My Son's Experience With Intuniv, Concerta, Vyvanse, Risperidone, and Clonidine

Updated on December 8, 2018
Gcrhoads64 profile image

I used to be one of those people who felt drugs are being overprescribed to children. For my son, however, medication is the right choice.

My son at the museum.
My son at the museum.

It is hard to make the choice to put your child on daily medicines. Although I often feel guilty about putting my son on medication, I can see no other alternative.

I tried the gluten-free diet as well as other diets; I eliminated foods containing red dye; and I limited his sugar intake. For his sleep problems, I tried melatonin, bedtime rituals, and back rubs. However, none of these natural remedies worked, and I was at my wit's end.

In this article, I discuss my son's experience with prescribed medications for his autism, including Intuniv, Concerta, Vyvanse, Risperidone, and Clonidine.

Without medication, my son is a different child.
Without medication, my son is a different child. | Source

Intuniv

The summer before my son entered kindergarten, it became apparent that in order to succeed in a regular school setting he would need medication. In daycare he was unable to sit still and couldn't focus on tasks unless he was doing an activity he liked, such as playing with cars or blocks.

The doctor recommended that we start him on the lowest dose of the blood pressure medicine Intuniv. In clinical trials, many autistic children showed improvement in attentiveness. After a few weeks on the Intuniv, my son did show a little improvement in his ability to focus.

He started kindergarten in a mainstream classroom a few months later, and immediately the teacher had problems getting my son to focus. After repeated attempts by the teacher to get my son to participate in activities, he would have a meltdown and I would be summoned to school to get him. North Carolina does put much emphasis on funding its schools, and the poor teacher had no assistance from qualified special-ed teachers. She had her hands full with the other 24 children in the classroom.

Concerta

After another call to the doctor, the Intuniv dose was increased, but it had little effect. Three months into the school year, the Intuniv was stopped and my son was prescribed Concerta, a stimulant used for ADHD. The change in my son was dramatic—he became very quiet and was able to focus and sit still for long periods of time. It did make me sad to see him so solemn and quiet, but it was also a relief to have a break from the boy who could not sit still unless he was stimming with his toys.

Concerta Side Effects

Concerta did have two unwanted side effects: appetite loss and throat clearing. My son was born skinny and has stayed skinny. He would eat first thing in the morning, but after the Concerta took effect, he would not be interested in eating until the evening. He initially lost a pound or two, but by letting him eat whenever he wanted, he stabilized and lost no more weight—but he also never gained any in the year he was on Concerta. The throat clearing started within a month of starting the Concerta. I hoped it was temporary, but it continued the entire time he was on the medication.

No Help for His Anger

The Concerta had no effect on his anger or meltdowns. He was always prone to self-destructive behavior such as head-banging and slapping himself, and he frequently went into rages at home over minor annoyances. Toys were thrown, stomped on and otherwise destroyed. Furniture in his room was marred and tipped over. If he ran into a wall he would rage at the "stupid wall" that was trying to hurt him. Although my son could now sit still at school, he ultimately failed kindergarten.

Vyvanse, Clonidine, and Risperidone

The following medicines were the more recent—and more successful—medicines prescribed for my son.

He was put on the ADHD medicine Vyvanse, another stimulant used for treating the ADHD that so often occurs with autism. The Vyvanse replaced the Concerta, which had caused my son to constantly clear his throat, an unwanted side effect.

Vyvanse, I Love You!

The Vyvanse works well for my son's ADHD. He is now able to focus at school and is no longer constantly bouncing off the walls during the day.

Ironically, before he was on a stimulant medicine, he would not leave my side. It is one thing to have a hyper child; it is another to have a hyper child who is constantly hanging and pulling on you and won't go outside to work off some of his energy.

Just like Concerta, Vyvanse had no effect on my son's rages.

An unwanted side effect is appetite suppression. At 8 years old and 46 inches tall, my son weighed 39 pounds. He will not be hungry for most of the day but will eat in the evening when the medication wears off.

Clonidine for His Sleep Problems, Hallelujah!

My son has had difficulty sleeping since he was about two. He did not want to go to sleep and would lie in his bed for hours. It drove me to tears many times because at the time I was in college and needed to do homework and be rested for my hospital clinicals. To make matters worse, he never slept late in the morning.

He was also plagued by nightmares. He awoke every single night screaming, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" He couldn't tell me what his nightmares were about, but he would go back to sleep as long as I was near him. I started to let him sleep in my bed so I wouldn't be so exhausted in the morning.

My son and I moved to North Dakota when he was seven. He was referred to a psychiatrist because of the sleeping and anger issues. The doctor prescribed Clonidine as a sleeping aid. Clonidine's primary use is as a blood pressure medicine, but it is also prescribed for ADHD and insomnia.

The night of the first dose I was skeptical that he would go to sleep. But within 45 minutes of taking the medicine he said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. I was almost delirious with relief. At long last I had a few hours of quiet time in the evenings.

Risperidone (Risperdal) Worked Well for His Anger!

I thought that my son's anger would subside once he started to get more rest, but the extra sleep didn't help at all and he still awoke at night because of nightmares.

The psychiatrist and I discussed risperidone, an antipsychotic drug. Risperidone's main use is for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but it is also used to treat anger and aggression in autistic children.

The risperidone has worked very well. My son is no longer as angry and violent when he gets upset. He still has a temper, but the uncontrollable rages are gone! He also plays much better with other children and he very rarely wakes up in the middle of the night.

An unwanted side affect of risperidone is weight gain and gynemastia (man boobs). No signs of any breast growth, but he no longer looks like a famine victim and is now at a healthy, but still slender, weight.

My Feelings About Medicating My Son

I used to be one of those people who felt drugs are being overprescribed to children. I was smug and thought my parenting technique was all that was needed to raise happy, healthy children. It may have worked for my two older kids, but I got the smug kicked right out of me.

I do not like medicating my son, but I know that without the medicines, life would be awful—for both my son and me. We are now both so much happier, relaxed, and loving. I hope some day my son can stop taking these medicines, and from what I have read, that may be likely as he matures.

Life is good.

Autism Medication for Kids

How do you feel about medicating children?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    • profile image

      Brett Curtis 

      6 months ago

      Thanks for that. We get a lot of laughter out of Autism, we’ve given the boys routines so they always put the washing out, set the table for dinner, clean their rooms, put the garbage out. By creating good routines they can’t stop, they keep the house in order. Of course there’s the terrifying moments as well, but there’s some good in having kids that follow strict routines.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      6 months ago from North Dakota

      Pharmacogenetic testing is the term for testing for genetic compatibility with medications. It will help your doctor know what drugs work best with your son.

    • profile image

      Brett Curtis 

      6 months ago

      Hi Gable, both parents had a DNA test done to find out if either parent had contributed DNA to our boys Autism but that came back negative so it was just 2 random fertilisation that created their genetic makeup.

      I didn’t know you could do a DNA test for medications. Can you tell me what the name of that test is please ?

      It may or not be available here in Australia.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      6 months ago from North Dakota

      Brett, I am glad you found the right combination of medicines. My son's doctor recently had a DNA test which showed us what medicines work best for him. I highly recommend it.

    • SURFFOILS profile image

      Brett Curtis 

      6 months ago

      Hi Gable, we have 2 autistic sons, lovely boys but overwhelmed by the characteristics of Autism. We would never have medicated them but the hyperactivity, screaming and repetitive behaviour was making us crazy. We tried Melatonin, Ritalin and Dexamphetamine that didn’t work at all but found a mixture of Risperdal, Vyvanse and Naltrexone works wonders. An earlier comment by Eric mentioned that his child went wild in the evenings on Vyvanse but we found it was because it’s a slow acting drug that fades by the evening and then the behaviours returns. Urgently our bays are 8 and 10 and doing a lot better, probably as best as they could under the circumstances. There’s still some violence issues at their school that negatively affects them but it’s a cruel world for anyone with a disability.

    • profile image

      Michele teask jones 

      11 months ago

      My son isnt on the autism spectrum but had the same sleep issues omg! He as well as myself were exhausted. He would be awake for 2 days straight and i to was in college and had a very hard time keeping up in my classes but my son came first so i would skip my classes and tend to him. Finally we found a dr versed in kids with adhd and sleep issues and thrrough the trial and reeor of a few meds we to ended up with vyvanse for the ADHD and Clonidine for his inability to sleep on his own.

      I hate having to medicate my son but he as well as his health was suffering do to lack of restful sleep as well as myself, if he was up for 2 or 3 days straight so was I (trying the back rubs, bed time stories, warm milk, warm baths and anything else I could think of that may settle him enough for sleep) and for his inability to be a productive student in his class for his self satisfation or his classmates and teacher. He could be proud of himself if he was frustrated and always being reprimanded by the teacher or class aid. I wanted him to be happy, healthy and productive to the point where he felt happy with himself and in the end I have a different but happy and proud child when he started these 2 meds I sent him to school and held my breath the whole day and when I had no calls from the school I instanly was wirried that maybe I had missed the call so I called the school and to my surprise they had not called and reported that he has had a great day. When my son came home from school the bus driver made it a point to stop him on his way off the bus and tell him she was so proud of him that he was the best behaved kid on the bus and thanked him for helping her to keep the bus and kids safe and he was so proud of himself as was I. He came off the bus and in to the house and he preceded to tell me about his day and he was so excited and happy to show me his agenda book where his teacher wrote a glowing report of how he was so helpful in class and so well behaved that he had earned his self the position of class leader and student helper he was so happy he said thanks mom for helping me. I melted and we have had nothing but good day now other than the normal everyday kids cutting up stuff but no tantrums and no fights and no all nighters. Med mat not be the answer for all kids but for some they definitely are and i wasnt happy in the begining but once we finally found the right meds i was on board as he was happy and able to be productive which mad him more self confident so it is worth it to me to see the smile on his face.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      2 years ago from North Dakota

      Brandi, thank you for your comment. It is so reassuring to know other parents can relate to our situation.

      I understand that struggle, and still have to deal with those who think medications are over-prescribed. We can only do what we feel is right.

      Good luck with your child. The meds really did help my son.

    • profile image

      Brandi 

      2 years ago

      My God. Reading this is like looking into my life. My son is now 8 and your experience exactly mirrors ours. I found this by googling Vyvanse, Clonidine, Risperidone combination and here I am. You put everything that I go through into words and I have to share this. So often people look at my boy and assume he is a "Bad child" or that I am not doing a good job as a mother. The internal struggle that I faced when deciding to put my son on medication at 3yrs old, nobody knows or understands until they have to do it themselves. Good luck to you and your precious boy.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      2 years ago from North Dakota

      Eric, I'm sorry about your son's bad experience with Vyvanse. Each child is unique and what works well for one may not work for another. I hope the Risperidone works! Best wishes.

    • profile image

      Eric 

      2 years ago

      Really nice article and comment. (Set for my bad English). We abruptly stop Vyvanse because my son (10yo) starting ultra violence in evening (himself/other/thing) I never see my kid like that it's like Exorcist. I decided to immediately stop Vyvanse and all come to normal but it continues with intuniv but during school concentration is not enough! Our doctor propose Risperidone and I'm really anxious about this new medication. I'm not sure this med will help to concentrate (what is need) :(

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      2 years ago from North Dakota

      Virginia, thank you for your kind words. I can totally sympathize with you. My son is now 11 and although he does still have anger issues, he is so much better at controlling his outbursts, which is relief because I see puberty right around the corner.

      Enjoy the sweet moments with your daughter, they will help you get through the rough times. With maturity there is hope. Our special kids just need a little more time than others.

    • profile image

      Virginia Lulham 

      2 years ago

      Coming across your article tonight provided much needed relief and hope for me! My little girl just turned 7 earlier this year and until this year, I had been very reluctant to get her diagnosed or medicated because I also feel children are often overmedicated. She has adhd/add and has exhibited symptoms of high functioning autism/Asbergers since she was very small. But I wanted to try everything else possible first. We finally decided to try Concerta at the beginning of this year and it helped a little bit for a short time, and then became ineffective. After doing some research on my own and talking to the school therapist that my daughter has been seeing for a year now, I consulted with her pediatrician and yesterday, we started the combination of Vyvanse and Risperdal. My daughter has been struggling behavior-wise in school. She flies into immediate rages when someone/something upsets her. If it's an inanimate object like a door or a wall, she will kick it to get back at it for hurting her. If it's another child that has made her mad or hurt her (even on accident), she will frequently hit them even though, once calmed down, she knows that's not the right or acceptable decision she should have made. She is highly intelligent, and is well ahead of her class academically. But socially and emotionally, she is behind. She displays many of the same self-injurious behaviors you mentioned in your article when she gets upset or frustrated. She will call herself names, etc. But when she's calm and there's no triggers, etc, she's the sweetest little girl you'll ever meet! She loves to cuddle, give kisses, play, etc. All I want is to have my sweet little girl back. It has been a long, stressful road for us, and your article is the first thing to truly give me hope that this is indeed possible. Thank you so much!

      Happy holidays!

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 

      3 years ago

      Hi mom2wcr, you have to register to Hubpages (you will get a username and password) and then go to this page: https://hubpages.com/@polymath82 and press the "follow" button. Thanks for your interest. I've had some other projects for a few weeks but I'll be posting more stuff to Hubpages in some time.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      3 years ago from North Dakota

      Thanks for the compliment, Larry. :)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great firsthand analysis.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      3 years ago from North Dakota

      Thanks for reading Patty. Intuniv, which is a BP medication, was the first medication my son was prescribed. Unfortunately, he was one of the few who saw no results.

      Polymath82, as you see by Patty's comment, there is a need for first hand experience in these areas. I am going to follow you in hopes you share your experiences with the world.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      3 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi Gcrhoads64 -

      This article is a refreshing, useful read about actions and side actions of medications from a first-person view. I'd like to see more of this type of narrative online.

      In medical and public health classes in the late 1990s, we were learning that several blood pressure medicines were working well in symptom control among individuals suffering from ADHD, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and several others that may be somehow related. I am gratified to hear the helpful results you and your son experience with some of them.

      Much health and many blessings to you both!

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 

      3 years ago

      My father was 28 years old when he moved out of my grandparent's farm where he had been working up to that age. He probably has autistic traits, too, but never got a diagnosis. He is a very stubborn person who has difficulties learning any new things, and he still doesn't even know how to send or read text messages with his phone. However, even he had some kind of a talent when he was young - he often went hunting to the woods and was good at being in wild nature. When he was in military service, he won an orienteering competition and a photo of him was in a local newspaper.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      3 years ago from North Dakota

      Help is limited here in the states, too. I have an adult nephew who also has autism who lives at home still. He works for his dad.

      Personal experience articles can be so helpful on any issue. I encourage you to write of your experiences. You could help many people.

      Since Hubpages has went to niche sites, the timing couldn't be better!

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 

      3 years ago

      When I moved out of my parent's home at age 20, to study in university in another town, there was a clinic very close to my new home that specialized in giving support to autistic youngsters and young adults, and they initially helped me to find my way around the new living environment. That didn't last long, though. Adults with autism often don't get a lot of help around here, either. And people who have AS don't get any disability benefits from the government unless they have really serious comorbid mental problems.

      I could definitely write about my experiences, not only about autism, but also psychological problems and addiction (I had a drinking problem at one point of my life, and I even had to go to rehab, but now I've been tee-total for quite some time). I also practice zen-buddhist meditation with a local yoga/meditation group, and that has helped me a lot to control my mind and mood states, so I could also write about that. :)

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      3 years ago from North Dakota

      Good luck on the job!

      Did you receive any other services growing up, such as behavioral therapy? My son doesn't receive any because we live in a rural area?

      Hey, have you thought of writing about your experiences with Aspbergers? I find it helpful reading blogs and articles of real life experiences.

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 

      3 years ago

      Thanks. :)

      Autism can often cause difficulties in childhood and adolescence, but it's not always easy to be an adult with AS, either. I'm still not a completely independent adult and I often need help from my non-autistic sister or other relatives. Even though I've always been good at mathematics and science, many surprisingly "everyday" things can cause trouble for me.

      I'm currently trying to get a job from a fire safety engineering project in a local institute of technology. I've been employed for only about one third of the years I've been over 21 years old. However, when an autistic child gets the diagnosis early enough, like your son has, there's still a good chance that they can be helped to become a well-balanced, independent adult some day.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      3 years ago from North Dakota

      Thank you so much for your comments. I was not aware of that adverse side effect of Risperdal!

      Though my son is only on .5 mg, I will definitely research this and be on the lookout for these symptoms.

      My son has Aspbergers also and some days I do worry that my son will not be able to have a meaningful job. Success stories like yours give me hope and renew my drive to find his niche in life. A master;s degree in physics! How wonderful!

      Again, thank you for relating your experience with me and my readers.

    • Polymath82 profile image

      Polymath82 

      3 years ago

      Hi,

      I'm a 34 year old guy from Finland and I have Asperger's syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) which was diagnosed when I was a teenager. I have a master's degree in physics but it took a long time for me to graduate because of chronic fatigue and other secondary symptoms of AS.

      I had to use a relatively large dose (3-4 mg/day) of Risperdal for many years after suffering a mental breakdown when I had my first job in early adulthood and ended up getting so stressed about work that it damaged my mental health. A thing I'd like to mention about risperidone is that it can negatively affect testosterone production in males (delayed puberty in children/teens and hypogonadism in adults).

      After using risperdal for some years I had many symptoms of low hormone levels, like excessive anxiety and bad mood states, and also weakening of muscles and bones. It ended with me getting a hip fracture from slipping on ice and falling in winter season. That kind of fractures usually happen to really old people who have osteoporosis because of declining hormonal function.

      Finally, a blood test confirmed that my testosterone levels were only half of what a healthy adult man should have, and it was clear that all the negative symptoms I had experienced were caused by the risperidone. After the medication was changed to quetiapine (Seroquel), which doesn't cause endocrine disturbances, I quickly felt much better both physically and psychologically.

      The doses of Risperdal that are prescribed to children with autism are usually only 1/6 to 1/3 of what I was using, and they probably don't usually have any overt side effects, but I'm just pointing out that it could be bad for a child/teen when they come to puberty and their body is supposed to start producing testosterone/estrogen.

      Nice article you have written, anyway, I hope the best for your son. Many people who have autism/adhd develop some special talent that will help them in life, like sciences (chemistry, physics) for me, or arts for someone else.

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