Is it Autism, ADHD, or Both?

A parent recently brought her 10-year-old child to me to answer the question, “Is it Autism, ADHD, or Both?” Her son was having difficulty in school with friendships, concentrating, transitioning, and his teacher was labeling him as a problem child. This parent tried to find answers on Dr Google but was left feeling more confused than clear. She wanted answers to know how to help her child and stop the downward spiral.

Autism and ADHD Characteristics

Autism and ADHD share many overlapping characteristics such as difficulty concentrating, friendship struggles, rigidity, quirky behaviors, and emotional dysregulation. Two key features of identifying autism include looking for a child’s restricted interest and repetitive behaviors as these often interfere with social skills.

Ongoing Restricted Interests

A restricted interest is an interest that is unusually strong and hyper focused to the extent the child only wants to discuss, play, or research the topic. This boy had heightened interest, but they changed about every month. He obsessed about Legos, then Fortnite, and then Star Wars.  These short intense, and then move on, interests were unlike a child with autism who would rather have one extended hyper focused interest such as planets.

Self-Stimulating Behavior

Many children with autism also have repetitive behaviors or self-stimulating behaviors. These could be hand motions when they get excited or moving their body in a certain way. This boy’s movements were related to low impulse control rather than the same repetitive behavior.

Tests of Social Perception

In addition to looking at symptoms via interview and rating scales, we completed interactive tests of social perception. We assessed if he could recognize a child’s facial affect and understand another child’s frame of reference.

The overall conclusion was this boy had ADHD, which interfered with his ability to concentrate, maintain his impulses, and was the root cause of friendship difficulty. Other kids rejected him due to his unpredictable behavior and intense emotional reactions.v We created recommendations to help him learn to regulate his attention and emotions. The parents also shared the testing results with the school for an accommodation plan.

I’ve written books on autism and ADHD for parents like you and you can find them on Amazon .

Call (561) 625 4125 to discuss your child.