Ask Dr. Sleep: Autistic Behaviors? (Update)

Adam is starting to have behavioral issues, sometimes biting and pinching when he doesn’t get his way, other times he gets upset out of the blue for no apparent reason and again tries to bite and pinch. We wonder if it is sometimes due to pain and as a result we are about to do some blood work, urine analysis and even check for lead poisoning.

At the same time, his eating habits are deteriorating. His menu is smaller and smaller, often rejecting many of the things he used to eat. I did, however, get him to eat some yogurt tonight, which thrilled me! I also fear it is his diet that might be causing his behavior as he eats a lot of crunchy, sodium filled foods–not to mention hot dogs and McDonald’s French fries and chicken nuggets.

No surprise, these issues are putting a big burden and strain on everyone.

I want to know if you can recommend a behavioral specialist, or if you have any other thoughts on these matters? I am not sure if we need a psychiatrist or some other sort of doctor, specialist, etc. Your feedback would be most appreciated.

As always, thank you for your kind consideration.

All the best, Jeff W. Wisconsin

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for your note and have the great New Year yourself!

Adam’s behavior issues are very typical and understandable. Almost all kids with autism go through the stage of violent behavior and eating issues.

There is no place for a long discussion about neurophysiology of violent behavior in autistic kids. I could only mention that the biology of this behavior is purely metabolic (means, chemically based) and should be treated as such.

It is true that to handle the violent behavior in your own child is very difficult and emotionally painful, and my heart goes to parents as victims.

There are two management options: behavior modification and medications. Medications include anticonvulsive and mood stabilizing groups and, sometimes, anti-psychotics. It means that medication regimen should be constantly adjusted by your doctor to avoid the development of resistance to medications.

Behavior modification also has a significant positive effect given with medications. In your area you probably could find a specialist in behavior modification for autistic children (consult the regional Mental Health center).

Another option is to place Adam into the group therapy for autistic children where a professional help with behavior modification is available.

Good luck!