Spectrum Warriors: Life Through The Autism Spectrum

To Medicate Or Not – The Monkey

To medicate or not to medicate: that is the question. But who has the right answer?

For us, the decision to medicate did not come lightly. We had been thinking about the possibility for almost a year before deciding to take the plunge. The mood swings, the anxiety, the self-injurious behaviours, which were becoming more extreme, were simply becoming too much. I could no longer stand back and watch as my Monkey crumpled into a world of self-hate and anxiety. I could no longer stand back and watch as he slapped himself in the face.

We had to examine at what point do the risks associated with medication become more manageable than the reality we were living?

I have written about the Monkey’s anxiety in numerous posts, anxiety so severe that it takes over even when he is doing the things he loves; anxiety that makes it almost impossible for him to cope with the world around him. After Christmas I, once again, had to sit outside of his bedroom for him to be able to fall asleep. His anxiety would take over and he was unable to get out of that loop. This was our breaking point. We were regressing back to a time when he was 5 and could not fall asleep without planning out every detail of the next few days. None of us could go back to that.

We weighed heavily on the side effects of not only the medication, but of chronic stress and anxiety. Stress can destroy the body, weakening the immune system, causing sleep disturbances, weight gain, and damage to the brain.  (Click here to read more on that). 

Being in a constant state of high anxiety may potentially be more harmful than the side effects of current anxiety medications.

In the end, the risks of medicating seemed minimal compared to not, especially if it meant allowing the Monkey to have a better quality of life. We hoped that giving him a small dose of something could ease some of the aggression, anxiety, and rigid behaviours. We spoke with our family doctor and our pediatrician who both agreed that medication may be our only option.  With this we started on Risperidone.

Risperidone does not help with anxiety; rather, it is meant to help with the aggression, meltdowns, self- injurious and repetitive behaviours—and boy did it ever! Within a few weeks his moods were more stable, he was laughing and playing more, meltdowns were almost unheard of aside from those caused by anxiety, but even those were improved. The Monkey’s anxiety seems to affect him a little less now as the anxiety that stemmed from the repetitive/OCD behaviours has almost disappeared.

At school this has translated into him being more focused, calmer, less fidgety, and more engaged. His teachers even said his anxiety at school seems to have almost dropped off the map as they notice less and less ticks.

I watched as he skipped and hummed halfway to school the other morning. My jaw almost dropped. Who is this happy little boy before me? Who is this boy who will sit and talk to me now without getting angry or upset? Who is this boy who will answer a direct question? Seeing all these positive changes proves to me that medication was the right choice for him. Medication means that he is actually HAPPY!

My Monkey is happy and that is the only thing I need to see to settle any doubts I had regarding our decision. It has been two months since we started a low dose of 0.25 mg of Resperidone and I do not regret it at all. We will likely still need to add an anti-anxiety medication to help with the social anxiety that still keeps him from enjoying, or even trying, anything new, but we have decided to wait and see what grade 1 brings and how he copes with the transition.

Medicating your child is a very hard and personal decision, but sometimes it is the only option. As I watch my boy smile more often, I know we are doing what is best for him. Before we reached our tipping point, I probably would have said I would never medicate my child, but Autism has taught me to never say never!

A happy toothless Monkey!

A happy toothless Monkey!


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