Symptoms of Autism and ADHD

Symptoms of Autism and ADHD

Many of the symptoms of autism and ADHD overlap, so kids can be misdiagnosed. Symptoms like social impairment, trouble reading social cues and impulsivity can be mistaken for ADHD.

In adults with co-occurring autism and ADHD, treatment options are limited. Stimulant medications like Adderall help improve focus, while antipsychotic drugs such as Abilify and Risperdal can reduce irritability and aggression.


While some of the symptoms of autism and ADHD overlap, each condition has its own unique set of traits and behaviors. While ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, autism is associated with social communication problems and restricted interests and behaviors. Although both are neurodevelopmental disorders, they have distinct criteria for diagnosis and treatment.

It’s not uncommon for people to have both autism and ADHD, although most people with autism don’t exhibit symptoms of ADHD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 14% of children with ADHD also have an autism spectrum disorder. While researchers are not sure why some people have both conditions, they believe that one network or region of the brain may become dysregulated and affect the way a person behaves.

In many cases, the symptoms of autism and ADHD appear in tandem. For example, kids with ADHD often dislike or avoid tasks they need to concentrate on and may become distracted by their surroundings. They may also have trouble with organizational skills, making it hard to keep track of their homework or remember their appointments. They may also show a tendency to rely on routines or repetitive behavior.

A doctor will diagnose ADHD based on the presence of specific symptoms for at least six months. They will also look at a patient’s behavior and development over the past few years to see if there have been any changes. Adults who have both autism and ADHD may be able to manage their symptoms with counseling and support services.

It’s important for doctors to carefully evaluate the severity of a patient’s symptoms to make sure that they are prescribing the right medication. If a person reports being distracted when they are working alone and without social demands, this may indicate that their symptoms are due to ADHD rather than autism. A doctor will also want to determine if the distractions are due to a lack of interest in the task at hand or sensory issues. If the person is unable to tolerate stimulant medications, they may need alternative formulations or antipsychotic drugs like risperidone and aripiprazole.


Many symptoms of autism and ADHD overlap, making it difficult to distinguish between the two conditions. However, a correct diagnosis is important so the right treatment can be provided. Getting the condition diagnosed and treated early on can help children lead happy, productive lives.

The first step in diagnosing a child with ADHD is for parents to discuss their concerns with their family doctor or pediatrician. They may refer the child to a behavioral specialist for further evaluation. The specialist will evaluate the child’s behaviors, history and development over time. They will also look for other possible causes of the child’s behavior. Then they will use different tools to make a diagnosis, including questionnaires, surveys, checklists, interviews and observation.

When it comes to the diagnosis of autism, the process is similar but takes longer. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication, socializing and motor skills. It can be challenging to diagnose because it is often misinterpreted as bad behavior.

Often, doctors confuse autism and ADHD because they have similar symptoms. This is because children with both have a hard time paying attention, are impulsive and sometimes have trouble communicating.

One of the biggest differences between autism and ADHD is their reactions to sensory inputs. Children with autism will react strongly to the way things sound, smell, taste and look. Children with ADHD will respond to these inputs in a much more mild way.

In addition, children with autism tend to show limited imaginative play or lack of gesture language. They can also have specific routines and repetitive behaviors. On the other hand, children with ADHD are more likely to be irritable or easily get bored.

It is also important to remember that children who are diagnosed with autism and ADHD often have functional impairments that are not addressed by medication alone. The main goal of treatment is to support the child’s overall development and socialization and to teach them life-long coping and adaptive behaviors. Behavioral and environmental interventions are more effective than stimulant medications. Moreover, studies have shown that individuals with autism have higher rates of substance abuse disorders (SUD). Hence, it is important to address these problems as well.


As with many conditions, a variety of treatment options exist. For ADHD, medication is often the mainstay of treatment. For autism, behavioral therapy is often recommended. Both can be beneficial, depending on the underlying cause of a person’s symptoms.

Because the symptoms of both conditions can look similar, it’s important to know what a child is experiencing and when. Regular checkups with a pediatrician are an essential first step to identify problems that might be indicative of one or both conditions. A pediatrician may refer the child to a specialist in autism or ADHD to make a diagnosis.

Treatment options for ADHD include a combination of behavioral therapy and medications, school support, parent training, and other psychosocial therapies. Behavioral therapy can help children learn skills needed for independent living. This can include daily living skills, such as grooming and hygiene; socialization, including relationships and coping strategies; and coping with stressors, such as transitions.

For children who are diagnosed with autism, treatment is focused on helping the child intellectually grasp the gaps between them and others, such as why it’s important to follow rules, or why other people might be upset by their behaviors. In addition, treatment can involve working with the child to develop strategies for dealing with sensory overload and other challenges.

Both autism and ADHD can be co-occurring conditions, with each condition influencing how the other presents. For example, a person with autism may appear to exhibit symptoms of ADHD, such as inattention and impulsivity. Autistic adults also have elevated rates of depression and anxiety disorders, which can be treated with psychiatric medication.

Some individuals with both autism and ADHD are prone to addiction to drugs and alcohol. This is due to a combination of factors, including impaired self-control, and the fact that both autism and ADHD are associated with higher levels of impulsivity and hyperactivity (Geller et al., 2022). Autistic people can also experience hyper-fixation of activities and repetitive movements, which can be seen as symptoms of ADHD.

Those with both autism and ADHD are more likely to be genderqueer than neurotypicals. Genderqueer individuals are also 3-6 times more likely to be autistic than cisgender people (Strang et al., 2014).


Autism isn’t preventable, but it’s possible to reduce the risk of ADHD by ensuring that children receive proper treatment. If your child is diagnosed with either condition, a specialist can help them manage their symptoms. This may include educational and behavioral interventions, such as ABA therapy. In addition, your doctor will recommend healthy eating habits and safe sleep practices, and may also prescribe medication.

Symptoms of autism and ADHD often overlap, and some children have both conditions. However, it’s important to distinguish the two disorders because they require different types of care. Some symptoms that distinguish ADHD from autism are difficulty understanding social cues and engaging in imaginative play, as well as sensory sensitivities and restricted interests. Other differences include age-appropriate social reciprocity, or back-and-forth interactions, which are more common in autism than ADHD.

In the past, experts didn’t believe that autism and ADHD co-occurred, but new research has revealed that 30 to 50 percent of people with autism also meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. This suggests that the two conditions are linked and share some genetic links.

It’s also worth noting that people with autism have an elevated risk of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, one study found that 79% of people with autism have a co-occurring mood disorder. This is likely because of the shared environmental exposures and neurobiological factors that contribute to both disorders.

Aside from these common factors, it’s possible to identify the difference between autism and ADHD by observing how they cope with change. In particular, how do they adapt to self-initiated versus externally imposed changes in their routine? In addition, consider whether they have a hard time accepting or processing emotions and how often they engage in self-harm behavior.

It’s also important to note that the neurodiversity movement recognizes that autistic people have a right to self-determination and self-determination support, and that they can be treated with the same respect as any other person. This shift in language has the potential to improve access to care, and prevent misdiagnosis of autism.


Cascia Talbert is a Catholic mother of five special needs kids. In 2018 she published the book, "Taking Care of Your Family's Health and Well-Being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith," available anywhere books are sold. She is also a professional flutist and an Avon Independent Sales Representative. You can learn more about Cascia on the following websites, and She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, children and Baby, the playful black kitty.

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