ADHD and ASD: Understanding the Similarities and Differences

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are two commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders that share some similarities but are also distinct from one another. While both ADHD and ASD can cause difficulties with social interactions, communication, and sensory processing, they have different diagnostic criteria and require different interventions.  

Let’s break it down: 

What are some of the similarities between ADHD and ASD?

  1. Impaired social skills: Children with both ADHD and ASD can struggle with social interactions, including making friends, maintaining eye contact, and understanding social cues.
  2. Impulsivity: Children with ADHD and ASD may exhibit impulsive behaviour, such as acting without thinking or interrupting others.
  3. Sensory processing difficulties: Children with ADHD and ASD may experience sensory processing difficulties, such as being oversensitive or undersensitive to sensory input.
  4. Executive function deficits: Both ADHD and ASD can impact executive function, which includes skills such as planning, organizing, and self-regulation.
  5. Comorbidity: ADHD and ASD frequently co-occur, meaning that a person may have both disorders simultaneously.

Let’s look at some of the differences:

  1. Core symptoms: ADHD is primarily characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, while ASD is characterized by difficulties with social communication and interaction, restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests, and sensory processing difficulties.
  2. Diagnosis: ADHD is typically diagnosed based on a combination of behavioural and subjective reports, while ASD requires a comprehensive evaluation that includes standardized assessments and observations.
  3. Treatment: The treatment for ADHD usually includes medication and behavioural interventions, while the treatment for ASD includes a combination of behavioural interventions, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and individualized therapies, such as speech and occupational therapy.
  4. Prognosis: While ADHD symptoms may improve with age, ASD is a lifelong disorder that may require ongoing support and intervention.

Why ASD Diagnoses Get Missed in those with ADHD:

  1. Overlapping symptoms: Both ASD and ADHD can exhibit similar symptoms, such as inattention and hyperactivity, making it difficult to differentiate between the two disorders.
  2. Lack of assessment for social communication difficulties: ASD is characterized by difficulties in social communication and interaction, which may not be routinely assessed in ADHD evaluations, leading to missed ASD diagnoses.  
  3. Diagnostic overshadowing: Symptoms of ASD may be overshadowed by symptoms of ADHD, leading to a missed or delayed ASD diagnosis.  Additionally, many diagnostic tools used to assess ASD were formulated on norms taken from male subjects, and we now know that males and females can present differently.  This creates a lot of difficulty for girls and women to get properly diagnosed.
  4. Co-occurring conditions: Children with ADHD may have other co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which can complicate the diagnostic process and make it more difficult to identify an ASD diagnosis.
  5. Clinical experience: Some clinicians may have more experience diagnosing ADHD than ASD, which can lead to a missed or delayed ASD diagnosis.

Although this list is not exhaustive, you now know how ADHD and ASD can share some similarities even though they’re actually pretty different disorders. Although it’s highly possible for someone to have both, it’s important to get a full evaluation to make sure they’re diagnosed correctly and getting the right kind of help. Understanding the similarities and differences between ADHD and ASD can help families and healthcare providers identify and support those with these disorders. 

Click here to learn more about our assessment process.  Let’s keep learning and spreading awareness!

5 ADHD Myths Debunked

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people around the world. Despite its prevalence, there are many myths and misconceptions about ADHD that can create misunderstandings and even stigma around the condition. We’ll explore and debunk some of the most common ADHD myths here:

Myth #1: ADHD is not a real disorder.

One of the most pervasive myths about ADHD is that it is not a real disorder. This myth can be especially harmful because it can lead to people not seeking help for their symptoms or not taking ADHD medication as prescribed. However, there is a significant body of research that supports the existence of ADHD as a legitimate and clinically significant disorder. ADHD is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Myth #2: ADHD only affects children.

While it is true that ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, it is not a disorder that only affects children. Many people with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into adulthood, and some may not receive a diagnosis until later in life. In fact, it is estimated that around 4-6% of adults in Canada and the U.S. have ADHD.

Myth #3: People with ADHD are just lazy or unmotivated.

Another common myth about ADHD is that people with the disorder are lazy or lack motivation. In reality, people with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning skills, such as organization, time management, and prioritization. These challenges can make it difficult for them to complete tasks or follow through on goals, even if they are highly motivated to do so.

Myth #4: ADHD only affects boys.

Although ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than in girls (3:1), it is not a disorder that exclusively affects boys. Girls and women with ADHD may be underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed because their symptoms can present differently than they do in boys and men. For example, girls with ADHD may be less likely to display hyperactivity and more likely to exhibit inattentive symptoms.

Myth #5: ADHD can be cured by changing your diet or lifestyle.

While a healthy diet and lifestyle can certainly be beneficial for managing ADHD symptoms, there is no cure for the disorder. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects brain functioning, and it is not something that can be cured through lifestyle changes alone. However, medication, therapy, and other treatments can be effective in managing ADHD symptoms and improving quality of life for people with the disorder.

In short, ADHD is a real and serious condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. By busting these myths, we can help reduce stigma and ensure that people with ADHD get the support they need to live their best lives. For more information about ADHD, and/or how you can go about getting assessed, please click here, or visit the Contact Us page for details!

My Child is Acting Out at School. Could They Have a Learning Disability?

It’s possible! A child’s behaviour can be due to learning disabilities. Learning disabilities can impact a child’s ability to process and understand information, which can lead to frustration, anxiety, and difficulty in completing tasks. As a result, a child may exhibit challenging behaviours, such as acting out, being easily distracted, or avoiding academic work.

Not all children with learning disabilities will display behavioural issues. However, when a child is struggling academically, it can affect their self-esteem and confidence, which may lead to negative behaviours.

When behaviours are evident in more than one place this can be related to ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder). ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the brain’s executive functions, which are responsible for regulating behaviour, attention, and self-control, and are not limited to one environment.

Those with ADHD may exhibit a range of behavioural symptoms, including hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Hyperactivity can manifest as restlessness, fidgeting, and excessive talking. Impulsivity can result in hasty decision-making, interrupting others, and difficulty waiting one’s turn. Inattention can lead to forgetfulness, disorganization, and trouble with completing tasks. Again, it’s important to note that not all individuals with ADHD will display the same behavioural symptoms. The severity of these symptoms can also vary depending on the individual and the situation. 

It’s not uncommon for a child to have both learning disabilities and ADHD. In fact, research suggests that as many as 50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability.

If you suspect that your child may have a learning disability or is experiencing possible ADHD symptoms, it’s important to have them evaluated by a qualified professional, such as a psychologist or a licensed clinician. Once a diagnosis is made, appropriate interventions and accommodations can be put in place to support the child’s academic and behavioural needs.  A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help manage the symptoms and improve overall functioning at home and school.

Please click the Contact Us link for more information on how to go about booking a psycho-educational assessment for your child. You can read more about assessments here.

Should I Update My Teen’s Psycho-Educational Assessment?

Your child is about to graduate high school, and it’s college application time!!

As your child grows, changes, and matures, their strengths, weaknesses and their needs can change. An updated psycho- educational assessment can help to identify these changes and provide new information that can guide support services and accommodations. For example, a student who had a specific learning disability in reading may have developed stronger skills in this area and no longer requires accommodations, but may now need accommodations in a different area, such as writing or organization. This is why it’s so important to update their assessment before entering post-secondary education.

Psycho-educational assessments are a crucial tool in determining the strengths and needs of your child in their educational environment. For students with learning disabilities or other struggles, these assessments provide valuable information that can help to guide accommodations, support services, and academic success. However, it’s important to understand that these assessments are not a one-time event.

You child may have had an assessment done in elementary school, or maybe as they entered high school? However, colleges and universities present new challenges and demands. The academic workload is often much more rigorous and requires a higher level of skill and knowledge in a variety of areas. It often involves a great deal of self-directed learning and independence. For students with disabilities, these new demands can present obstacles that may not have been present before. An up-to-date psycho-educational assessment can help to identify these new challenges and provide updated accommodations that can help your child succeed. Not to mention, post-secondary institutions often have different policies and procedures for accommodating individuals with disabilities than those in primary and secondary education and they will probably ask you outright for something more recent.

It is also important to note that individuals with disabilities may be eligible for additional financial support in post-secondary education. An updated assessment can help to demonstrate the individual’s continued need for support and can help to secure this funding.

Right now, your child is just finishing up their last year in high school; they may have just finished their post-secondary applications, or maybe they were just accepted for the Fall term? “We have lots of time!” Actually, you don’t! Now is THE time you should be thinking about getting started. Please consider the following steps: a) You need to have the conversation with your teen about updating their assessment, b) You have to find a reputable organization that can take care of this for you, c) Consider that you may be put on a waitlist, d) You need to have this report completed and to the school BEFORE they start classes. Having the report beforehand will ensure your child’s accommodations are already in place from Day 1.

To find out more about getting an assessment updated or maybe even completed for the first time, visit our contact page to get all the details and have all your questions answered!