Approximately 66 percent of children with ADHD have at least one co-existing condition that may or may not be diagnosed yet. This is common when a child has both ADHD and autism. If your child has received one diagnosis but it doesn’t seem to explain all symptoms, it’s possible that another condition exists. Awareness of the situation and having your child evaluated by a doctor specializing in behavioral and developmental disorders are both key to helping him or her get off to the best start possible in life.
Understanding the Difference Between ADHD and Autism
The primary characteristics of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. Children with ADHD struggle with executive function and self-regulation. Executive function refers to the ability to control, manage and regulate when it comes to decision-making, flexibility, inhibition, verbal reasoning and several other crucial tasks.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that affected children can have a mild to severe case. The primary characteristics are difficulty with communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors. Children with autism struggle with social interactions and often lack the ability for imaginative play.
ADHD and Autism Can Look Alike
Children with either or both of these conditions can share similar traits, including:
Difficulty focusing at school or at home
Problems with communication
Challenging to form close relationships
Inability to keep up with schoolwork
However, these are still distinct conditions. Autism and related spectrum disorders are developmental disorders that affect behavior, language, social interactions and the ability to learn. ADHD affects the way the brain grows and develops. Some children can have both disorders.
Ways to Distinguish ADHD and Autism
The way a child pays attention to things in his or her environment is a strong indicator of which disorder is present. Children with autism have difficulty focusing on things that don’t interest them such as schoolwork. However, they can have intense focus with a few special interests such as trains or dinosaurs. They can engage in their special interests for hours and seem to get lost in their own minds as they do so. Kids with ADHD, on the other hand, will quickly lose interest and dislike anything that requires excessive concentration.
When it comes to communication, children with both disorders will struggle. However, those with autism tend to be more inwardly focused. They may not make eye contact or have difficulty pointing to or naming objects. A child with ADHD may talk non-stop about anything while a child with autism may only talk at length about his or her special interests.
Getting a Diagnosis
If you suspect that your child has either of these conditions, speak to your doctor about getting a referral for testing. PrimeCare Urgent Care may be able to give you a referral as well. If you have questions about seeking urgent care for an illness or injury, just complete this form and we will get back to you shortly.