Why Monitoring Medications for Children on the Spectrum is Crucial

Any medication - even those sold over the counter - can have side effects. These side effects can be especially tumultuous and dangerous for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. That’s why careful record keeping, before and after adding a new medication, is crucial.

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For example, when Jesse, one of the children I coach, was given medication to temper his ADHD, the effects were staggering. Although he did well on his first dose from breakfast through school, by time he arrived for his fitness session, Jesse didn’t know where he was or what he was doing. He was flailing, screaming, couldn’t control his body. He was uncontrollable.

Jesse often tells me that his fitness time is his favorite activity of the week. Yet, a few hours after the first dose of a new medication, he couldn’t focus for a second. He was, quite literally, bouncing off the walls. It must have been a scary experience for him, and for his mother.

It took two people to constrain Jesse to get him into a taxi and out of the building. His mother took him to the doctor the next day. After careful consideration, she decided to take him off all his medications. Fortunately, Jesse was soon back to being his endearing, slightly hyper self. But not all children on the spectrum can forgo all medications.

Why Record Keeping is Critical

Many children on the spectrum are given multiple medications to help control their behavior. Before and during the addition of a new medication, record keeping is critical.

Keeping records has to start before a new medication is added. For  anyone in the ASD population, there must be a baseline of the behaviors that the medication is to address.

For a baseline, take notes during a week of the child’s PT, OT, school program, exercise, speech therapy, music therapy - all their daily activities for a full week. Be sure to include their appetite and sleep patterns in your records.

Comprehensive records will help you determine if the medication is working in symphony with the child’s other meds. Record keeping also will help you know if the medication is doing what the doctor intended it to do. And, your records will help you know if the medication is causing harm.

Measuring Results

Some meds don’t kick in for two weeks, some for 90 days. If an erratic change like the one Jesse exhibited happens within the first  three days, you can be pretty certain the dose or the med is wrong.

Even if a new medication improves the behaviors for which it was prescribed, data should continually be recorded to insure that the dosage is correct. Careful record keeping can also show whether a medication needs slight adjustment or tweaking.

Paying close attention to even the slightest impact of medication can go a long way toward helping your child to thrive.