What are atypical antipsychotics?
Atypical antipsychotics are drugs that are traditionally prescribed to people for schizophrenia and other psychoses.
Some commonly prescribed atypical antipsychotics for autistic people are risperidone, quetiapine, aripiprazole, ziprasidone and olanzapine.
Who are atypical antipsychotics for?
What are atypical antipsychotics used for?
Some people believe that atypical antipsychotics can be used to treat some of the more difficult problems faced by autistic people, including aggressive behaviour, temper tantrums, hyperactive behaviour, repetitive behaviour, irritability and self-injury (like hitting themselves in the head or biting themselves).
Where do atypical antipsychotics come from?
Before atypical antipsychotics came typical antipsychotics. These were first developed in the 1950s as a treatment for serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers started testing typical antipsychotics for use with autistic children. They were used to treat children’s behaviour symptoms, but they had some significant side effects.
Atypical antipsychotics were developed to reduce these side effects.
What is the idea behind atypical antipsychotics?
In the brain, signals move along connections between brain cells with the help of receptors. Receptors are small message receivers on the outside of each brain cell, a bit like chemical antennae that pick up specific signals. Antipsychotic drugs block specific receptors in the brain, and it’s thought that this reduces the activity in these parts of the brain.
What does the use of atypical antipsychotics involve?
The medication can be swallowed or taken as an injection. The specific medication and dosage depends on each child’s symptoms.
A specialist medical practitioner like a paediatrician or child psychiatrist should monitor the child taking the medication. The child needs regular appointments with this professional, as well as regular check-ups to monitor weight gain and liver function.
The cost of this therapy depends on the brand of drug used and the drug dose or strength. It also depends on whether the drug is covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and whether you hold a concession card like a Health Care Card.
Do atypical antipsychotics work?
Some research has shown positive effects from this therapy, but more high-quality studies are needed to weigh up any positive effects against potential long-term risks or side effects.
Who practises this method?
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is taking atypical antipsychotics, you need to be involved to ensure that your child takes the medication as required. You also need to monitor the effects of the medication.
Where can you find a practitioner?
If you’re interested in atypical antipsychotics, it’s best to speak about this therapy with your GP, paediatrician or a child psychiatrist.
There are many therapies for autism. They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for autistic children takes you through the main therapies, so you can better understand your child’s options.