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When we hear about autism and ADHD, we may think of two different disorders, but the reality is more complex. The two conditions often co-occur, and in many cases, an autistic person may have ADHD and vice versa. This overlap is not merely anecdotal; Research has shown that the two conditions share genetic and neurobiological overlap.
Is Adhd On Autism Spectrum
As an autistic-ADHD person with lived experience of both, I know firsthand the challenges that come with navigating the overlap between autism and ADHD. Both conditions often occur at high rates, with many individuals having both diagnoses. But what does this overlap mean? Current research suggests that autism and ADHD share genetic and neurobiological overlap, which may explain why these conditions often co-occur in families and individuals.
Schizophrenia Or Autism?
However, more research is needed to fully understand the link between autism and ADHD. As an Autistic-ADHDer (AuDHD) I have personal experience with the overlap of Autism and ADHD! So let’s unpack this infographic and talk about the overlapping prevalence of ADHD and autism, what AuDHD means and how to support AuDHD in practice.
First, it is helpful to understand that the overlap between autism and ADHD is a new area of research. Until recently, the diagnosis of one condition precluded the diagnosis of another. However, an update to the DSM-5 in 2013 allowed for a dual diagnosis, opening up a new area of research (Taurins et al., 2012). In fact, recent studies have shown significant similarities in the phenotypic, genetic, and neurobiological characteristics of the two conditions (Sokolova et al., 2017).
Research findings on the overlap of co-occurrence between autism and ADHD are limited, and the percentage of co-occurrence varies greatly across studies, which may be due to factors such as misdiagnosis or missed diagnoses. Accordingly, there is considerable variation in the reported percentages. Nevertheless, here is a summary of some research on the overlap between ADHD and autism:
Australian Asd And Adhd Study
✦ Several studies show that 22-83% of autistic children meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD (Ronald et al., 2008; Mattson et al. 2013; Sokolova et al., 2017).
✦ Similarly, 30–65% of children with ADHD have clinically significant levels of autistic symptoms (Clark et al. 1999; Ronald et al. 2008; Sokolova et al., 2017).
✦ Twin studies and family studies consistently show significant genetic overlap between the two conditions. There is approximately 50-72% overlap of contributing genetic factors (Sokolova et al., 2017).
Adhd Vs Autism: Similarities, Differences & More 2023
In some cases, individuals may not meet full diagnostic criteria for both ADHD and autism but may have a subset of characteristics associated with each condition. For example, a person with ADHD may have a greater number of autistic symptoms than the general population but not enough to receive a clinical diagnosis, and vice versa.
There are several hypotheses surrounding the reason for the high co-occurrence of ADHD and autism. One of the leading theories is a shared genetic etiology. Twin and family studies have consistently shown significant genetic overlap (approximately 50-72% overlap) between the two conditions, suggesting that genetics may play a role in why they often co-occur in individuals and families (Leitner et al., 2014). ; Romelse et al., 2010).
Another theory suggests that co-occurrence may be due to shared neurobiological mechanisms, particularly those involving executive functions, attention, and reward systems (Christakou et al., 2013). Overall, more research is needed to fully understand the complex causes of the overlap between ADHD and autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (asd), Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment
AuDHD is an emerging informal term that has been widely adopted by the neurodivergent community. The term combines autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), highlighting the intersection of these two neurodivergent identities. It describes people diagnosed with autism and ADHD, emphasizing co-occurrence and overlap. Although not widely recognized in the medical community, AuDHD has been informally adopted by the neurodivergent community as a way to celebrate and recognize the unique experiences that multiply neurodivergent (autistic-ADHDers) experiences.
If you suspect you may be AuDHDer (autistic or ADHD in addition to your current diagnosis), you may be wondering: What should I do next? If you suspect you might be an AuDHDer, you’re not alone. This condition is common, but unfortunately, it is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Navigating the process of finding a diagnosis, finding the right support and connecting with providers who understand neurodivergence in adults, women, trans and BIPOC can be challenging.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you learn more about your neurodivergent identity. Whether you’re just starting to explore the possibility of autism or ADHD, or you’ve already received a diagnosis, there are steps you can take to better understand and support yourself. Here are some possible steps you can take if you are in the process of self-discovery:
Adhd Or Autism?
✦ Seek formal evaluation. It is important to find a doctor who has experience in diagnosing and treating neurodivergent individuals. By getting an assessment, you can better understand your neurodivergent profile and access appropriate support. However, finding a health care provider with experience and understanding of the non-stereotypical presentation of ADHD and autism is important, especially for women, BIPOC, genderqueer or non-binary individuals. This is important because the traditional diagnostic criteria for both conditions are based on studies involving cisgender white men.
✦ Work with a therapist who validates neurodivergence. Finding a provider familiar with both ADHD and autism, as well as someone committed to providing friendly, neurodiverse care, can help you through your season of discovery. To find a neurodivergent reinforcement therapist, you will find several directories available on my resource page.
✦ Plus, resources are available to help you discover the potential of your neurotype. Several screening tools exist to help identify symptoms of ADHD and autism. See my blog post reviewing screeners for ADHD and autism for links and to learn more about these resources. My personal opinion is that self-identification is valid and one’s experience is more important than fitting into a certain diagnostic box.
Adhd Vs Autism (simplified)
✦ Connecting with the neurodivergent community can provide invaluable support and resources. The online autistic-ADHD community is a thriving place where you can learn through hands-on experience and connect with others who share your experience. Joining Facebook groups, following live experience accounts on Instagram or Tiktok, and watching educational YouTube channels are effective ways to learn more about conditions and get support. Be aware that not all information on social media is accurate and misinformation can spread quickly. It is important to find reliable resources and seek the guidance of health professionals familiar with autism and ADHD.
When it comes to providing support to AuDHDers, it is important to take a personal and holistic approach. In addition, it is important to integrate and respect neurodivergent identities and approach care holistically rather than trying to change them to fit neurotypical criteria. Support may include things like:
✦ Provide accommodations to support sensory needs such as access to quiet spaces, use of noise-cancelling headphones, and adaptive lighting.
Adhd And Autism: Symptoms Of Asperger’s Syndrome And Add
✦ Neurodivergent affirmative care is critical—meaning you value and respect a person’s neurodivergent identity throughout treatment. and encouraging them to integrate their neurodivergent identities in an affirming way.
✦ Supporting nervous system regulation is also beneficial, such as offering anxiety management techniques or reducing overstimulation.
✦ Executive function supports, creating structure and routines, and strategies for time management, organization and planning can be useful.
Understanding And Comparison Between Autism, Adhd, & Asperger’s
✦ Rely on their strengths, interests and preferences. These abilities may include high levels of creativity, high visual-spatial abilities, deep focus on specific interests and the ability to think outside the box. This is important because our challenges can often overshadow the unique strengths of autistic ADHDrs.
Leitner Y. (2014). Co-occurrence of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children – what do we know?.
Mattson, JL, Rieske, RD, Williams, LW: The relationship between autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: an overview. Volume 34, pp. 2475-2484. Developmental Disabilities Research (2013). doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2013.05.021
Special Report: Autism Spectrum Disorder And Inflexible Thinking—affecting Patients Across The Lifespan
Rommels, N.N., Frank, B., Gerts, H. M., Hartmann, C.A., & Buetelaar, J.K. (2010). Co-inheritance of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.
Ronald, A, Simonoff, E, Kuntsi, J, Asherson, P, Plomin, R: Evidence for overlapping genetic influences on autistic behavior and ADHD in a community twin sample. Volume 49, pp. 535-542. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines (2008). doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01857.x
Sokolova, E., Schlueter-Orlemans, A., Rommels, N. N., Groot, P., Hartmann, C., Glennon, J., Klassen, T., Heskes, T., & Buetelaar, J. .. (2017 ) Causal and Mediation Analysis of Comorbidity Between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). With so much overlap, it’s hard to tell the difference between them. This can lead to misdiagnosis, misinterpretation of behavior, which can cause interventions to do more harm than good.
Connections Between Autism Spectrum Disorder And Adhd
Fortunately, researchers and practitioners alike,
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