NHS bosses in south Essex are supporting a national campaign to limit the amount of psychotropic drugs being given to children with autism or learning difficulties.

Southend and Rochford and Castle Point Clinical Commissioning Groups are joining the “Stopping Over Medication of People with a Learning Disability, Autism or Both” (STOMP) campaign.

Psychotropic medicines affect how the brain works and include medicines for psychosis, depression, anxiety, sleep problems and epilepsy.

Sometimes they are also given to people because their behaviour is seen as challenging.

These medicines are effective for some people.

They can help people stay safe and well but the campaign seeks to highlight other ways of helping people so they need less medicine or none at all.

Mark Austin’s 14-year-old son Connor has thrived in mainstream Cornelius Vermuyden school without medication thanks to his supportive family.

Mr Austin, of Mayland Avenue, Canvey, said: “We made sure Connor had all the support he needed at school.

“It is a controversial view but I do wonder sometimes if some parents accept it as the easier option rather than put in the work.

“Our son is the perfect example of what can be achieved.

“Children with autism are just as capable as anyone, they just need extra support.

“We’ve always been in it for the long haul and do what we can to help Connor achieve his goals.”

Connor, who is in the top set for all his classes, has a music area where he can play drums and vent any pent up frustrations and uses coloured lights in his room to let his parents know if he wants to talk.

Mr Austin added: “It’s easy to take a bedroom and turn it into a sensory room.

“If Connor doesn’t feel like talking he will turn the lights orange and if he does they will be green. Such non-verbal communication is so much easier.”

For some children drugs can be helpful with the campaign aiming to stop it being an automatic choice and used when necessary.

One father, who asked not to be named, has two children with autism, one also with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

He said: “One of our sons was prescribed MediConnect, which is similar to Ritalin, for ADHD. It definitely helps him to focus at school and control his behaviour.

“When we skip a day, the change is noticeable.

“He acts on his thoughts without considering the consequences.

“Although the drug is a stimulant, for a child with ADHD, it helps them to focus and learn from lessons.

“Before he started taking it we were told that he would just look vacant in class.

“He is now often described as the best-behaved boy in the school.”

The NHS advises it is not safe to change the dose of prescribed medicines or stop taking them without help from a doctor.