ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Let’s talk about ADHD, Autism, and Asperger’s. Many children with mild autism, or Asperger’s syndrome, are misdiagnosed with ADHD.   There’s much overlap, so it’s pervasive to see a child and have one doctor diagnose them with ADHD and another with Aspergers. It’s not just doctors who are confused, but parents as well.

You might suspect autism because your child lacks social skills, but then you realize your child tends to get distracted, and you’re convinced it’s ADHD.  Doctors across the board seem to prefer to diagnose ADHD rather than autism because there is no medication to treat or prescribe for autism, but there is for ADHD. Likewise, parents choose the label ADHD because they want to avoid the hopelessness that comes with a diagnosis of autism.

Because of this misunderstanding between doctors and parents, many children with mild autism and Asperger’s syndrome settle for a diagnosis of ADHD and miss out on early intervention treatments tailored to their autism. But it’s important to keep in mind.  If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD or suspect is lacking in social skills, you should very strongly suspect autism (including Asperger’s syndrome) because these are not entirely different disorders, but they are on a spectrum. 

And by spectrum disorders, I mean that they exist on a continuum, like a rainbow, with very fuzzy red, white, and blue lines that are hard to cut off where one ends and the other begins. So it seems very clear that autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD exist on a spectrum, literally on a continuum. They are all classified as neurodevelopmental disorders. So when I describe them, I use the example of papers. 

If this is ADHD, this white paper is called Asperger’s, and this black paper is called Autism Spectrum Disorder.  If you treat a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and take this away, you see the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. If you treat Asperger’s and eliminate it, you’ll have many kids with ADHD later. You must understand that it’s on a continuum, sometimes overlapping. What if this is ADHD? It’s widespread for Asperger’s to overlap and for the two to coexist.

And in some children, severe autistic behaviors overlap like this, so it’s easy to understand that they exist on a continuum, so if you treat a child for autism, you’ll see an Asperger’s pattern. If you treat Asperger’s, it can evolve into ADHD.

And if you look at it backward, many kids have ADHD but also have Asperger’s or autistic tendencies that co-exist. So we mustn’t settle for the label of ADHD just because a child tends to be ADHD.

Are you worried about your child’s lack of socialization?  You must look into the possibility of autism very strongly. We can stabilize the child’s development when we intervene and treat early.