What I've Learned From My Patients With Autism


When I was in training a long time ago, I was taught that there were only a few medicines you use to treat individuals with autism. Children with autism were all lumped into one category, and the medicines you used were mostly focused on decreasing aggression. 


However, what I’ve learned from working with children with autism is that they are all different; they are all unique. I’ve learned that children with autism can have depression, anxiety, a mood disorder, or ADHD. I’ve also learned that all of these disorders can cause aggression, and to decrease aggression, you have to use the right medicine to treat the disorder. There are so many causes for aggression: for example, an individual with autism may have frustration with communicating, and this frustration can lead to aggression. Or, a child might be in pain, having an ear infection, and if they are unable to communicate this, they can be aggressive.

There is no one single cause for aggression in children with autism, since they are all different and all have different situations. It is imperative that we as doctors understand those we treat, so we can determine the true cause of aggression. This will help us design the best treatment possible, so we can provide the best possible outcomes for our patients.

Deb Heck, M.D. completed fellowship training at the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Combined Program in 2002, and has been working with patients with autism ever since. She currently serves as the Service Chief for the  Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry Unit (1H) at Sheppard Pratt’s Towson campus.