The aim of using a stimulant medication, such as methylphenidate, on individuals on the autism spectrum is to reduce behaviours such as hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.
According to NICE (2000)
“Methylphenidate is a CNS stimulant. It is licensed as part of a comprehensive treatment programme for ADHD, under specialist supervision, where remedial measures alone prove insufficient.”
Methylphenidate is believed to work by increasing the amount of dopamine, a natural chemical, found in the brain. Increasing the amount of dopamine is believed to improve self-control, attention and concentration.
Methylphenidate is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although it is also sometimes used to treat narcolepsy.
Some people believe that methylphenidate can be used with some individuals on the autism spectrum to reduce problem behaviours, such as hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.
There have been a number of claims for the benefits of methylphenidate in individuals on the autism spectrum. For example,
Reichow, Volkmar and Bloch (2013) carried out a systematic review of the use of medications to treat ADHD in children on the autism spectrum and reported that “methylphenidate was effective in treating hyperactivity in children with PDDs”. They also reported that “methylphenidate was shown to have moderate, albeit not statistically significant, effects in treating irritability and stereotypies in children with PDDs”.