The ADHD and Autism Overlap

April 25, 2023 | Uncategorized

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have overlapping symptoms that can make the two conditions difficult to distinguish. Although both ADHD and ASD have unique traits, they are part of a continuum of different diagnoses. It’s not uncommon for individuals to have characteristics associated with both disorders. Knowing how these two conditions intersect can lead to better support, better outcomes, and improved quality of life for those affected by them.

ADHD and Autism Similarities

Both ADHD and autism have similar issues with impulsivity, hyperactivity, distractibility, and difficulty focusing on tasks. There may also be some overlap in language and social skills deficits, and these deficits can contribute to the issues with focus. It can often be difficult to distinguish between the two disorders because there is often an overlap of symptoms.

Difference Between ADHD and Autism

Although ADHD and autism have a few similarities, there are also some clear differences between the two disorders. For example, people with autism may experience repetitive behaviors or restricted interests that are not present in individuals with ADHD. Additionally, those with ADHD may be able to interact socially more effectively than those with ASD.

Is ADHD Part of the Autism Spectrum?

The answer to this question is complicated. While ADHD can present with some of the same characteristics as autism, it is not technically considered part of the autism spectrum. However, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects brain and nervous system development just like autism.

Autism vs ADHD Diagnosis

When making an autism versus ADHD diagnosis, it’s important to consider all aspects of the individual’s behavior, motor function, social skills, and development. Both conditions share some common traits, but there are also a number of differences that help differentiate between the two diagnoses. This is why it’s important to find a professional autism evaluator who can distinguish between the nuances of the two disorders, and facilitate comprehensive assessments.

Autism Misdiagnosed as ADHD

It’s not uncommon for autism to be misdiagnosed as ADHD. It has been found that 30-40% of children are misdiagnosed with ADHD and are later found to have autism. This can happen when an individual presents with traits of both disorders, and the clinician only considers the symptoms associated with ADHD in making a diagnosis. A comprehensive evaluation should also consider other possible conditions, such as autism or developmental delays.

ADHD Misdiagnosed as Autism

ADHD and autism can present with overlapping symptoms, such as difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and social interactions. As a result, ADHD can sometimes be misdiagnosed as autism. According to some studies, the misdiagnosis rate of ADHD as autism ranges from 10-20%. Children with ADHD may be misdiagnosed with autism due to the presence of symptoms such as difficulty with social interaction and communication.

Can You Have ADHD and Autism?

Yes, it is possible to have both ADHD and Autism. In some cases, an individual may be diagnosed with both conditions. Other times, an individual may exhibit certain traits of each disorder without meeting the full criteria for both diagnoses. Therefore, it’s important for clinicians to evaluate all potential symptoms in order to make an accurate diagnosis and provide appropriate care.

Autism and ADHD Comorbidity in Children

Many children who have been diagnosed with ADHD are also found to have autism, though comorbidity between the two conditions is more common in younger children. It’s been found that 30-50% of children with autism have co-occurring ADHD, and that up to 25% of children with ADHD have co-occurring autism.

Autism and ADHD Treatment

The best treatment approach for both autism and ADHD is a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and other interventions tailored to the individual’s needs. Stimulant medication can be used to help manage symptoms of ADHD alongside other treatment methods. For autism, behavior therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be used to help with skill development and behavior management.

Other interventions may include occupational therapy, speech therapy, and social skills training. Additionally, parents and caregivers of children with either condition may want to consider educational accommodations such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

ABA Therapy for Autism and ADHD

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of behavior therapy used to help individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. It can also be effective for helping those with comorbid autism and ADHD, as it focuses on teaching skills through positive reinforcement and shaping behaviors.

Empower Behavioral Health provides full-time and focused ABA therapy services for individuals of all ages throughout Texas. We create individualized treatment plans to ensure we’re meeting the unique needs of your child. Contact us today to get started and help your child reach their maximum.