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Children With Autism: Tips to Make Giving Medication Easier

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition that affects thousands of children across the United States. Children with autism can have specific sensory processing preferences, which can make daily living more difficult for them. They might be bothered by certain textures, tones, or colors, and they might prefer certain tastes and avoid things that are profoundly uncomfortable for them.

Giving a child on the autism spectrum medication can be hard for this reason: They experience the world differently. The usual explanations for the need to take medicines might not work for individuals with autism, and forcing the issue can sometimes just make a bad situation worse.

Fortunately, with a few strategies and with help from a compounding pharmacy, you can make giving medications to your child less of a struggle. Follow these tips to help your child feel more comfortable with daily medication.

Create a Dependable Medication Schedule

If your child needs medication every day to help manage ongoing health issues, you can make it a part of their routine. Schedules and dependable timelines are often helpful for people who have autism.

For example, if your child likes to eat the same cereal for breakfast each morning, you might introduce the daily medication as something that happens each day before breakfast, with as little deviation as possible. Eventually, especially in high-functioning individuals, this routine becomes acceptable.

When you have a schedule, however, you also need to prepare for the times when sticking to the schedule is not possible. The best way to avoid challenges relating to schedule changes is to have a Plan B that your child sees as an adequate alternative.

For example, Plan A is to have medication before eating cereal each morning, but when you are not at home, plan B might be that you have medicine with a granola bar. This way, there are actually two dependable routines that are acceptable for your child.

Sometimes, you can’t use words to explain the schedule. You might have pictures to help show the order of operations. For example, in picture form you could have the following sequence:

  • Take medicine
  • Eat cereal
  • Get dressed
  • Play video game

This way, even a non-verbal child can see the progression of events and find the motivation to take medicines in order to move on to the next thing on the schedule. By adding a picture or by changing the picture order, you can also use pictures to explain schedule changes.

Tailor Medication to Your Child’s Needs

You might not be able to control the medications your child needs to take, but you can sometimes control the medium. People with autism, especially children, might struggle to swallow pills. They also might have intense aversions to certain tastes, colors, and textures in liquid medication forms.

You might have tried crushing up a pill and putting it in a pudding cup, but the heightened sensory awareness of someone on the autism spectrum can sometimes cause them to detect the change in flavor or texture. However, when your child has an ear infection, they still need to take antibiotics. Giving up on certain medications to avoid the fight is not an option.

This is when you should consider visiting a compounding pharmacy. Compounding pharmacies have more flexibility with the medication medium.

If your child hates red, you might get a medication that has no dyes or even change the color to one that your child gravitates toward. If they can’t swallow pills, the pharmacist may be able to put the medication in a dissolving tablet or into a powder that can be stirred into water. Some compounding pharmacies can even make some medications into soda-like drinks.

Some children with ASD also have dietary sensitivities. Standard forms of medication can have filler ingredients, dyes, and corn or wheat ingredients that negatively affect the child. A compounding pharmacy can make these medications without fillers so that your child gets the active ingredients with no side effects from fillers.

Use Favorite Foods as a Vehicle

Just as children with autism have foods that they inherently detest, they also have foods that they inherently love. These favorite foods can be a motivation or a vehicle for taking medications.

If your medication has no textural components and a light flavor, you might be able to hide it in a blended smoothie, for example. Multi-vitamins are easy to hide this way because they do not have a strong flavor, especially against strong flavors in a smoothie. Some antibiotics that aren’t bad tasting — for example, cephalexin — could disappear in yogurt.

Favorite foods can also be motivation for taking medication. If your child is obsessed with chocolate but only get some after they take medicine, they will be more motivated to take the medicine, even if they dislike it.

For more information about compounding medicine, contact us at Potter’s House Apothecary.

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