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Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics:
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31815f24f7
Original Article

Stimulant Medication Treatment of Target Behaviors in Children with Autism: A Population-Based Study

Nickels, Katherine C. MD*; Katusic, Slavica K. MD†∥; Colligan, Robert C. PhD§; Weaver, Amy L. MS¶; Voigt, Robert G. MD‡∥; Barbaresi, William J. MD‡∥

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Objective: This study provides detailed information about stimulant medication treatment for the target symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, disinhibition, and inattention in children with autism.

Methods: In a previous study, 124 subjects fulfilling DSM-IV-based research criteria for autistic disorder were identified among all 0–21 year old residents of Olmsted County, MN from 1976–1997. For each of these 124 children with research-identified autism, information was abstracted on all prescribed psychopharmacological medications.

Results: Psychostimulants were used to treat 52.4% (N = 65) of the 124 subjects. The median total duration of psychostimulant treatment was 4.0 years. There were 398 episodes of psychostimulant treatment. Favorable responses were associated with 69.4% of treatment episodes. Of the 398 episodes of stimulant treatment, 16.8% were associated with a documented side effect. At least one side effect was experienced by 66% of the children.

Conclusion: These results indicate that psychostimulants are commonly prescribed for children with autism, and suggest that these medications may improve the target symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, disinhibition and inattention.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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