Although attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the two conditions are related in several ways. Many symptoms of ASD and ADHD overlap, making correct diagnosis challenging at times. They are linked in various ways, but it is important to understand that ADHD is not ASD.
Having one of the illnesses may increase your risk of getting the other. Both ASD and ADHD tend to run in families and are specified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook used by healthcare professionals in the United States for the diagnosis of mental disorders. A comparison of ADHD and ASD is given below.
Definition as per DSM
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):
- A neurodevelopmental disorder that causes social communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. Consistent symptoms must appear before three years of age.
What are the possible signs and symptoms of ASD vs. ADHD?
Possible signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may include when a child:
- Seems disengaged.
- Avoids eye contact and/or physical contact.
- Has difficulty following directions due to speech and language delays.
- Has emotional outbursts or tantrums.
- Has anxiety, frustration, and communication difficulties.
- Has difficulty socializing.
- Shows self-soothing behaviors that are often repeated (rocking, hand flapping, jumping, and spinning).
- Has obsessive interests.
- Is hyperactive.
- Has difficulty understanding nonverbal cues.
- Has difficulty with safety/danger awareness.
Possible signs and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may include when a child:
- Is forgetful and easily distracted.
- Has trouble listening and following directions.
- Shows frustration or lack of impulse control that can lead to emotional tantrums.
- Has inadequate organizational abilities and difficulty completing tasks.
- Has difficulty staying focused.
- Has problems sitting still during quiet activities (school and mealtimes).
- Has difficulty being patient/waiting for turns.
- Is hyperactive.
- Interrupts others and blurts out inappropriate things.
- Has difficulty with nonverbal cues and personal space impulsivity.
- Has difficulty understanding the consequences of actions.
- Plays rough and takes physical risks.
Effect of both conditions on a child’s early life
- Poor social communication skills and rigid behaviors, making it difficult to establish and sustain friendships.
- Friendships are difficult to form and sustain because of impulsive conduct and weak social skills; frequent reprimands for inappropriate behavior can lead to low self-esteem.
What are the possible treatments of ASD vs. ADHD?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be treated in the following ways:
- Medical management
- Applied behavior analysis
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Social skills groups
- Educational programming
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be treated in the following ways:
- Medication management
- Educational programming
- Behavior management
Medical treatment options
- Atypical antipsychotics
- Alpha-2 agonists
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- Antiepileptic mood stabilizers
What are the differences between ASD and ADHD?
As you can see from the above comparisons, some aspects of ASD and ADHD overlap and may appear to be one or the other.
- Both conditions can lead to a lack of social understanding of one's behavior and its effect on others.
- In general, they have symptoms that appear to be similar but can be vastly different in some ways.
Although some people can have both ADHD and ASD, there are some crucial differences that parents and guardians should be aware of to assist specialists with their diagnosis.
- Although both have attention problems, people with ADHD have a difficult time focusing on a single task, so they avoid tasks that demand concentration.
- Meanwhile, a kid with ASD may remain hyper-focused on a topic that fascinates them but has difficulty concentrating or even show signs of discomfort when forced to concentrate on something they don't like.
- Children with ADHD may speak quickly and loudly to have the last or first word in a conversation, whereas children with ASD may have difficulty expressing emotion or thoughts verbally and may avoid eye contact and misinterpret social interactions.
The earlier a child is diagnosed with either disorder, the better the outcome. Both ASD and ADHD are relatively common neurological disorders with complex and poorly understood etiologies. In the case of ADHD, a better understanding of the disorder mechanism may lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment methods. It is especially important to investigate possible environmental causes of ASD.
Although there is still much to learn about the origins of each of these ailments, further study in these areas would benefit many people around the world.
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