Autism Research: Use of Risperidone (Risperdal) for Behavioral Disorders in Children with Autism

Autism Research:

Safety and Efficacy of Risperdal (Risperidone) Researched for Use in Autistic Children

Behavioral disorders often accompany an autism diagnosis.  There are several treatment options available for such behavioral disorders, one of which is Risperdal (risperidone).  Researchers looked at the efficacy and safety of risperidone for the treatment of behavioral disorders in autistic children.  The findings were published in an article titled Treatment of Behavioral Disorders by Risperidone in Children with Autism.

The study included 40 children with autism that also experienced behavioral disorders.  The children were between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.  They were treated with risperidone for 8 weeks, during which time behaviors and adverse events were observed.  Clinical Global Impression (CGI) and the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) were performed before and after the 8 week treatment with risperidone to monitor changes in behavioral symptoms.

Risperdal (Risperidone) Benefits:

The research found that both the severity of illness and the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist scores were reduced significantly following 8 weeks of treatment with risperidone.  More specifically, the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) showed improvements in verbal communication, behavioral symptoms, and apperception.

Risperdal (Risperidone) Side Effects:

There were no serious side effects from risperidone reported during the 8 week study.

The researchers state the findings of the study suggest that risperidone is a well-tolerated treatment option to significantly improve behavior issues in children with autism spectrum disorders.

The article was epublished in the Chinese Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics in March 2011.

Additional Information:


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  1. Lindy says

    My son was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s at the age of 10, after several years of treatment for ADHD. He was bullied a lot and eventually became very aggressive when teased. The other kids learned not to bully him (for their own safety), but their bullying was not addressed by the school. My son’s violent retaliation was. He has been suspended many times. The last time he was suspended the school recommended a visit to a youth psychiatrist. This guy, after the first visit, prescribed 1mg Risperdal. The next visit he increased it to 2mg, then after that 3mg. My son turned into a zombie. He was dizzy, nauseous, groggy and staggered if he rose suddenly. He said he couldn’t think properly either. We have taken our son off this medication against the advice of this psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says our son has a “psychosis” but won’t tell us what kind, because our son has not given him permission to discuss it with us. Our son is now 15.

    I think Risperdal is rotten stuff and the psychiatrist is a quack. Perhaps more research is needed than just 40 kids.

  2. Kathy says

    I am not sure who funded this site however Risperidone is used in adults with schizophrenia. Risperdone causes weight gain, it can cause involuntary movements, long term it can cause tardive dyskinesia. I will be asking our physician to change our daughter to another medication. it is not really helping her behaviour, she continues to do self-harm. Risperidone has taken away any joy she had in life. I would never recommend this medication to any parent who has a child with autism. It is the fast way to deal with a very complex problem. Modern medicines idea to NOT look at causes in diet or any other factors it is only concerned with a quick fix pushing medication. That way the controllers of many hospitals, etc. the DRUG companies continue to make the big bucks. Where will these children be in 20 years certainly parents constantly think about this …..medical staff and drug companies well they just aren’t interested.

  3. says

    Thanks for commenting, Lindy and Kathy! Your experiences with risperidone are appreciated. It is important to consider all perspectives. Please understand that this webpage is not an endorsement for or against risperidone as an autism treatment. It is for educational purposes only. Please see for more information on this.

    Lindy, thanks for sharing the side effects your son experienced on risperidone. Just wanted to address the “Perhaps more research is needed than just 40 kids” comment. Risperidone in the context of autism has been studied or reported on in well over 100 articles (actually closer to 200). This is just ONE trial. Obviously, most if not all studies of this nature will show that some individuals showed benefit and some did not. What one person experiences will not necessarily be what another person experiences. Some will show more benefit and some will show more side effects. That’s why it’s important to work with a doctor that listens to what the individual is experiencing. (Please see for an example of why some individuals may benefit from risperidone while others do not.)

    Kathy, I appreciate your opinion. Many of the comments above address some of the same points you raise. Namely, some people that take risperidone do have side effects, some of which may be severe (see a summary on Ultimate Autism Guide at that describes one such severe side effect and may help readers realize that summaries such as this one on Ultimate Autism Guide are not an endorsement for or against a particular treatment). The side effects you listed are possible side effects. It should be noted that although risperidone can cause weight gain, many who take it will not experience weight gain. Your wording suggested that you will gain weight if you take risperidone which is not necessarily correct. It should also be noted that just because your daughter had particular side effects does not mean that EVERY individual will have the same experience. However, the side effects that your daughter experienced with risperidone should be seriously considered by you. It should also be taken into consideration by others who might choose to take the medication. With most or all treatments, you will find that some benefit more than others and some experience more side effects than others. Treatments should be focused on the individual and not on groups of people. It is correct that risperidone is used in adults with schizophrenia. However, it is not a completely correct answer. Many studies have been done involving risperidone including many focusing on risperidone to treat the symptoms experienced by children diagnosed with autism.

    I agree that treatment plans should look at the big picture, not just a “magic bullet” that tries to solve all problems. Autism is extremely complex and often requires multiple approaches to treat the symptoms associated with autism. Medications like this may be one possible option for some individuals.

    Just a few thoughts on the comments about drug companies. As far as the big bucks comments, it could also be argued that alternative medicine approaches often are looking to make big bucks. Many of their products are way overpriced when you look at how much they mark up their prices. It could also be argued that therapists that do ABA or Floortime or even speech pathology are looking to make big bucks. Charging $300 an hour for speech therapy? Really? (That is a rhetorical question and does not reflect my opinion of speech therapists.) So…let’s do the math. Four sessions of speech therapy per month for a monthly cost of $1200 ( I acknowledge that not all speech therapists charge this much and the patient’s cost would likely be much less with insurance). One month of medication costs between $4 to $500 for most medications in this area. Usually closer to the $4 if you have insurance. Interesting. I personally feel that $1200 per month is worth paying a speech therapist if it helps an individual improve their speech skills and thus their quality of life. However, if the speech therapist cannot effectively improve speech skills in an individual then it could easily be argued that the therapist just wants to continue to make big bucks. So your argument works for drug companies as well as speech therapists. An even bigger argument could be made against ABA costing $30,000 to $40,000+ per year. However, if it helps an individual gain skills and improves quality of life then I feel it is worth it. Fortunately, more and more insurances are beginning to cover this treatment option. (Please note that Ultimate Autism Guide also has research lists available for ABA and alternative approaches such as folic acid. Those are also for educational purposes and are not meant to be an endorsement for or against those treatments. This context is provided to underscore the fact that this article is one of many articles on Ultimate Autism Guide that cover possible treatment approaches.)

    Now the medical staff and drug companies not being interested in the individual comment. Please consider that many doctors and other medical staff choose to practice in an area due to personal interest in that area. Many such professionals choose their area of focus because of family members or close friends/associates that have a diagnosis such as autism. Also, many researchers at drug companies and universities dedicate their lives to areas such as autism due to a family member or close friend that has a diagnosis such as autism. Of course, there will always be employees of any company that focus more on the money than on the individual, but this in no way reflects the driving motivation behind why most of the employees do what they do, especially those that do the actual research.

    Having said all this, I am happy that you are analyzing and doing what you feel is best for your daughter. I also just want to reiterate that this webpage is not an endorsement for or against this treatment. It is simply a summary of one study. Thanks once again for sharing your experiences with this treatment option as it adds value to the conversation.

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