The Autism Blog

Medication Tips and Autism

September 21, 2011

The tips in this post can be applied universally, whether or not your child is affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, low sensory thresholds in kids on the spectrum can certainly affect your child’s willingness to take medications. Plus, some of these things really do taste bad, so it’s good to have some tricks in mind. 

As always, we offer the following as suggestion, not as medical advice. Ask your pharmacist or prescriber before varying the way your child takes medicine to ensure safety. 

Tips to Help Your Child Take Medications

Talk to the Professionals

Pharmacists are a wealth of information about which medications are available in different forms from brand to brand, whether a particular medicine is available in liquid form (which may be easier to consume), and they often have great ideas for getting your child to take medicine.

Pills, Pills, Pills

For many kids, swallowing a pill is difficult. Ask your prescriber if a pill can be chewed, crushed, or sprinkled or if it is available in another form. If a pill is the only option, encourage your child to swallow quickly, hold their nose pinched closed, or place the pill underneath their tongue– anything that will get it down in a hurry. You can try placing the pill in his or her mouth and have your kiddo fill their mouth with water until their cheeks are full… then challenge him to swallow the water in a few sips as possible. As always, praise good tries and reward success.

Mary Poppings Was Right

“Just a spoonful of…” cherry syrup or white grape juice are frequently recommended to help mask bad tastes and my mother (a pediatrician) was always a fan of applesauce, yogurt, and Jello. Be careful with thicker foods like peanut butter that encourage chewing (crushing a pill or capsule may be dangerous – ask first).

Bypass the Back of the Tongue

If you have a liquid medication, squirt it into your child’s cheek pouch to avoid those dreadful bitter taste buds. They sit on the back of the tongue, so getting that medicine between the back molars and cheek can help bypass that sensation.


Every pediatrician has stickers in their office and for some kids they work. This is a good time to hone into your child’s motivators and offer a sticker after he or she finishes taking it. This is a worthwhile time to offer any reward that your child enjoys– taking pills can be intimidating!

… Keep in mind that none of these strategies may work if we’re talking about a power struggle between you and your child over medications. That’s a bigger issue than them just not liking tastes or pills.


Check the label every time for your child’s name, correct medicine, dose, route (by mouth, in the ear, on the skin, with or without food, etc.), timing of administration, and expiration date.

Maintain a list (have it on your computer and print a copy for each appointment) of all your child’s medicines:  name of medicines, dose, frequency, route, and the name of the prescribing provider. Make sure you include over the counter (OTC) medications and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs. You can even keep extra copies in your car, purse, or wallet for emergencies.

Store medicines as indicated, only in their original container and keep them out of your child’s reach.

Always have at least a 3-day supply of all of your child’s medicines– longer if possible. Be proactive in getting the refill process started early so you’re not left calling in to leave messages on Friday afternoons when the meds you have won’t last through the weekend… we don’t want you under that stress.

Never persuade a child to take a medicine by telling him or her that it’s candy. While that may accomplish your short term goal, it can increase the risk of accidental overdose if your child is able to get his or her hands on it, or other medications, when you’re not looking.

Finally, I have to recommend Mr. Yuk stickers (they’re useful for more than just chemicals). While I’m sensitive to the fact that some children on the spectrum will miss the message in his iconic face, I grew up with those things around the house and if my curiosity found me face to face with a Mr. Yuk sticker, I knew that it wasn’t for me. And you can still request a free sheet of authentic Mr. Yuk stickers– who doesn’t love freebies!