Are ADHD and ASD linked?
It is very unusual for a child or adult to be diagnosed with only ADD/ADHD. In 80% of cases there will be another co-existing condition. Some studies have found that up to 50% of children and adults who have ADHD will have ASD as well.
What is the difference between ADHD and ASD?
The 3 main characteristics of ADD/ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is a disorder in emotional self-regulation, in the peson being able to monitor and control their emotions.
ASD- Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterised with social interaction problems, communication problems, lack of social imagination, and repetitive or ritualistic behaviours. Children and adults with ASD do not understand some aspects of the social world. Their social development, reflected in play and communication is delayed. They lack imaginative play.
Some symptoms of ADD/ADHD and ASD do overlap, thereby causing confusion.
The practitioner giving the diagnosis needs to find the missing developmental building block that is causing the symptoms. In this way one can differentiate between the two.
With ADHD and ASD, the two may be linked. Early social developmental stages are present in both ADHD and ASD.
They may struggle with staying focused and frustration tolerance may be a challenge. They may not respond when called due to their intense powers of concentration. Children and adults with ADD/ADHD may struggle socially. Humour and empathy are unaffected.
When these traits are lacking they are key signs of ASD. ASD is typically characterised by high anxiety levels, resulting in behaviours that are out of line with the developmental stage of the child/adult.
A strong indicator of ASD in children is delayed speech.
Since the symptoms of ADD/ADHD and ASD can be confused it is vital for a clear diagnosis from an experienced psychiatrist in the field.
It is common for one condition to be diagnosed first and then the second condition to be manifest at a later age. Both condition were there from birth, however some traits may have been masked or over looked. It is common for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD and only after taking medication the ASD symptoms show up.
ADHD and ASD are linked genetically. In a family where there is ADHD there may be more incidence of ASD. The opposite holds true as well.
Sometimes there may no be a clear diagnostic answer, and we may have to overlook this and instead focus on a plan of action to help the child.
It is important to face the facts that ADD/ADHD and ASD are lifelong. The primary reason for treatment is to enable the child to live a successful life and manage their symptoms to the best of their ability.
ADD/ADHD can be treated well with medication. However ASD is more challenging to deal with. The underlying condition can not be treated with meds, but some of the symptoms can be alleviated with medication.
It is vital to get a clear diagnosis so you have a plan of action moving forward.
Many parents are wary of diagnosing their child for various reasons. Please be reassured that the “label” does not represent the child/adult. The “label” simply groups together a bunch of symptoms that makes it easier to get the help one needs.
We need a holistic approach towards treating a child with ADD/ADHD and ASD.
Diet and exercise are two main areas that make a huge difference.
ADHD coaching empowers the parents with tools to help the child manage their symptoms and help the parents come to terms with the situation.
ADD/ADHD and ASD definitely runs in families. The two are linked genetically.
There is no point brushing the problem under the carpet as these conditions are lifelong and will not go away. Unmanaged ADD/ADHD and ASD symptoms will just get worse as the child moves on in life, thereby causing untold unnecessary havoc and grief.
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