The symptoms of the autism spectrum disorder may vary. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) does not have a spectrum, but it has some autism-like symptoms, which present difficulties that may vary from one child to another. But how do autism and ADHD relate? Presenting the symptoms of one of these conditions increases the risk of having the other. Some common symptoms of these conditions are difficulty in paying attention to people, staying in constant motion, invading personal space, limitations in understanding social cues and emotional crises.
The position of specialists on the link between autism and ADHD.has changed. In the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) (2011), it was stated that a person could not have autism and also ADHD. But recent studies, published in the fifth edition in 2013, confirmed that a person could be diagnosed with both disorders.
Difficulty paying attention
Children with autism can present this difficulty due to several factors. Language difficulties can make it appear as if the child is not paying attention or refusing to follow instructions, when in fact, it is very likely that he or she does not understand what is being told, asked or explained.
ADHD can affect interpersonal relationships due to the inability to make eye contact and trespassing people’s personal space. In some cases, the manifestation of these symptoms can lead to the child being misdiagnosed with one condition instead of the other. To avoid a wrong diagnosis, parents must consult a specialist.}
By presenting the symptoms of one of the two conditions, the probability of developing the symptoms of the other condition is increased. For example, children with language problems are more likely to have reading disorders. For this reason, it is necessary to consider all the factors related to children’s development, including social relationships, attention levels, language, behavior, cognitive and psychomotor abilities, and skills, mood. A detailed neuropsychological medical evaluation should be carried out so all areas of development are analyzed to obtain a broad vision, and therefore the child can receive the appropriate help.
Another way in which autism and ADHD are related is through genetic risks; a person with autism is more likely to have a close relative with ADHD and other developmental disorders. Scientists are still conducting research to better understand the genetic factors involved in both conditions, although experts believe that autism and ADHD could have similar causes.
Since some of the symptoms of autism and ADHD are the same, some of the interventions used for one condition could be useful for the other. For example, children with both conditions generally benefit from having a routine and knowing what to expect. However, there are many differences in the type of therapy recommended for each of these disorders. Behavioral analysis is part of autism therapy, which can improve communication skills and help with repetitive behaviors, one of the most prominent features of autism. ADHD therapy, on the other hand, focuses on improving attention and organization; this type of therapy is usually accompanied by medication for this specific condition. However, this medication does not help children with autism.
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