Systematic review and guide to management of core and psychiatric symptoms in youth with autism [2018]

Evidence‐based guidance of clinical decision‐making for the management of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is lacking, particularly for co‐occurring psychiatric symptoms. This review evaluates treatment evidence for six common symptom targets in children/adolescents with ASD and provides a resource to facilitate application of the evidence to clinical practice.

A systematic search identified randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and high‐quality systematic reviews published between 2007 and 2016, focused on: social interaction/communication impairment, stereotypic/repetitive behaviours, irritability/agitation, attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, mood or anxiety symptoms, and sleep difficulties. We then completed qualitative evaluation of high‐quality systematic reviews/meta‐analyses and quantitative evaluation of recently published RCTs not covered by prior comprehensive systematic reviews.

Recently published RCTs focused on social interaction and communication impairment (trials = 32) using psychosocial interventions. Interventions for irritability/agitation (trials = 16) were mainly pharmacological. Few RCTs focused on other symptom targets (trials = 2–5/target). Integration of these results with our qualitative review indicated that few established treatment modalities exist, and available evidence is limited by small studies with high risk of bias.

Given the current evidence‐base, treatment targets must be clearly defined, and a systematic approach to intervention trials in children/adolescents with ASD must be undertaken with careful consideration of the limitations of safety/efficacy data.

S. H. Ameis C. Kassee P. Corbett‐Dick L. Cole S. Dadhwal M.‐C. Lai J. Veenstra‐VanderWeele C. U. Correll

Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 14 June 2018