December 13th, 2010
08:42 AM ET

How do I give an autistic child vitamins?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Monica:

How can I give an autistic child vitamins if they do not want to swallow whole vitamins and are age 8?

Expert answer:

Thank you for your question. Many children (and some adults) have trouble swallowing pills, especially if they are large or uncoated. If your child won't swallow pill vitamins, you may be able to use a liquid or chewable form or a powdered version that you mix with water or other fluids. Ask your doctor or registered dietitian which vitamins are most important for your child, because single-vitamin supplements can sometimes taste better than multivitamins.

Some vitamin pills can be crushed and swallowed or mixed with food, although they may taste bitter because they are designed to be swallowed whole and not tasted. Certain medicines should not be crushed before taking, however. If crushed, the medicine may not work correctly and may even cause harm (such as irritate the stomach lining or be released too quickly into the bloodstream) so be sure to consult your pharmacist before giving your child any crushed medication.

Finally, there are some pill-swallowing aids on the market that may help with your situation. These include specially shaped cups as well as gels or sprays that make the pills slippery and easier to swallow. If your pharmacist says it is OK to mix the pills with food, you can also hide them in yogurt or applesauce and see if your child will slurp them down.

Good luck!

Filed under: Autism • Children's Health

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Senge

    Why not give them the gummy bear vitamins? My child is AS, and he takes those with no trouble. And why weren't they mentioned in the article? Sloppy research ppl!

    December 13, 2010 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Buck

      One word: gummi

      December 13, 2010 at 09:36 | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      I think he was trying to mention it when he referred to chewable vitamins, but most people think of the chalk version when they hear chewable. To Buck, gummy is an acceptable alternate spelling

      December 13, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • talon10

      Exactly. That's all he needed to say, gummi vitamins. End of story, problem solved.

      December 13, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      We have great products to help with symptoms that autistic children face, it is drinkable

      December 13, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      Gummy vitamins don't have iron, the main reason I want my autistic son to take vitamins.

      December 13, 2010 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • ieat

      my son won't eat gummy vitamins and not to mention they have no iron.

      December 13, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
  2. Adelina

    My son has autism and the naturopath we were seeing wanted him on these giant supplement pills - I would have a difficult time with them. They could be crushed, but the taste was horrible. He really needed them, so I took the pills to a "specialty" pharmacist to have them broken down and put in tiny gel caps. It was going to cost about $100 for each bottle. The pharmacist talked us out of doing that and instead gave a little lesson on swallowing pills. You're not supposed to tilt your head back, you're supposed to bend it forward. It' so easy. Put the pill at the back of your tongue. Add a little water - don't swallow yet. Then tuck your chin in and swallow - doing so pushes the pill back and down your throat. I can take giant vitamins that way, no problem. And my son, who was 8 when he learned this trick, thought it was fun and easy, Good luck!

    December 13, 2010 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave Onken

      I deal in vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements in isotonic form which means they are a powder that is mixed with water and the children can drink it. One of our products, OPC-3, is an anitoxidant that has had good results with helping autistic children. You can get more information at http://www.getpaidtoshopatdaves.com. You get cash back on any products you purchase.

      December 13, 2010 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  3. tierra moore


    December 13, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nitzi

    My grand daughter, was at my house and needed to take medication,( Hugh Pill). I got out some cool whip, stuck the pill in it, and it went down nicely, and I even got a smile. The next time it was easy for her to take her pill.

    December 13, 2010 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dr. Jennifer Shu

    Yes, definitely gummi vitamins are a good idea (I included them under "chewable" but I'm glad others have specified them in particular). Other tips from parents are much welcomed!

    December 13, 2010 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jun

      Beth Grant Posted on Hey, I think this is really cool. I love the posts you make on eerfdfint things you blame Lupus for. It is a funny side of blaming stray things on Lupus. Thanks for sharing.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
  6. David

    Our daughter is on the Autism Spectrum and her doctor has her on several vitamins/supplements. The multi-vitamin is a powder and a couple of the supplements are powder in a capsule that can be pulled apart. Then we mix it with pudding and she takes it fine.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JR

    Whether a child is autistic or not, few 8 year olds are good pill swallowers or cooperative if they're not. I give my nine year old both gummi vits and gummi omega 3s every am.

    Just one note, because they are gummis and look like candy, make sure those containers are either put up far away from young hands and have childproof lids. My nine year old might understand that they're not candy, but a special needs child may not.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. razzlea

    Check out my health and fitness blog http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    December 13, 2010 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CRS

    My son is AS and takes a multivitamin every day. We use a liquid vitamin from Kirkman labs.

    December 13, 2010 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Glenn

    Rhino Beanie Vites jellybean vitamins are tasty too. They can be hard to find though.

    December 13, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Masa D. Luffy

    "How do I give an autistic child vitamins?" Sounds like a punchline.

    Does anyone else see the irony that the article pertaining to kids and their choice in cereal receives more attention and ellicits more responses than how to trick your socially disabled kid to eat flintstones vitamins?

    December 13, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Wendy

    My son has ultra-sensitive mouth and palate. The boy can taste the difference in ANY food, no matter how small the amount of the "new" thing is. He also only eats four things, therefore greatly reducing the chances of eating anything healthy. I used to be able to crush vitamins into his food, but he won't go for it now. Giving him meds is impossible. Heaven help me the next time he needs antibiotics; he will need shots.

    December 13, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ieat

      this is too weird. My name is Wendy too and my son also is ultra sensitive, can taste any difference in food AND eats only about 4 things!!!!

      I tried many brands of vitamin before finding one that he will eat. The only vitamin he eats (with iron) is bangel bites. I also give him a smoothie each day with daily boost. My husband usually gets it from jamba juice or robeks, but I have the vitamin powder that I add to smoothies when I make it myself. And my kid won't take any medicine either, so he's uses suppositories when he's got fevers. We're fortunate that he only needed antibiotics once so far (he's four). It helps to add the antibiotics to juice or something sweet that can mask the taste when he needed it. I don't like the sugar content in juice but it's better than no medicine when he really needed it.

      December 13, 2010 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
  13. Dave Onken

    I deal in a product line called Might-a-mins Spectrum which is designed for children. I have vitamins, minerals and supplements in powder form which gets mixed with water and the children can drink it. The products are in isotonic form which means they are absorbed faster and more completely. You can get more information at http://www.getpaidtoshopatdaves.com.

    December 13, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. mkass

    There is an excellent liquid children's multi vite discussed on this site: http://naturalvitalitykids.com. I can tell you from experience that kids LOVE the taste and the product is all natural and organic. Note: this is an informational site and does not sell products on it, though it does have a reseller locator.

    December 13, 2010 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Danny's Dad

    An autistic child may require more pills than just vitamins. I bought empty gelatin caps of various sizes at the pharmacy and filled them with sugar (which he tasted first). We went from small capsule to large capsule in one day. Big high five. Today he can swallow any pill. If I want it done quickly I give him a smaller glass of water and ask him to save me some (he doesn't).

    December 13, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Helper

    I would recommend finding a pharmacy that specializes in compounding. Compounding pharmacists are good at changing the dosage form to something that is more palatable. They can also call the physician to request a dosage form change (i.e. tablet to flavored liquid).

    December 13, 2010 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jennifer Dorman

    My son is autistic. None of these things work for some. I have tried it all. You see autistic kids only eat a few types of foods or drink certain things. Mess with that, they stop eating and drinking. Gags on pills. One day I tried so hard he had a nosebleed from the stress. I am now trying to add a few drops of Stevia to sweeten. Every child is different and after 5 years I haven't found our "method" yet! Tried it all.

    June 29, 2012 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply

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