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Aust Fam Physician. 2007 Sep;36(9):741-4.

Children and autism--Part 1--recognition and pharmacological management.

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  • 1Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, Sansom Institute, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, and Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by complex aetiology, variable presentation and widely divergent outcomes. It is clear that an individual's intrinsic genetic susceptibility, health, nutritional status and environmental exposures all contribute to the aetiology of autism.


This article aims to assist the general practitioner in recognizing and managing a child with an autistic disorder.


Screening for autism by the GP can lead to referral for a formal diagnosis, enabling much needed support at an early stage of development, which can improve outcomes for the individual. Currently, evidence for psychotropic use and awareness of adverse effects in young people with autism is limited. Antipsychotic medications are increasingly used in people with autism and the importance of monitoring for adverse effects is paramount. Primary strategies for dealing with children with autism are understanding, environmental modification and behavioural interventions. Combined with these, pharmacological interventions may have benefits for children with autism with extreme or challenging behaviours.

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