Lack of effect of risperidone on core autistic symptoms: data from a longitudinal study

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;24(9):513-8. doi: 10.1089/cap.2014.0055. Epub 2014 Oct 31.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the course of autistic symptoms, using a quantitative measure of core autistic traits, among risperidone-treated children who participated in a 10 year life course longitudinal study.

Methods: Parents completed surveys of intervention history, as well as serial symptom severity measurements using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), on their autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-affected children. Fifty participants (out of a total of 184 with full intervention histories) were reported to have been treated with risperidone during the course of the study. Serial SRS scores during risperidone treatment were available for a majority of children whose parents reported a positive effect from risperidone.

Results: Two thirds of risperidone-treated children (n=33) were reported by parents to have improved by taking the medication, with the principal effects described being that children were calmer, better focused, and less aggressive. SRS scores of children reported to have responded positively to risperidone did not improve over time.

Conclusions: Risperidone's beneficial effect on aggression and other elements of adaptive functioning were not necessarily accompanied by reduction in core ASD symptoms, as serially assessed by the same caregivers who reported improvement in their children. These results reflect the distinction between reduction in core symptom burden and improvement in adaptive functioning. Given the cumulative risks of atypical neuroleptics, the findings underscore the importance of periodic re-evaluation of medication benefit for children with ASD receiving neuroleptic treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Autistic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Risperidone / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Risperidone