Researchers say medication, parent coaching can reduce ADHD in children with autism

Pittsburgh — Researchers say a drug called atomoxetine, when paired with parent coaching, can significantly reduce the manifestations of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children with autism.

In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the scientists observed that parent coaching, paired with the intake of atomoxetine, can be nearly as effective as taking the medicine on its own.

This finding is significant as scientists say this could mean parent coaching can help reduce the required dosage of atomoxetine for significant effects to show in children diagnosed with both autism and ADHD.

Currently, the standard treatment being administered by physicians to children diagnosed with both conditions is the use of stimulants — which can either be effective but with profound and intolerable side effects, or not effective at all.

Stimulants are known to boost the activities of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is said to be involved in rewards and body movements. The drug atomoxetine, on the other hand, makes sure that brain cells are dipped in norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter involved in the appetite, alertness, and moods of an individual.

In the study, 128 children aged between five to 14 years old who were diagnosed with both autism and ADHD were involved. Half of these children took placebo pills, while the remaining half took atomoxetine.

The parents of children involved in the study were asked to attend an hour-long session weekly wherein they were taught strategies to help manage and prevent disruptive behavior in children with both autism and ADHD.

The scientists found that the children who either took atomoxetine, received therapy from a parent, or received a combination of both, showed significant improvement as observed by both the researchers and the parents. They found that 45% of the children who received combination treatments showed improvement, while 47% of those who took the drug without the help of therapy showed positive changes.

On the other hand, only 19% of the children who took placebo pills alone showed significant improvement.

According to Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and lead investigator of the study, Benjamin Handen, PhD.:

“We think that if you’re going to go the medication route, combining it with parent training could result in less need for medicine. We think that’s safer in the long run.”

Source: Nicholette Zeliadt: Medpage Today: Meds, Parent Coaching Quell Hyperactivity in Autism