Are People with Autism Likely to have ADD/ADHD?

Is your child struggling with attentiveness, impulsivity, narrow interests, social awkwardness, restlessness, or communication issues? These are some of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but these same symptoms can also be signs of ADD/ADHD. Because of the overlap, it is not uncommon for ASD to be misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD and vice versa.

Having Both ASD and ADHD

In some cases, people with autism can also have ADD/ADHD. Emerging research shows this is more common than you might think. According to a growing body of evidence, approximately 30-50% of people with ASD also show signs of ADD/ADHD. Similarly, about two-thirds of people with ADD/ADHD also exhibit symptoms of being on the spectrum.

For many years, the American Psychological Association had
rejected the notion that the two conditions could co-occur, but it reversed that
position when the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V)
was released in 2013. Since
then, scientists have begun a deeper exploration into the link between ASD and ADD/ADHD.

The findings show that having both of these conditions leads to a lower quality of life and poorer adaptive functioning than having just one of them.[ This translates to greater learning problems, more severe social impairment, and a tougher time with everyday life skills. This is why it’s critical to get a treatment that targets both conditions.

Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

Getting the proper treatment for both ASD and ADD/ADHD requires an accurate diagnosis. Unfortunately, psychiatrists rarely look at the brain and rely solely on symptom clusters to make a diagnosis. Brain imaging studies show that ASD and ADD/ADHD are not single or simple disorders. There are 8-10 factors that can impact abnormal brain function in ASD and 7 types of ADD/ADHD:

Type 1: Classic ADD/ADHD

Type 2: Inattentive ADD/ADHD

Type 3: Overfocused ADD/ADHD

Type 4: Temporal Lobe ADD/ADHD

Type 5: Limbic ADD/ADHD

Type 6: Ring of Fire ADD/ADHD

Type 7: Anxious ADD/ADHD

Without looking at the brain to identify the patterns associated with the various types of these conditions, children and adults may get the wrong treatment. For people with ASD who are misdiagnosed, a delay in therapy can have negative consequences that last a lifetime.

With an accurate diagnosis, both ASD and the subtype of ADHD
can be treated more effectively. And when both conditions are addressed
properly, it not only improves an individual’s quality of life, but it also
enhances the day-to-day life for the whole family.

If your child (or
yourself) is suffering from symptoms associated with both autism and ADHD, a
complete evaluation that includes brain SPECT imaging can help you get an
accurate diagnosis. The sooner you start with personalized solutions that are
targeted to your loved one’s needs, the faster you can minimize symptoms. At
Amen Clinics, we have helped many children and adults with both ASD and
ADD/ADHD improve their social skills, behavior, and performance at school or

For more information or to speak with a specialist, call 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.

[Vora P., Sikora D. (2011). Society for Developmental and Behavioral. San Antonio, TX: Pediatrics

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