Medication commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be effective for treatment of hyperactivity symptoms in children with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders, according to a study in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Children with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders often also have symptoms of hyperactivity, distractibility and impulsiveness requiring treatment, according to background information in the article. Some previous small studies on the use of medications to treat hyperactivity in these children have shown promise, although side effects have been common, including irritability and social withdrawal.
David J. Posey, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, and colleagues in the Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network conducted this study. The RUPP Autism Network is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and is dedicated to the development and testing of treatments for children with autism and related conditions. In this study the investigators conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial to determine whether methylphenidate (a medication commonly used in the treatment of ADHD) would be effective in reducing hyperactivity and impulsiveness in children with pervasive developmental disorders. The trial included a one-week phase to test whether the participants could tolerate three different dose levels of the medication. This was followed by a four-week (crossover) phase during which the children were given one of three doses of methylphenidate or placebo in random order to assess effectiveness. Children showing a positive response were treated for an additional eight-week period to ensure that gains were stable. Response to treatment was assessed by parents and teachers using standardized ratings of behavior.
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