Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism can look similar. For example, both are characterized by the inability to properly focus, and the propensity to be impulsive and poor communicators. They may both also have difficulties with schoolwork and relationships with others. Misreading social cues, having meltdowns, constantly moving, and invading the personal space of others: these are also common traits between the two.
But although they share similar symptoms, they are two distinct conditions. Autism spectrum disorders include a series of related developmental disorders affecting language skills, the ability to learn, behavior and social interactions. ADHD impacts how the brain grows and develops. You can even have both conditions at once.
It’s important to realize that the correct diagnosis early on will help children get the treatment they need so they don’t miss important developmental and learning milestones.
The signs of autism range in severity. ADHD also produces a range of symptoms but it isn’t considered a spectrum disorder like autism, points out Understood.
- ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition whereby it is difficult for children to concentrate, curb impulsivity and pay attention.
- Autism includes a range of neurodevelopmental conditions that result in challenges with thinking, communication and social skills, often characterized by repetitive behaviors.
The Differences: Some Examples
Sometimes it’s easier to distinguish differences with real-life examples. Here are just a few:
- Children with autism crave order and repetition, but those with ADHD don’t, even if it helps them.
- A child with autism may want the same type of food when visiting their favorite restaurant, or perhaps will get overly attached to a particular toy or shirt. They often get very upset when their routines change. A child with ADHD does not want to do the same thing over and over for long periods of time.
- A child with autism struggles to focus on activities they don’t enjoy, such as reading or doing a puzzle. On the other hand, they often fixate on things that they do like to do. A child with ADHD will lose interest in a task quickly, and often avoid things that require a lot of concentration.
- Children with either condition will struggle to interact with others. However, kids with autism have a hard time putting words to their feelings, and often find it difficult to make eye contact with others. Kids with ADHD will talk non-stop and interrupt others in an attempt to monopolize the conversation – particularly when it’s about a topic they love.
Contact Comprehensive MedPsych Systems
We offer a comprehensive ADHD evaluation and treatment clinic that may encompass a blend of counseling, psychotherapy and behavioral management, as well as family education and medication management. We understand that ADHD often affects the entire family, and it can happen in conjunction with anxiety, learning disabilities, and poor self-esteem. Contact us today to book your appointment and learn more.