childA new grant has been awarded to conduct a national study of the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC received $3 million from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct the study.

ADHD symptoms are common in children with autism, but children with autism often do not respond well to stimulant medications, the conventional treatment for ADHD,” said Benjamin Handen, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

In this 10-week clinical trial, which will start enrolling patients in September, Pitt researchers and colleagues from the University of Rochester and Ohio State University will recruit 144 children ranging in ages from 5 to13 who have autism with ADHD symptoms.

The researchers will assess the safety and effectiveness of two treatments: atomoxetine (also know as Strattera), a nonstimulant medication for treating ADHD, and parent management training in which parents learn how to use behavioral interventions as another form of conventional ADHD treatment.

At the close of the trial, the researchers will continue to follow for six months all participants who respond favorably to treatment to examine the safety, effectiveness and tolerability of long-term treatment.

“Existing research on medication and behavioral treatments for children with autism is sparse,” noted Dr. Handen.

“The findings from this study will provide guidance for doctors and parents on the best treatment options for many children with autism who also have symptoms of ADHD.”

Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center