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Is Adhd On The Autism Spectrum

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Autism vs ADHD (The Difference between ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder)

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The Similarities And Differences Between Adhd And Autism

Often times people have a hard time telling whether a child has a little bit of a wandering attention, or whether their childs behavior is an indicator of an underlying condition. However, what should parents discuss with professionals? Often people immediately assume it could be ADHD or perhaps its a sign of autism. Sometimes parents and families have a hard time discerning between the two and people are commonly misguided to believe that the two are both on the spectrum. While ADHD and autism share a lot of similar traits, there are a number of things that are unique to each condition. Parents and guardians need to understand the differences and similarities in order to make the most informed decision about their child. At Lexington, were happy to provide the resources we can to help people make informed decisions and seek the services they need. Here is a breakdown of the differences between autism and ADHD.

So What Does This Mean

Number one: a lot of kids diagnosed with autism are also diagnosed with ADHD, and vice-versa.

Number two: its often hard to tell if a kid has ADHD, autism, or both. I personally show many of the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder: Im not great at the using nonverbal communications, like eye contact, body language, and social expressions. Many times, I suck at the social give-and-take of friendship. I tend towards narrow interests abnormal in intensity and focus I show stereotyped repetitive motor mannerisms. As a child, I exhibited more signs of ASD.

Number three: its important to have kids who are diagnosed with one disorder evaluated for the other.

I know several people with severe ADHD whove been told theyre close to ASD. I also know many people with ASD who also exhibit symptoms of ADHD. So its important for parents to be aware of the disorders comorbidity and act accordingly. Are they the same disorder? The jury is still out, but there is definite overlap in behavior, brain chemistry, and genetics.

Whatever you believe, its important to be aware that the two disorders often occur together. Make sure your kids doctor can parse out their differences. And perhaps make sure your own doctor can parse out the differences between ADHD and autism as well.

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Adhd In Children With Asd

A significant percentage of children with ASD seeking services at clinical centers present with comorbid symptoms of ADHD, with rates ranging between 37% and 85% across studies conducted in the United States and Europe . ADHD was the third most common disorder identified in a community sample of 517years old children , with 31% of the sample meeting full ADHD criteria and another 24% with subsyndromal ADHD symptoms. This is lower than reported rates of ASD and ADHD in clinic samples . Very few studies have looked at the epidemiology of co-existing disorders in pre-school age children diagnosed with ASD. Two year-old twins from the Boston University Twin project were studied by Ronald et al. for autistic-like traits and ADHD behaviors using Child Behavior Checklist answered by their parents. Controlling for cognitive abilities and socioeconomic status, autistic like traits correlated positively with ADHD behaviors , a lower correlation than described for older children. In a recent survey by Carlsson et al. , 198 pre-school Swedish children with ASD who treated in a habilitation center, were assessed for such disorders. They found language problems in 78%, intellectual disability in 49%, below average motor function in 37%, and severe hyperactivity in 33%.

Adhd And Autism Spectrum Disorder

Free ADHD Infographic Resources Download for Children

Can a person be diagnosed with ADHD and ASD?

More than half of all individuals who have been diagnosed with ASD also have signs of ADHD. In fact, ADHD is the most common coexisting condition in children with ASD. On the flip side, up to a quarter of children with ADHD have low-level signs of ASD, which might include having difficulty with social skills or being very sensitive to clothing textures, for example.

Why do ADHD and ASD coexist so often and what are the similarities between them?

Both ADHD and ASD are neurodevelopmental disorders . That means both conditions/disorders affect the central nervous system, which is responsible for movement, language, memory, and social and focusing skills.

A number of scientific studies have shown that the two conditions often coexist, but researchers have not yet figured out why they do.

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What Is The Definition Of Autism

The American Psychiatric Association defines autism as a complex developmental condition involving persistent challenges with social communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behavior.

Because the levels of these challenges vary between individuals with autism, the term autism spectrum disorder is widely used to indicate that symptoms can range widely, while still sharing some fundamental likeness.

Symptoms may become visible when a child is 2 or 3 years old, but the full degree of impairment related to autism may not be apparent until the child starts school.

The main characteristics are:

  • Difficulty recognizing their own and others passions
  • Unwillingness to maintain eye contact
  • Poor skill in the use of non-verbal


  • Trouble making or keeping friends

The most repeated characteristic behaviors may include:

  • Inflexibility of behavior
  • Difficulty coping with change
  • Centering on single subjects to the exclusion of others, and demanding that others will be equally interested
  • Trouble in allowing changed routine or new experiences
  • Sensory hypersensitivities, such as aversion to flashing lights or loud noises
  • Repetitive movements of the hands and rocking backwards and forwards
  • Arranging objects such as toys in a very particular manner

Those with either ADHD or ASD can have difficulty focusing and communicating.

Conclusion: Implications For Future Research

In light of the new DSM-5 criteria, which allow a dual diagnosis of ASD and ADHD behaviors, further investigation into clinical overlap of these two conditions will possibly enhance our understanding of the etiology/genetics factors and common metabolic pathways of these disorders, and of the appropriate sequence of therapeutic interventions and pharmacological treatment for their co-occurrence, particularly in early preschoolers. It remains to be seen whether early intervention could change the course of ASD in statu nascendi, interpreted as a continuum with other NDDs such as ADHD or SCD of less than severe character.

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Is My Child With Adhd On The Autism Spectrum

A child with autism can have ADHD or not a diagnosis of ADHD is separate from an autism diagnosis and having ADHD does not necessarily mean that your child is autistic or vice versa. ADHD and autism can co-occur but, like any other condition, each needs to be evaluated separately to provide an accurate diagnosis.

As always, it is important to visit your childs medical practitioner and schedule an evaluation to determine whether your child has one or both conditions. This is especially important given that the two conditions have overlapping symptoms that may be perceived as one or the other, or both.

Are Adhd And Aspergers Related

Is it ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder or both?

Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD are two separate conditions that involve brain development. They both develop early in a persons life and will cause similar behavioral traits. As of 2013, however, the medical community stopped diagnosing Aspergers Syndrome as a separate condition, but rather, it is now placed under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder . Individuals who are diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome are considered to have mild forms of autism, which are considered high-functioning autism.

An article released by the Asperger/Autism Network shows that nearly 60 to 70 percent of those with Aspergers Syndrome exhibit characteristics similar to ADHD. Although there are some similarities, ASD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are different conditions with different causes.

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Are Autism And Adhd Symptoms Of The Same Underlying Condition

Studies have revealed symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in around two thirds of autistic people. But are autism and ADHD symptoms of the same underlying condition? Academic Dr Simon Bignell has questioned whether autism and ADHD may be one overarching disorder with a range of subtypes.

Kian Hollow was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a seven-year-old and received an autism diagnosis a month before his ninth birthday.

Diagnostic manuals define the conditions as separate disorders though, as in 16-year-old Kians case, they can commonly co-occur.

“But this simply means science is now relying on artificially pure research samples that lack the nuance and inconvenient detail of reality. What can this lead to other than flawed conclusions?”

His mum Alicia McColl says she no longer thinks about her sons challenges in terms of these separate labels but the symptoms they give rise to. The 46-year-old mum from Farnham, in Surrey, said: His difficulties are speech and language and sensory. Those are his primary difficulties and those are the things that cause him all the problems”.

A 2018 study of young autistic children showed almost 63% had ADHD while estimates suggest around 66% of people with ADHD show autistic features.

McColl added: “If the school phone me and say, Today, hes had a really difficult day. He really struggled in class, I know thats usually down to sensory “.

Artificial distinctions

How Are Adhd And Autism Diagnosed

To obtain an accurate, complete diagnosis, Bertin suggests working with a profession- al who is familiar with both conditions. A thorough evaluation aims to define a childs strengths and weaknesses, he says. Various test measures try to document ADHD symptoms, executive function, social and communication delays, anxiety, mood disorders, and a host of other symptoms.

But tests alone are not enough. Evaluating both ADHD and autism remains a clinical skill based on getting to know a child and seeking a comprehensive picture of their life in the real world, a global sense of a childs social and conversational abilities, as well as their play and daily living skills.

Diagnosis can be a fluid, ongoing process. It was for Clark, now 17, according to his mother, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mothers Tale Of Life With Her ADHD And Aspergers Son. Although Hutchins earliest concerns about Clark were about autism-like symptoms, ADHD, not ASD, was Clarks first diagnosis.

We first noticed autism-like symptoms when Clark was two, like running to the left in circles while waggling his left hand, Hutchins says. It was when he started school that we noticed ADHD symptoms. He had a lot of trouble staying on task. Clark received anADHD diagnosis in fourth grade, and Aspergers syndrome about a year and a half later.

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How Are They Different

Keep an eye on how your child pays attention. Those with autism struggle to focus on things that they don’t like, such as reading a book or doing a puzzle. And they may fixate on things that they do like, such as playing with a particular toy. Kids with ADHD often dislike and avoid things they’ll have to concentrate on.

You should also study how your child is learning to communicate. Although kids with either condition may struggle to interact with others, those with autism can have less social awareness of others around them. They often have a hard time putting words to their thoughts and feelings, and they may not be able to point to an object to give meaning to their speech. They find it hard to make eye contact.

A child with ADHD, on the other hand, may talk nonstop. They’re more likely to interrupt when someone else is speaking or butt in and try to monopolize a conversation. Also, consider the subject. Some kids with autism can talk for hours about a topic that they’re interested in.

An autistic child usually loves order and repetition, but one with ADHD may not, even if it helps them. A child with autism might want the same type of food at a favorite restaurant, for instance, or become overly attached to one toy or shirt. They can become upset when routines change. A child with ADHD doesn’t like doing the same thing again or for long times.

Diagnosis In Young Children

The Autistic Spectrum

Diagnosis in young children is often a two-stage process.

Stage 1: General Developmental Screening During Well-Child Checkups

Every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight.

Parents experiences and concerns are very important in the screening process for young children. Sometimes the doctor will ask parents questions about the childs behaviors and combine those answers with information from ASD screening tools, and with his or her observations of the child. Read more about screening instruments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Children who show developmental problems during this screening process will be referred for a second stage of evaluation.

Stage 2: Additional Evaluation

This second evaluation is with a team of doctors and other health professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD.

This team may include:

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How Are Learning Disabilities Treated

We offer a host of treatment options for children with learning disabilities.

The PROMISE at Columbia program is the most comprehensive program in New York City for helping at-risk children to get the support they need to learn and have productive lives. For families already burdened, a one-stop program is the difference between getting lost and getting help.

PROMISE provides services that enable children to reach their full potentialall in one place. We address the emotional and behavioral consequences of learning disabilities and understand these issues can have the most devastating effects on families and school life.

We bring together an innovative team in world-renowned research facilities for our PROMISE program, which is poised to transform the way learning disabilities are treated and understood in the future. Our neurologists work with behavioral psychologists, special education experts, and speech-language pathologists to tailor treatments for children with varying needs. Treatments may include:

  • advocacy to ensure schools provide recommended services
  • behavioral approaches

Therapeutic Interventions For Co

Recent findings associate co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD in children with poorer quality of life and decreased adaptive functioning in comparison with data from children suffering from ASD only. Adolescents diagnosed with both ASD and ADHD appear to need psychiatric medication more frequently than young people with ASD or ADHD alone. Moreover, co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD seems to make individuals less sensitive to current therapies for either condition than patients with only one of the syndromes . Only a few specific studies on a targeted treatment for children, adolescents, and adults with comorbid ADHD and ASD have been performed to date. The improvement of current treatments will require a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD (for review see 1, 81, 82, 175, 182].

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Developmental Period In Preschool Children

In the field of psychiatric disorders there has been a traditional delay in the systematic research dealing with infants and preschoolers in comparison with that studying school-age children, adolescents, and adults. To facilitate research on the preschool and infant ages, the development of clear and specific diagnostic criteria that can be confidently utilized within standardized measurements across a variety of samples is essential. In 20002002, an independent research committee elaborated the first Research Diagnostic Criteria-Preschool Age , with the aim of promoting systematic study of psychiatric disorders in younger children .

The DSM model, with some revision to address the child´s developmental level, appears to provide a valid means of differentiating typical behavior problems in preschool children from atypical disruptive conduct that is impairing. Systematic research is required to standardize the revision of current assessment tools so that they can be adapted for use with preschool children and to develop methods that are more clinically sensitive for determining a child´s development level and for employing observational data in assessment .

Therefore, in young children, it is very important to recognize changes that may occur in the early stages of learning, especially in language acquisition and behavioral symptoms, which could already be identified as prodromal symptoms, followed by a correct differential diagnosis of these entities.

Interventions To Improve Symptoms Of Adhd

Thinking twice about ADHD and autism spectrum disorder

If your child with autism has also received a diagnosis of ADHD , here are some interventions suggested by Dr. Tunna to assist with managing ADHD symptoms.

  • Reduce stress in the environment by building a stable, nurturing routine where the child feels taken care of and understood
  • Remember stress response from expectations and verbal/physical or other forms of pressure work in the opposite way to helping the child
  • A clean, nutritious and easily digestible diet rich in nutrient-dense home prepared meals works wonders to remove the ongoing brain fog and focus. Probiotics and probiotic-rich food can help too
  • Regular massage with lavender essential oils in sesame base can help release anxiety and bring sleep. It can also reduce hyperactivity
  • The emotional and mental stability of the parents is very important for the child to feel secure, understood, heard, and accepted without guilt, shame, and blame

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