ADHD and Autism: Is It One, the Other, or Both?

adhd and autismYou may be familiar with the term ‘autism’ – a word commonly thrown around in relation to childhood developmental disorders. But do you know exactly what autism is, and how you can tell if your child is affected by it? Many people have heard the term yet aren’t aware of exactly what it means. Do you know that there are actually three different types of autism, and that they all fall under a big umbrella category of autistic spectrum disorder? And what about ADHD? How do the symptoms of ADHD and autism relate to one another, can the two be present at the same time, and why are they so commonly misdiagnosed? You’re about to learn the answers to these questions and so many more.

If you want a more in-depth look at autism and the different forms of treatment, Udemy has a course that will remove any remaining mystery behind the disorder.

All About Autism

There are a wide variety of autistic symptoms, and it’s important to understand the different types of autism before attempting to determine the diagnosis. The three main types of autism are Asperger’s syndrome, autistic disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified.

  • Asperger’s Syndrome: Asperger’s is the most common and mildest form of autism. It is commonly referred to as “high functioning autism”, due to the fact that most children with Asperger’s have normal to above average intelligence levels. Those who are affected with this type of autism tend to become obsessed with a single topic or subject, and aim to learn everything they possibly can about that subject. Once they have learned everything they can, they want to share their knowledge with others. Although they do enjoy talking to others about their favorite subject, they end to be uncoordinated and awkward in social situations. While they can speak about their knowledge without problem, they tend to falter in casual conversations. Those suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome also tend to be more physically clumsy than those with other subtypes of autistic spectrum disorder. As children with Asperger’s begin to transition into adulthood, they are at risk for a higher level of anxiety or depression than their peers.
  • Autistic Disorder: Autistic disorder is classified by more severe symptoms than Asperger’s Syndrome. Children with autistic disorder tend to experience extreme difficulty interacting with others no matter what the subject of conversation. They do not understand how to relate to or interact with others, and tend to follow a very rigid routine. If anything in their routine gets thrown out of whack, they become very upset. Those with autistic disorder are extremely repetitive, such as having to eat the same food at the same time every day or ensuring that they are in bed at the exact same time every night. Those with autistic disorder are also more likely to suffer from mental retardation and seizures. They tend to be overly sensitive to loud noises, bright lights and intense smells.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified: PDD-NOS is more severe than Asperger’s, yet less severe than autistic disorder. Most children who are diagnosed with this subtype experience symptoms of both other subtypes, yet not enough on either side of the spectrum to be diagnosed with one particular disorder.

What About ADHD?

adhd and autismAttention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has two distinct subtypes – inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive.

  • Inattentive ADHD: Inattentive ADHD is characterized with the inability to focus on any one particular thing. Children with this subtype may drift off while a teacher is giving instructions for a particular task, leading to careless mistakes and the inability to finish the task at all. They tend to be very disorganized and forgetful, misplacing important items over and over again.
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD: Those with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD tend to be the fidgety ones. Instead of sitting in a seat drifting in and out of paying attention to instructions, they are the children up running around the classroom causing a ruckus. They find it very difficult to wait their turn and often get frustrated if they have to remain seated or quiet for extended periods of time.

You may be thinking, “yes, my child does have some of these symptoms!” It’s important to note that most developing children tend to show disinterest in subjects that they aren’t particularly fond of, and most are excited to get up and explore the world. In order to be diagnosed with a type of ADHD, the child must exhibit these symptoms throughout many different scenarios, both at school and at home.

How Are the Two Linked?

It is estimated that approximately 2/3 of children affected with ADHD also have some sort of other underlying condition, whether it be anxiety, autism or bipolar. However, there are some symptoms of both ADHD and autism that tend to overlap, making an accurate diagnosis difficult to come to.

Children who are affected by ADHD may be so restless that they don’t have time to sit down and interact with their peers. While they may not show much interest in holding conversations, they understand how to hold a conversation. This is a key difference between ADHD and autism; those with an autistic spectrum disorder avoid conversations due to their inability to hold a conversation and relate to others.

It can be hard to tell the symptoms apart, especially since symptoms of ADD or ADHD can appear in many different mental and developmental disorders. Accurate diagnosis requires long-term evaluation by a certified professional, who can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the child in all aspects of their life – from school, to home to general social interactions. The child may be put into behavioral therapy, which helps ease them on in the developmental process and understand the different types of social interactions they experience on a daily basis. Behavioral therapy also helps to reinforce positive behaviors and get rid of negative ones.

While children diagnosed with ADHD are commonly given a stimulant to help even out the chemicals in the brain and help the mind stay focused, those with an autistic spectrum disorder may not respond well to these types of medication. If a child is suspected to have one or the other, often a doctor will prescribe a type of medicine known as an atypical neuralptic, which is known to lessen the severity of autistic symptoms.

While those with autism may show signs of ADHD and those with ADHD may show signs of autism, usually one or the other is causing most of the problems. While determining which disorder is causing the most distress may take a bit of trial and error, a combination of prescription medicine and other therapy can help relieve the child of many negative symptoms.

Are Too Many People Diagnosed?

adhd and autismThis is a difficult question to answer. How many people do you know what have been prescribed medication for ADD or ADHD (does the word ‘Adderall’ ring a bell)? It can be far too simple to tell a doctor that yes, you have above average difficulty in focusing and yes, a stimulant will help you succeed in school. While there are certainly people that suffer from one or both of these disorders, and autism has more direct symptoms, the amount of prescription medications for mental and behavioral disorders has continued to rise. Does this mean that more and more people are developing the disorder, or more and more people are refusing to believe that they can cure some of their symptoms on their own?

While there is no direct answer to this question, you do have the power to regain focus and get rid of any fears you have about social interactions. If you have found yourself unable to concentrate on the task in front of you, yet you do not have any of the other symptoms of either of these disorders, Udemy has a course that can help. Sign up for our course on quick mediation and learn how you can bring peace and clarity back into your life!