Does Special Needs Equal Medication Needs? 5

This post is part of Danette’s wonderful Best of the Best Series at S-O-S Research Blog where the topic this month is medication use related to those diagnosed with invisible special needs. I mentioned our bad experience with medications in my Therapy? What Therapy? in August, so you might assume I am totally against medication for this group. I am not.

Yet, I am against medications being the first choice especially for young children. First, you need a full workup to rule out alternative causes and to help assist in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Yet, we have some psychiatrists who skip this step or who, if they do not completely skip it, still fail to order a complete evaluation prior to prescribing medication.

Unlike one of my fellow bloggers in this series, I do not believe the reason is for financial gain. Wonder why? I spent years working for various insurance companies, and even volunteering on legislative committees for case management organizations. I am also married to a physician. Doctors receive money as speakers, but they also go to extra training on medications and take time away from their practices to do this and most do not take prescribing new medications lightly either.

Remember it is their license on the line if a medication causes life threatening side effects. Doctors also pass on samples of medications to their patients who cannot afford them. I really want to write a post about when and why we stopped trusting any doctors, but that is a post for another day.

None of the medications prescribed for my child were samples, nor were they medications newly on the market, yet they still were unhelpful and inappropriate for her since they did not address the root of her problems, and in fact made things worse. Lack of understanding of her sensory sensitivities resulted in the wrong treatment.

I was given a check list to compare at one point to determine which diagnosis my daughter had, ADHD or Bipolar Disorder. I told both doctors that neither one really fit her, but they suggested I guess as to which one fit best. There is a reason I speak out about wrong diagnoses and especially wrong diagnoses in girls. No one even mentioned Asperger’s or autism at that point nor did they mention sensory sensitivities despite the fact that my daughter had text-book characteristics from the time she was a toddler, if the doctor listened and asked the right questions.

Once we had the correct diagnosis from a third doctor, who is a neuropsychologist and who did the complete evaluation, the psychiatrist asked me why I would want my child to have a diagnosis that no medication could treat. My reply, “Why would I want to treat her for something she does not have?”

Yes, medication can help some children as long as you have proper monitoring for side effects and as long as you have ruled out other medically researched options. Please note that many on the autism spectrum also have comorbidities that can be treated with medication. There are ongoing studies related to autism and sleep problems, so hopefully correct treatment options for this will be available too. I wrote about this in July on my Autism Myths, Legends, and Mysteries of Sleep post.

There are times when medication is appropriate, for instance when, there is a risk of harm to self or others. Even then it is important to monitor for side effects and to reevaluate once the patient is stable. Some medications can be safely weaned with medical supervision.


  1. We are still trying to decipher a “most correct’ dx for my son. He is currently labeled with ADHD and SPD, but OCD, ODD, Anxiety and Asperberger’s have been thrown around by his specialists, too, so we are waiting for another round of appts to get more info. In the meantime, we are anti-medicine.

    Your story emphasizes for me how important correct dx and serious weighing and follow u about the choice of meds is.

    Thank you.

  2. Pingback: S-O-S Best of the Best, Edition 12: Medications and Their Use with Special Needs Kids :: Help! S-O-S for Parents

  3. Great post, Sue! I can only imagine how frustrating it was to deal with incorrect diagnoses, and then to add medication issues on top of that – how horrible! Thank you for sharing your experience so others can be more aware of what to watch for.

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