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Autism Medicines: Intuniv, Concerta, Vyvanse, Risperidone and Clonidine

Updated on July 16, 2016

It is hard to make the choice to put your child on daily medicines. Although I often feel guilty about putting my son on medication, I can see no other alternative.

I tried the gluten free and other diets, removed food containing red dye from his diet and limited his sugar intake. For his sleep problem, I tried melatonin,bedtime rituals and backrubs. None of these natural remedies worked and I was at my wit's end.

Autism Medication and My Son: Intuniv and Concerta

Like many other children with high-functioning autism, my son also has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and requires medication.

Without medication, my son is a different child.
Without medication, my son is a different child. | Source


The summer before my son entered kindergarten, it became apparent that in order to succeed in a regular school setting, my son would need medication. In daycare he was unable to sit still and he couldn't focus on tasks unless he was doing an activity he liked such as playing with cars or blocks.

The doctor recommended that we start my son on the lowest dose of the blood pressure medicine Intuniv. Inclinical trials, many autistic children showed improvement in attentiveness. After a few weeks on the Intuniv, my son did show a little improvement in his ability to focus.

My son started kindergarten in a mainstream classroom a few months later and immediately the teacher had problems getting my son to focus. After repeated attempts by the teacher to get my son to participate in activities, he would have a meltdown and I would be summoned to school to get him. North Carolina does put much emphasis on funding its schools, and the poor teacher had no assistance from qualified special-ed teachers. She had her hands full with the other 24 children in the classroom.


After another call to the doctor, my son's Intuniv dose was increased, but it had little effect. Three months into the school year, the Intuniv was stopped and my son was prescribed Concerta, a stimulant used for ADHD. The change in my son was dramatic - he became very quiet and was able to focus and sit still for long periods of time. It did make me sad to see my son so solemn and quiet - but it was also a relief to have a break from the boy who could not sit still unless he was stimming with his toys.

Concerta Side Effects

Concerta did have two unwanted side effects - appetite loss and throat clearing. My son was born skinny and has stayed skinny. He would eat first thing in the morning, but after the Concerta took effect, he would not be interested in eating until the evening. He initially lost a pound or two, but by letting him eat whenever he wanted, he stabilized and lost no more weight - but he also never gained any in the year he was on Concerta.

The throat clearing started within a month of starting the Concerta. I hoped it was temporary, but it continued the entire time he was on the medication.

No Help for His Anger

The Concerta had no effect on his anger or meltdowns. He was always prone to self-destructive behavior such as head-banging and slapping himself, and he frequently went into rages at home over minor annoyances. Toys were thrown, stomped on and otherwise destroyed. Furniture in his room was marred and tipped over. If he ran into a wall he would rage at the "stupid wall" that was trying to hurt him.

Although my son could now sit still at school, he ultimately failed kindergarten.

Autism Medication and My Son: Vyvanse, Clonidine, and Risperidone

The following medicines were the more recent—and more successful—medicines prescribed for my son.

My son was put on the ADHD medicine Vyvanse, another stimulant used for treating the ADHD that so often occurs with autism. The Vyvanse replaced the Concerta which had caused my son to constantly clear his throat, an unwanted side effect.

My son at the museum.
My son at the museum.

Vyvanse, I Love You!

The Vyvanse works well for my son's ADHD. My son is now able to focus at school and is no longer constantly bouncing off the walls during the day.

Ironically, before my son was on a stimulant medicine, he would not leave my side. It is one thing to have a hyper child; it is another to have a hyper child who is constantly hanging and pulling on you and won't go outside to work off some of his energy.

Just like Concerta, Vyvanse had no effect on my son's rages.

An unwanted side effect is appetite suppression. At 8 years old and 46 inches tall, my son weighed 39 pounds. My son will not be hungry for most of the day but will eat in the evening when the Vyvanse wears off.

Clonidine for his Sleep Problems, Hallelujah!

My son has had difficulty sleeping since he was about two. He did not want to go to sleep and would lie in his bed for hours. It drove me to tears many times because at the time I was in college and needed to do homework and be rested for my hospital clinicals. To make matters worse, he never slept late in the morning.

My son was also plagued by nightmares. He awoke every single night screaming "mommy, mommy, mommy." He couldn't tell me what his nightmares were about, but he would go back to sleep as long as I was near him. I started to let him sleep in my bed so I wouldn't be so exhausted in the morning.

My son and I moved to North Dakota when he was 7. My son was referred to a psychiatrist because of the sleeping and anger issues. The doctor prescribed clonidine as a sleeping aid. Clonidine's primary use is as a blood pressure medicine, but it is also prescribed for ADHD and insomnia.

The night of the first dose I was skeptical that my son would go to sleep. But within 45 minutes of taking the medicine my son said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. I was almost delirious with relief. At long last I had a few hours of quiet time in the evenings.

Risperidone (brand name Risperdal) for anger!

I thought that my son's anger would subside once he started to get more rest, but the extra sleep didn't help at all and he still awoke at night because of nightmares.

The psychiatrist and I discussed risperidone, an antipsychotic drug. Risperidone's main use is for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but it is also used to treat anger and aggression in autistic children.

The risperidone has worked very well. My son is no longer as angry and violent when he gets upset. He still has a temper, but the uncontrollable rages are gone! He also plays much better with other children and he very rarely wakes up in the middle of the night.

An unwanted side affect of risperidone is weight gain and gynemastia (man boobs). No signs of any breast growth, but my son has gone from looking like a famine victim and is at a healthy - but still slender - weight.

My feelings about medicating my son

I used to be one of those people who felt drugs are being overprescribed to children. I was smug and thought my parenting technique was all that was needed to raise happy, healthy children. It may have worked for my two older kids, but I got the smug kicked right out of me.

I do not like medicating my son, but I know that without the medicines, life would be awful - for both my son and me. We are both so much happier, relaxed and loving now. I hope some day my son can stop taking these medicines, and from what I have read that may be likely as he matures.

Life is good. :)

Autism Medication for Kids

How do you feel about medicating children?

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    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 8 months ago


      I'm a 34 year old guy from Finland and I have Asperger's syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) which was diagnosed when I was a teenager. I have a master's degree in physics but it took a long time for me to graduate because of chronic fatigue and other secondary symptoms of AS.

      I had to use a relatively large dose (3-4 mg/day) of Risperdal for many years after suffering a mental breakdown when I had my first job in early adulthood and ended up getting so stressed about work that it damaged my mental health. A thing I'd like to mention about risperidone is that it can negatively affect testosterone production in males (delayed puberty in children/teens and hypogonadism in adults).

      After using risperdal for some years I had many symptoms of low hormone levels, like excessive anxiety and bad mood states, and also weakening of muscles and bones. It ended with me getting a hip fracture from slipping on ice and falling in winter season. That kind of fractures usually happen to really old people who have osteoporosis because of declining hormonal function.

      Finally, a blood test confirmed that my testosterone levels were only half of what a healthy adult man should have, and it was clear that all the negative symptoms I had experienced were caused by the risperidone. After the medication was changed to quetiapine (Seroquel), which doesn't cause endocrine disturbances, I quickly felt much better both physically and psychologically.

      The doses of Risperdal that are prescribed to children with autism are usually only 1/6 to 1/3 of what I was using, and they probably don't usually have any overt side effects, but I'm just pointing out that it could be bad for a child/teen when they come to puberty and their body is supposed to start producing testosterone/estrogen.

      Nice article you have written, anyway, I hope the best for your son. Many people who have autism/adhd develop some special talent that will help them in life, like sciences (chemistry, physics) for me, or arts for someone else.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 8 months ago from North Dakota

      Thank you so much for your comments. I was not aware of that adverse side effect of Risperdal!

      Though my son is only on .5 mg, I will definitely research this and be on the lookout for these symptoms.

      My son has Aspbergers also and some days I do worry that my son will not be able to have a meaningful job. Success stories like yours give me hope and renew my drive to find his niche in life. A master;s degree in physics! How wonderful!

      Again, thank you for relating your experience with me and my readers.

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 8 months ago

      Thanks. :)

      Autism can often cause difficulties in childhood and adolescence, but it's not always easy to be an adult with AS, either. I'm still not a completely independent adult and I often need help from my non-autistic sister or other relatives. Even though I've always been good at mathematics and science, many surprisingly "everyday" things can cause trouble for me.

      I'm currently trying to get a job from a fire safety engineering project in a local institute of technology. I've been employed for only about one third of the years I've been over 21 years old. However, when an autistic child gets the diagnosis early enough, like your son has, there's still a good chance that they can be helped to become a well-balanced, independent adult some day.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 8 months ago from North Dakota

      Good luck on the job!

      Did you receive any other services growing up, such as behavioral therapy? My son doesn't receive any because we live in a rural area?

      Hey, have you thought of writing about your experiences with Aspbergers? I find it helpful reading blogs and articles of real life experiences.

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 8 months ago

      When I moved out of my parent's home at age 20, to study in university in another town, there was a clinic very close to my new home that specialized in giving support to autistic youngsters and young adults, and they initially helped me to find my way around the new living environment. That didn't last long, though. Adults with autism often don't get a lot of help around here, either. And people who have AS don't get any disability benefits from the government unless they have really serious comorbid mental problems.

      I could definitely write about my experiences, not only about autism, but also psychological problems and addiction (I had a drinking problem at one point of my life, and I even had to go to rehab, but now I've been tee-total for quite some time). I also practice zen-buddhist meditation with a local yoga/meditation group, and that has helped me a lot to control my mind and mood states, so I could also write about that. :)

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 8 months ago from North Dakota

      Help is limited here in the states, too. I have an adult nephew who also has autism who lives at home still. He works for his dad.

      Personal experience articles can be so helpful on any issue. I encourage you to write of your experiences. You could help many people.

      Since Hubpages has went to niche sites, the timing couldn't be better!

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 8 months ago

      My father was 28 years old when he moved out of my grandparent's farm where he had been working up to that age. He probably has autistic traits, too, but never got a diagnosis. He is a very stubborn person who has difficulties learning any new things, and he still doesn't even know how to send or read text messages with his phone. However, even he had some kind of a talent when he was young - he often went hunting to the woods and was good at being in wild nature. When he was in military service, he won an orienteering competition and a photo of him was in a local newspaper.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 months ago from North America

      Hi Gcrhoads64 -

      This article is a refreshing, useful read about actions and side actions of medications from a first-person view. I'd like to see more of this type of narrative online.

      In medical and public health classes in the late 1990s, we were learning that several blood pressure medicines were working well in symptom control among individuals suffering from ADHD, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and several others that may be somehow related. I am gratified to hear the helpful results you and your son experience with some of them.

      Much health and many blessings to you both!

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 8 months ago from North Dakota

      Thanks for reading Patty. Intuniv, which is a BP medication, was the first medication my son was prescribed. Unfortunately, he was one of the few who saw no results.

      Polymath82, as you see by Patty's comment, there is a need for first hand experience in these areas. I am going to follow you in hopes you share your experiences with the world.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 8 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great firsthand analysis.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 8 months ago from North Dakota

      Thanks for the compliment, Larry. :)

    • profile image

      mom2wcr 7 months ago

      polymath82 plz don't think this is a dumb question. I've never been on hubpages before this moment .. how do I "follow" you? I would get an alert when you post something? @polymath82

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 7 months ago

      Hi mom2wcr, you have to register to Hubpages (you will get a username and password) and then go to this page: and press the "follow" button. Thanks for your interest. I've had some other projects for a few weeks but I'll be posting more stuff to Hubpages in some time.

    • profile image

      Virginia Lulham 3 months ago

      Coming across your article tonight provided much needed relief and hope for me! My little girl just turned 7 earlier this year and until this year, I had been very reluctant to get her diagnosed or medicated because I also feel children are often overmedicated. She has adhd/add and has exhibited symptoms of high functioning autism/Asbergers since she was very small. But I wanted to try everything else possible first. We finally decided to try Concerta at the beginning of this year and it helped a little bit for a short time, and then became ineffective. After doing some research on my own and talking to the school therapist that my daughter has been seeing for a year now, I consulted with her pediatrician and yesterday, we started the combination of Vyvanse and Risperdal. My daughter has been struggling behavior-wise in school. She flies into immediate rages when someone/something upsets her. If it's an inanimate object like a door or a wall, she will kick it to get back at it for hurting her. If it's another child that has made her mad or hurt her (even on accident), she will frequently hit them even though, once calmed down, she knows that's not the right or acceptable decision she should have made. She is highly intelligent, and is well ahead of her class academically. But socially and emotionally, she is behind. She displays many of the same self-injurious behaviors you mentioned in your article when she gets upset or frustrated. She will call herself names, etc. But when she's calm and there's no triggers, etc, she's the sweetest little girl you'll ever meet! She loves to cuddle, give kisses, play, etc. All I want is to have my sweet little girl back. It has been a long, stressful road for us, and your article is the first thing to truly give me hope that this is indeed possible. Thank you so much!

      Happy holidays!

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 3 months ago from North Dakota

      Virginia, thank you for your kind words. I can totally sympathize with you. My son is now 11 and although he does still have anger issues, he is so much better at controlling his outbursts, which is relief because I see puberty right around the corner.

      Enjoy the sweet moments with your daughter, they will help you get through the rough times. With maturity there is hope. Our special kids just need a little more time than others.

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