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Therapy and Psychotropic Medication Use in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

TitleTherapy and Psychotropic Medication Use in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsZiskind, D, Bennett, A, Jawad, A, Blum, N
JournalPediatrics Supplement

Aims and Objectives:
Children with autism receive many treatments including therapy and medications. It is unknown how many children are receiving these treatments and what types of therapy are most common. This study looked at how treatments are being used by a large group of children with autism. It also looked to see if different groups use different treatments.

Researchers used the Autism Treatment Network patient database. All 965 participants had an autism diagnosis and were between 3 and 6 years of age. The study team looked at the use of treatments starting at least 6 months after they got an autism diagnosis.

Speech and occupational therapy were the most common treatments. 747 of the children (77.4 %) of children received speech therapy and 660 children (68.4 %) received occupational therapy. Only 322 children (33.4%) received a behavior-based treatment of any kind. Most children (53.3%) received at least 5.5 hours of therapy treatments per week. Less than half of the children (46.7 %) received less than 5 hours per week. Of the 613 children who used medications, 100 children (16.3%) were taking one or more types of medication and 202 children (3.3%) were taking 2 or more types. The likelihood of being prescribed medications was different in different regions of the country.

Experts recommend children with autism receive at least 25 hours of behavioral and educational interventions per week. This study indicates young children with autism are receiving far fewer therapy hours than the recommended amount. Further research is needed to examine strategies to improve access to therapy/treatments and regional differences.