Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Autism/AS Emotions Run High--What to Do?

On a different forum someone broached the subject about the myth that children with Autism or Asperger Syndrome are not emotional or prone to emotion, which is--of course--refuted by parents of children with the disorders. Giving an example is that a child with AS can become very overwhelmed when his schedule is disrupted or changed in anyway and will express himself by crying or becoming very frustrated. The question was asked: What to do to help a child deal with his/her emotions when life takes a disrupting turn?

My son, who is diagnosed with a mild form of autism, has had much of the same issues, especially a few years back. He would become so overwhelmed with a change in his schedule or the mere ‘not knowing’ what comes next in his day, would set him off to such a high level of anxiety that I just had to intervene with meds. I am not a parent who is prone to abandoning any other type of coping therapies (e.g., OT, breathing exercises, yoga) but his anxiety was so significant that we needed to turn to a clinical psychiatrist and psychologist for answers. He has been (and is still) taking Fluvoxamine (Luvox) for about 2 years now and it has worked tremendously. Again, I am not a parent who “pushes” meds on anyone and I am not stating that this is the only alternative, but for Nick it was the only alternative remaining and necessary to relieve his anxiety so that he could relax at school just enough to concentrate on his work without worrying so much about his schedule. Shortly after taking the meds he actually admitted to me that he felt better and his teachers had mentioned that he actually started participating in class.

Mind you, he is on a very low dose, only 50 mg taken every night, and we have kept it this way through two growth spurts and he (so far) does not seem to require more. Our strategy is that we will wait and see how things progress before increasing the dose—in essence, slowly weaning him off of the drug if he is not requiring it any longer.

Personally, I think his success has been due to a comfortable school classroom and setting coupled with the medication’s ability to take the "edge off" for a boy who is prone to a higher level of anxiety than, let’s say, the norm.

Has anyone found meds to be helpful or just plain necessary?

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