but doesn’t fit into another category.
Exactly why autism happens isn’t clear. It could stem from problems in parts of your brain that interpret sensory input and process language.
Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. It can happen in people of any race, ethnicity, or social background. Family income, lifestyle, or educational level doesn’t affect a child’s risk of autism.
Autism runs in families, so certain combinations of genes may increase a child’s risk.
A child with an older parent has a higher risk of autism.
Pregnant women who are exposed to certain drugs or chemicals, like alcohol or anti-seizure medications, are more likely to have autistic children. Other risk factors include maternal metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Research has also linked autism to untreated phenylketonuria (also called PKU, a metabolic disorder caused by the absence of an enzyme) and rubella (German measles).
It can be hard to get a definite diagnosis of autism. Your doctor will focus on behavior and development.
For children, diagnosis usually takes two steps.
A developmental screening will tell your doctor whether your child is on track with basic skills like learning, speaking, behavior, and moving. Experts suggest that children be screened for these developmental delays during their regular checkups at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months of age. Children are routinely checked specifically for autism at their 18-month and 24-month checkups.
If your child shows signs of a problem on these screenings, they’ll need a more complete evaluation. This might include hearing and vision tests or genetic tests. Your doctor might want to bring in someone who specializes in autism disorders, like a developmental pediatrician or a child psychologist. Some psychologists can also give a test called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS).
If you weren’t diagnosed with autism as a child but notice yourself showing signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor.
There’s no cure for autism. But early treatment can make a big difference in development for a child with autism. If you think your child shows symptoms of ASD, tell your doctor as soon as possible.
What works for one person might not work for another. Your doctor should tailor treatment for you or your child. The two main types of treatments are:
Behavioral and communication therapy to help with structure and organization. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of these treatments; it promotes positive behavior and discourages negative behavior. Occupational therapy can help with life skills like dressing, eating, and relating to people. Sensory integration therapy might help someone who has problems with being touched or with sights or sounds. Speech therapy improves communication skills.
Medications to help with symptoms of ASD, like attention problems, hyperactivity, or anxiety.
Talk to your doctor before trying something different, like a special diet.WebMD Medical Reference
My Psychiatrist looks at me and says: ‘Did you recognize anything about yourself?’.
‘Not really, no.” I say.
And I continue talking to him about why I did not see myself as having a problem and I don’t understand why I am in the hospital and I start talking about how since my childhood I felt that life was an adventure although challenging at times and how I had a wild imagination and I really loved watching movies and I could memorize the dialog and I loved physics and mathematics and how things worked and how I read encyclopedias and was fascinated by how flowers grow and how ants build their nests and the feather of a bird was something I would study for hours and I couldn’t sleep at night because I wanted to know everything and my brain had a buzzing sound when I was 5 years old and I used to rock myself to sleep at night and I didn’t like the clothes my mom bought me and I hated apples, I REALLY hate apples and the TV was always too loud and I could smell my mothers cooking from hundreds of meters away and I could never see when people were angry and got into a lot of trouble without meaning to because I was completely caught up in my own world and I would climb to the top of trees because I liked the way it swayed in the wind and I loved to swim because I enjoyed the sensation of water on my skin and didn’t understand why I had to stay in school because it was so easy and I wasn’t allowed to answer all the questions all the time…
The Psychiatrist smiled, he nodded and said: ‘You just spoke at length about various things after I asked you one question. ADHD is the next topic for you to read about please. In addition, you made eye contact once and the tonality of your voice never changed which leads me to suspect that you are on the spectrum. Let’s look at trying to treat some of the symptoms you currently have and see how you react with some medication. Are you okay to try it?’ he asked.
‘Sure…’ I said.
He prescribed something for serotonin levels to stabilize and something for dopamine levels to stabilize. He said it helps for people with ADHD and major depression.
‘Excuse me?’ I said, ‘I don’t have depression, I love life!’ I exclaimed.
‘Sir, you tried to commit suicide a couple of days ago. The wound on your arm is still bleeding. You have major depression even if you frame it in your mind as “adventure”. I know it’s difficult to see it in yourself, understand it and accept it, but I will help you. Let’s get the nurse to clean your wound again, get you the medication and I suggest you take it easy the rest of the day and please read up on depression and ADHD and some more on Autism Spectrum Disorder. I will see you again tomorrow.’ he said and got up to go and speak to the nurse.
She cleaned the wound, gave me my medication, I read articles on Autism and Depression, I had lunch, I read some more, I had dinner, I took a shower, read more, took my medication and went to bed and started thinking about Autism, ADHD and Depression and fell into a deep sleep…
The first day in a Psychiatric ward is not like in the movies. I did not know what to expect and had to follow instructions from nurses who have dealt with people with severe psychological issues, addiction, trauma, life-changing events and depression. I did not see myself in any of these categories…
After my first consultation session I was showed to my room. I shared it with 3 other males. They were all lying on their beds when we entered and all greeted me with a nod, swift eye contact and an under-the-breath ‘Hello’.
The nurse showed me my locker and set up the combination lock. My mother and eldest daughter had to bring me a bag with clothes for a week, toiletries and some snacks. They thought I was in a car accident and bumped my head and had to be booked in for brain scans to see if I had a concussion. I did not have the heart to tell them I tried to commit suicide. I put my bag in the locker and sat on the bed. The nurse explained when breakfast, lunch and dinner was. She showed me where the bathrooms were and the coffee station. After confirming that I had orientated myself to my surroundings, she smiled and left. I lied on my bed, closed my eyes and tried to come to terms with what transpired over the last 24 hours.
The bell rang for dinner and I went to the eating area. We were showed a menu and could choose what we wanted to eat. I sat at one of the tables and didn’t want to talk to anyone. After eating half of the food on my plate, I realised all the other tables were full of patients, but no-one came to sit with me. I found it strange, but then realised that the bandage on my wrist was a dead give-away: I tried to kill myself. I tried the unthinkable. I went against my strongest instinct: the will to survive. I used my mind to override that instinct and they were afraid of me. ME, the gentle soul who loved life and nature and living. The good guy, the funny guy, the smart guy, the dependable guy, the leader, the father, the brother, the son… They avoided me, and I didn’t know how to explain the confusion to them, so I didn’t. I finished my meal, took a shower, went to the nurse’s station, took my medication, and went to bed.
The sleeping pill was so strong I was out for the count in a couple of minutes. I was about to have the best sleep I have ever had. Rest for my soul…
Just some feedback after my session with my Psychiatrist today:
The normal experience of grief is a deep sadness, a yearning for the past, often loneliness and a need to reach out for comfort.
There may be initial shock and an inability to comprehend the reality of the loss, raw anguish, and perhaps anger, at being left behind, or an irrational guilt about being alive instead (survivor guilt).
Over time, the pain lessens and the sense of loss fades into a realistic acceptance that life must go on.
I can confirm that my Dr is happy to highlight that I have fast-tracked the grieving process which usually occurs after a traumatic event.
I have the unique advantage that I framed my experience as a ‘new me being born’ instead of my old self remaining intact.
My appreciation for my mental gifts played in my favour and he is convinced that I already let the trauma fade into the background whilst focusing on my new-found appreciation of life.
The scar on my wrist is thus a cesarean scar (c-section) symbolising the birth of the new me!
Self-observation as an agent of behavioral change
Self-observation is an awareness practice where you turn your attention inward, and non-judgmentally watch what you think, feel, and do.
Imagine that as an observer, you have access to your inner landscape. You observe your thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. as they occur within you.
These patterns of behaviour are both tenacious and automatic. Self-observation creates a space.
In that space lies an opportunity for you to make a conscious choice. Is my automatic response pattern the best option for this circumstance, or would another behaviour be more helpful now?
Self-observation never becomes a habit. Just like following a diet, you must develop the discipline to periodically reflect and notice what pattern is presenting.
The good news is that just noticing them relaxes them and makes them less compulsive. Self-observation creates a “map” of your own specific habits and patterns.
The more you develop your ability to observe your conduct, the more you can bring your unconscious, reactive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving into your awareness.
Then you’ll be able to consciously choose and control them to best serve the situation.
I must now enter this stage in my personal and professional growth. It will allow me to identify behaviours that are to my benefit as well as to those around me.
This is the next step in aligning my skillset with being successful at home and at work. Exciting!
No change, happy to report that we’ll keep it as it is since I function very well.
My Dr is very supportive and confident that I have healthy control over my life right now.
My next appointment is only in March, which is great news indeed!
Today, I would just like to give you feedback after my first month back at work.
Firstly, thank you to each of you for the kindness shown and the acceptance of this new reality of mine. I have managed to not merely accept my spectrum profile but also embrace it.
Several personality attributes prevalent among those on the spectrum are valuable assets: capacities for analytical and “outside the box” thinking, creativity, attention to detail, the ability to focus intensely on a task for long periods of time.
I realized that I have ample reason to be proud of who I am, and with help from clinicians, I am busy winning my inner battle. The therapies and interventions they provide are essential, not because they aim to cure autism, as if it is merely a medical condition, but because they help me address challenges that stem from being autistic in a non-autistic world.
I met with my Psychiatrist this week and he was happy with my progress. My medication works very well, and we can keep the dosages as they are until December. I feel relieved, focused and ‘lighter’.
I am grateful for being able to work on the Brand Integration project and I’m really enjoying it. I did however notice in the recordings of the meetings that my speech pattern is now at a normal speed due to the medication haha.
Also, I find I sometimes struggle to recall a specific word, similar to when you push down on the accelerator of a Mercedes, it’s like: “I’ll be with you in a second…aaaaand…there we go…”.
The new me is still new to me in a way, and I am still taking it day by day while getting to know my new superpower.