ADHD and autism are two different medical conditions. ADHD is defined as not being able to focus, being overactive and not being able to control behavior. Autism is a developmental disorder, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communication and forming relationships with other people. But if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and the condition doesn’t seem to explain all of the behavioral issues, he or she may also be on the autism spectrum. A diagnosis from a child psychiatrist will help clarify.
ADHD and autism do have some similarities. Children with autism do not intuitively understand some aspects of the social world. ADHD children may also struggle with social norms, but that is because of their inability to stay focused and listen to others. Autistic children tend to lack the language skills or empathy required to build relationships with other children. Still, both conditions can result in the children being outcasts.
Roughly two thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD also have at least one co-existing condition, and Autism Spectrum Disorders are among the conditions that most commonly occur with ADHD. There have been some studies that suggest that up to half of the children who have autism also have ADHD. Because of the similarities—or because one of the conditions may not be severe—it can be difficult to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
In order to obtain an accurate diagnosis, work with a professional who is familiar with both conditions, especially autism and Asperger’s treatment. Various tests will be performed to measure and document ADHD symptoms, social skills, communication delays, anxiety and other indications. A thorough evaluation will also be performed. Evaluating both conditions will require getting to know your child so the psychiatrist can get a clear sense of his or her social and conversational abilities and daily living skills.
Autism is typically diagnosed very early in a child’s life. The most common symptoms include:
- Problems developing communication skills. Lack of eye contact, facial expressions and body posture.
- A delay in learning to talk.
- Problems taking steps to start a conversation.
- Failure to establish friendships with other children.
- Lack of interest or sharing enjoyment with others.
- Stereotyped behaviors such as body rocking.
- Possible sensitivity to light our sound.
ADHD may be diagnosed later in life. The most common symptoms are:
- Difficulty paying attention at school.
- Careless mistakes being made.
- Failure to complete tasks such as homework or chores.
- Not listening to others, a lack of social skills.
- Talking excessively, even while others are talking.
If your child is diagnosed with both ADHD and autism, they will be treated separately. Since the world is a classroom for people with autism—they have to observe and practice what they’ve learned—medication to treat the ADHD is usually a practical solution. This helps remove the additional obstacle of ADHD and helps them focus on controlling their autistic behaviors. Even though your child will face the world with two lifelong conditions, a high quality of life can be achieved with proper treatment.