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Autism, Obesity and Medication: Our Run, Jump, Fly Boy Says NO THANK YOU!

Posted Jan 10 2012 5:35am
Run, Jump, Fly Boy 2007

Run, Jump, Fly Boy 2011

There are many news reports concerning possible connections between obesity and medications prescribed for children and adults with autism and other developmental disorder.  Those reports help stiffen our resolve to avoid medications for our autistic son Conor, our Run, Jump, Fly Boy.

In the article In Treating Disabled, Potent Drugs and Few Rules   the NYT examined the psychotropic medications given with few guidelines to children with developmental disorders and the possible harmful effects, including obesity, anxiety and in some instances enlarged breasts in boys requiring surgery, that can result. The NYT article also quotes sources indicating that the medications do not treat the underlying conditions.

In Texas Johnson & Johnson is soon  to go on trial in respect of its practices in marketing Risperdal a medication often prescribed for autistic children. The AP article  Texas suit against J&J over drug to go to trial  reports that Risperdal and similar antipsychotic drugs have been associated with  increased risk of strokes and death in elderly dementia patients, seizures, major weight gain, onset of diabetes and potentially fatal high blood sugar.  

A UK report  Parents' tragedy as autistic son found dead in Haringey care home  tells of parents' grief at learning that their 20 year old son, who had been placed in a group home 15 months earlier and during his time there had been prescribed chloropromazine, had died of an obesity linked heart attack after being found faced down in his room hours earlier:

"Coroner Dr Andrew Walker of Barnet Coroner’s Court ruled the 22-stone teenager’s death was due to a heart attack linked to obesity at an inquest on Wednesday last week (January 4). But Harry’s parents, Jennifer Horne-Roberts and Keith Roberts, claimed strong anti-psychotic drugs he was given without their knowledge were responsible. They claim his three stone weight gain during 15 months in care was due to the drug chloropromazine and that the boisterous 6t-teen was given the drugs without their knowledge.

Before he moved to the care home, Harry had been exuberant and regularly took part in sports and outings. His parents took the heartbreaking step to put Harry into care to increase his independence, but claimed during the inquest they were instead locked out of his treatment with catastrophic consequences. They only learned that he was on the drug when a carer let the information slip in March 2009 and then wrote four letters to Harry's psychiatrist without receiving a reply.

During the inquest psychiatrist Dr Sujeet Jaydeokar said: There was a breakdown of communications."
In our son's case, shortly after Conor was originally diagnosed his pediatrician, who has considerable expertise with children with autism disorders, recommended that we avoid medications for Conor ... as long as possible.  So far we have avoided resort to medication even as Conor, soon to turn 16, and standing a solid 6'1" in height (as measured by hospital staff in a recent visit),  continues on the sometimes challenging journey known as adolescence.
The first combined photo above is from 2007 and the next two are from 2011.  Our son loves to run, jump and fly when we are out outdoors on our local trail systems (and sometimes indoors).  As long as we can we will avoid any medication for Conor as his pediatrician recommended so many years ago.  I do not want to see him lose the joy he obviously experiences when he decides to Run, Jump and Fly.
I don't want to take Conor's joy of movement from him and I don't want to see the physical and mental harm that appears to have been inflicted on some autistic children and adults by medications. I want our Run, Jump, Fly Boy to enjoy life and his love of movement, for as long as possible. So far we have not resorted to medication.  We have instead adopted a behavioral management approach, as recommended sources in the NYT article. At school which he loves dearly, he works with a UNB-CEL Autism Intervention trained Education Assistant using the ABA principles recognized by several credible authorities.  For now at least our Run Jump Fly Boy can continue to be who he is, and continue to enjoy his love of movement. 
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