By Raising Children Network
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At a glance: Typical antipsychotics
Type of therapy
The claim
Reduces the behaviour characteristics of autism including aggressive, hyperactive and repetitive behaviour.
Suitable for
People with ASD
Research rating

Find out more about this rating system in our FAQs.

Not yet reviewed by our research sources.
Warning This medication can have some side effects including stiffness, restlessness and involuntary movements. These side effects can get worse and might become permanent if the drugs are used over a long period of time or if amounts higher than the optimal dose are taken.

Estimate of the total time for family in hours per week and duration.

0-10 It takes very little time to take the medication, although treatment might be ongoing.

Estimate of cost to family per session/item or week.

$0-30 The cost of this therapy varies depending on the type of medication used (that is, the specific brand of drug), whether the drug is covered by the PBS, the drug dose or strength, and whether you hold a concession card, such as a Health Care Card.
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About this intervention

What is it?
Typical antipsychotics are a group of drugs that are traditionally prescribed to people for psychotic disorders and symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and hostility. These drugs are also prescribed to control tics. For children with autism, typical antipsychotics have been prescribed to improve severe behaviour problems, such as aggressive or hyperactive behaviour.

Some commonly prescribed typical antipsychotics for autism are Haloperidol, Fluphenazine and Thioridazine. These medications are also known as neuroleptics.

Who is it for?
These medications can be used for any person with autism. There are no age restrictions.

What is it used for?
Some people believe that typical antipsychotics can be used to treat some of the more difficult behaviour problems faced by people with autism, including aggressive behaviour, severe temper tantrums, hyperactive behaviour, withdrawal and repetitive behaviour.

Where does it come from?
Typical antipsychotics were first developed in the 1950s as treatment for serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers started testing typical antipsychotics for use with children with autism, as a possible treatment for behaviour symptoms. These tests showed some significant side effects. This led to the development of atypical antipsychotics, which have fewer side effects.

What is the idea behind it?
Typical antipsychotics act by altering the way some chemicals – called neurotransmitters – in the brain work. The idea is that problems with these chemicals might lead to increased activity in the affected areas of the brain and that this underlies the behaviour symptoms of autism.

What does it involve?
This therapy involves taking oral medication on a daily basis. The specific medication and dosage will depend on each child’s symptoms.

This medication has a risk of significant side effects, so a specialist medical practitioner such as a psychiatrist should monitor the person taking the medication. Regular appointments with this professional are needed. Regular check-ups, including liver function tests, are also needed.

Cost considerations
The cost of this therapy is ongoing, and varies depending on:

  • the type of medication used – that is, the specific brand of drug
  • whether the drug is covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
  • the drug dose or strength
  • whether the consumer holds a concession card, such as a Health Care Card.

Does it work?
This therapy has not yet been rated.

Significant side effects have been noted with the use of these medications. These side effects include stiffness, restlessness and involuntary movements. The risk of severe side effects increases if the drugs are used over a long period of time or if amounts higher than the optimal dose are taken. For this reason, long-term use is not recommended, and atypical antipsychotics have gained popularity as an alternative.

Who practises this method?
Your GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist can prescribe typical antipsychotics and give you information about the potential benefits and risks of using them.

Parent education, training, support and involvement
Parents need to be involved to ensure that their child takes the medication as required, and to monitor the effects of the medication.

Where can I find a practitioner?
It’s best to speak to your GP, paediatrician or a psychiatrist about this therapy.

  • Last updated or reviewed 10-09-2012