Medication and Behavioral Interventions – A Team Approach

Explore the nuanced synergy of medication and behavioral interventions in this insightful post, advocating for a collaborative team approach that harmonizes medical expertise with behavioral strategies to provide comprehensive and effective support.

There are many aspects of being a parent, some of which include watching your child learn and grow, engaging with them in games and pretend play, and experiencing them develop friendships and engage in social interactions.  Along with these, there may also be challenges.  When behavioral challenges occur with your child, one of the first places most parents go is their pediatrician.  Pediatricians are knowledgeable about child development and can assist with identifying if there are developmental delays or if behavioral challenges are beyond typical development.  Pediatricians can be a great resource for help when behavioral challenges, sleep issues, or other developmental concerns arise.  Parents may access multiple resources, including recommendations for behavioral interventions, occupational, speech, and physical therapy, and medication recommendations.  

There are many reasons a pediatrician may recommend medication.  These may include regulating your child’s mood, managing sleep disorders, or reducing hyperactivity. Medication may also be used to manage seizures or other diagnoses.  There are many medications that are appropriate for younger individuals and these could be a good starting point to work to manage your child’s disruptive behavior. If you have concerns or questions about services, ask your pediatrician what the possible side effects are, what the plan is for titration of the medication, if possible, and what the plan is for the future. 

A pediatrician may also recommend behavioral interventions, along with medications, for things such as behavioral challenges, sleeping issues, or developmental delays. Generally speaking, it’s usually best if medication management is coupled with behavioral interventions.  Medical interventions may be useful for initially reducing challenging behavior or hyperactivity, but it’s important to keep in mind that these interventions don’t teach any new skills. Behavioral interventions can be added to medical interventions to help teach skills as a replacement to challenging behaviors.  Since medication has been added to help reduce challenging behaviors, behavioral interventions through the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) may be effective in teaching skills and may help to discontinue medication use.

If you’re working with a BCBA, you should inform them of who your pediatrician is and what medications your child is on, along with the frequency and dosage.  Then make sure to inform them of any changes so they can track these alongside behavioral changes.  BCBAs can also coordinate care with a pediatrician or other doctor that your child sees to keep everyone on the same page and plan medication changes together, alongside changes with the behavior intervention plan.  The family can also participate in these coordination of care meetings so their thoughts and feelings can be taken into account as well.  

Families may have reservations about using medication at all for their child and if that’s the case, behavioral interventions can be provided as a standalone service.  Families may hesitate on medical recommendations because some medicines haven’t been extensively researched for individuals of various ages or may carry potential side effects that families do not feel comfortable exploring.  A BCBA can help families work through challenging behaviors, without medical interventions, and can review progress and updates with the family.  

Overall, there may be many reasons that you may decide to use medication, ABA therapy, or a combination of both to manage your child’s behavior.  You know your child best, if you think they will benefit from medications or if you decide to forgo medications for a time period, or forever, you are the only one that can make that decision.  You know what is right for you and for your family.  You may have reservations about doing any one of these interventions, but with open communication and expressing your concerns, these can be successfully implemented to help manage challenging behaviors and teach new skills.


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