In this blog on autism and ADHD, we will be looking at the following:
- How can I tell the difference between autism and ADHD?
- What is ASD?
- What is ADHD?
- Can a child with ADHD also have ASD?
- Can ADHD be mistaken for ASD?
How Can I Tell the Difference Between Autism and ADHD?
|Autism Spectrum Disorder||Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder|
|Neurological and developmental disorder||Neurological and developmental disorder|
|Affects around 1 in 36 children||Most common mental disorders in children and teens|
|Present at birth||May develop later in life|
|Lifelong||Not necessarily lifelong|
|Social communication difficulties||Focus and attention difficulties|
|Restricted/repetitive behaviors or interests||Hyperactivity|
Autism and ADHD are two separate conditions with their own group of symptoms. Both impact cognitive functions and vary in intensity from one person to another. Looking more closely at these two conditions, there are unique attributes that make up each.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurological and developmental disorder present at birth. People with autism often have struggles with social communication and interaction, along with restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. These problems are attributed to the differences in the brain that ASD causes.
For those diagnosed with ASD, symptoms typically include the following:
- Repeatedly saying words or phrases, also known as echolalia
- Lining up toys or objects
- Becoming upset over minor change or disorder
- Obsessive interests
- Avoids or doesn’t make eye contact
- Not responding to own name by nine months
- Not showing facial expressions by nine months
- Frequent isolation and avoiding social interaction
- Follows strict routines
- Stimming (e.g., hand flapping, head nodding, body rocking)
- Sensitivity to smells, lights, sounds, or touch
- Delayed language and movement skills
- Struggles with learning
- Hyperactivity and impulsivity
- Struggles paying attention
- Unusual sleeping habits
- Preferences for specific foods
- Inappropriate emotional reactions
- Mood swings
It’s important to note that children and adults with autism may exhibit all, some, or few of these symptoms. You cannot self-diagnose either yourself or a loved one, and if you suspect autism, you should contact your primary doctor to receive a correct diagnosis.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children, according to the CDC. Unlike ASD, ADHD isn’t necessarily lifelong, and while common, it doesn’t always last into adulthood. It’s often diagnosed in childhood and can be treated through different medications and talk therapy.
Some of the symptoms associated with ADHD and typically used to diagnose include the following:
- Constant fidgeting
- Struggles staying still
- Inability to focus or concentrate on tasks
- Excessive talking and moving
- Lack of patience
- Acting without thinking
- Interrupting conversations
- Impulsive behavior/lack of restraint
- Frequent aggression, irritability, or excitability
- Persistent repetition of words or actions
- Struggles with time management
- Short attention span
- Easily bored
- Mood swings
The qualities of ADHD may come across as a nuisance for both the individual and those around them, but this condition also comes with unique benefits. People with ADHD are often resilient and creative. Likewise, they offer high energy and social skills to complement different tasks.
Can a Child with ADHD Also Have ASD?
Yes, children with ASD are actually very likely to exhibit signs of ADHD. ADHD is the most common coexisting condition in children with ASD.
Some studies suggest around 50 to 70% of individuals with ASD show symptoms of ADHD. Similarly, approximately 1 in 8 children with ADHD also have an ASD diagnosis.
Can ADHD be Mistaken for Autism?
ADHD and ASD can be mistaken for each other, especially during early childhood. These conditions share similar traits, such as issues with concentration and impulsivity.
A 2018 study found that 12.1% of children received an ADHD diagnosis before being subsequently diagnosed with ASD.
Understanding each of these and how they can interact with one another provides a better understanding of the two conditions.