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A good drug is better when parents can help

Medicine@Yale, 2010 - Jan Feb


Children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) — autism, Asperger disorder, and related disorders — may be impulsive and aggressive to an extent that severely affects their daily lives.

In previous work with colleagues in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network, Lawrence D. Scahill, M.S.N., Ph.D., professor of nursing and child psychiatry, has shown that the drug risperidone can temper the “Richter-scale” tantrums of children with autism. But the drug does not improve the core symptoms of PDDs, and it has side effects, including weight gain and its associated health effects.

In the December 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, RUPP researchers report that supplementing risperidone treatment with parent training allowed them to significantly reduce the dose of the drug while retaining its benefits.

Scahill and RUPP colleagues have a new NIMH grant to assess the efficacy of parent training alone in preschool-age children with pdds accompanied by disruptive, noncompliant behavior. The study, the first of its kind, will enroll 180 children through five medical centers.