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ADHD and Autism – How Both Disorders Relate And Why Misdiagnosis Happens


Autism is no longer a standalone diagnosis. Many symptoms of Autism, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome, are mistaken with ADHD. Both ADHD and autism have very likable symptoms that even the most capable doctor tend to misdiagnose their patients, before coming up with a final diagnosis. In this article, we are going to dive into the topic of how both disorders relate and why the latter is misdiagnosed with the former.

The majority of children that elicits symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome – a type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – initially receives an ADHD diagnosis before the pediatrician can conclude that it’s actually autism. There’s a constant overlapping between the symptoms of ADHD and ASD. Most of the time, children with autism also have symptoms of ADHD, namely the following: impulsivity, hyperfocus, social awkwardness, and difficulties with keeping calm.

Autism: Asperger’s Syndrome

Although the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is also a part of the autism spectrum, the symptoms often have milder effects compared to other varieties of autism. More severe types of autism are commonly diagnosed within the first two years, while symptoms related to Asperger’s syndrome are usually diagnosed at a later age. The reason is that while Aspergers-diagnosed children may have mild-to-moderate delays in the speech development, the majority of them start communicating by age three.

Primary Cause of AS

The main cause of Asperger’s syndrome isn’t determined via research. In fact, most analyses conducted on the disorder does not fully understand the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. Although there have been studies that concluded it to be associated with strong genetic elements.

Signs of Autism Asperger’s Syndrome That Relates To ADHD

Children with symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, similar to ADHD, have difficulties in three main areas: limited interestcommunication, and social interaction. The following is a short breakdown if each impairment.

Communication Problems

  • Development of speech patterns may either be normal or delayed; however, difficulties start to creep up on the social and functional use of language for communication.
  • Flawed use of nonverbal behaviours, including social expressions, eye contact, and body language.

Low Social Interaction

  • Difficulties in developing peer relationships appropriate to age. Most autistic children are interested in making friends, but their condition restricts them from doing so (they are unable to understand or grasp the concept of ‘give-and-take’ in friendships).
  • Difficulties sharing achievements, enjoyment, and interested in others (like sharing food during recess).
  • Lacking in social and emotional exchange (not interested in enjoying being with other people just for the sake of interacting and socializing).

Limited Interest

  • Narrow-mindedness; lacking interest and focus at abnormal rates
  • Severe attachment to rituals and nonfunctional routines (e.g., following a strict rule when leaving the house for school).
  • Patterned repetitive motor traits and mannerisms.

Evaluating Autism and ADHD

If you think your child has symptoms of autism, you should consult with your pediatrician right away. You can also refer to a child psychiatrist or a psychologist with expertise in autism spectrum disorder. Evaluation will likely involve the monitoring and discussing the development, social interaction, and communication skills. Your child may go through several tests, which includes determining her current level of intellect and determining academic abilities. Keep in mind that because of the overlapping symptoms of autism and ADHD, most specialist initially misdiagnosed your child with the latter, before conducting several more tests and reverting their diagnosis to autism.


Despite both disorders having similar symptoms, it’s important to note that autism and ADHD are not the same. Both have very different effects, as well as having different treatment approaches. It’s important to know the real disorder of your child before you can give them the proper treatment that they need. However, keep in mind that misdiagnosis is a common theme when determining the condition of your child. It’s essential that you continuously monitor your child, while also keeping in touch with your pediatrician and keeping them updated on your child’s progress and development.

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