Is Your Child Dealing with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, or Both?
“Are ADHD and Asperger Syndrome connected, or do they just happen together sometimes?”
People often get confused about these two conditions, thinking they might be the same or related in some way. At first, ADHD seems like a lack of focus, while Asperger Syndrome (a type of high-functioning autism) seems like the opposite. But then, ADHD also has something called “hyper-focus.” So, what’s the difference?
Asperger Syndrome and ADHD do share some traits that can make it hard to tell them apart. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that the attention issues in Asperger Syndrome are different from those in ADHD. It’s also possible for a child to have both conditions, which can make things even more confusing. About 60-70% of kids with Asperger Syndrome have symptoms that could also be seen as ADHD.
Here are some similarities between ADHD and Asperger Syndrome:
- Trouble paying attention
- Being overly active for no reason
- Struggling with learning
- Seeming not to listen during conversations
- Difficulty following directions
- Saying the wrong thing or not knowing how to react in some situations
- Talking too much or not letting others speak
- Having tantrums
- Not liking being held or comforted when they were younger
Both kids with Asperger Syndrome and kids with ADHD can have trouble processing their senses, be clumsy and impulsive, and really like having structure and routines. When they struggle with things like focus and self-control, these challenges can show up on both the Asperger Syndrome and ADHD lists of behaviors.
Here are some differences between ADHD and Asperger Syndrome:
- Asperger Syndrome focuses more on attention issues related to routines, language problems, repetitive behaviors, and self-stimulating actions. ADHD focuses more on attention issues related to impulsivity and hyperactivity.
- A child with Asperger Syndrome can focus on something they’re interested in. A child with ADHD can’t.
- A child with Asperger Syndrome might spend hours on one activity, ignoring everything else (like spinning something for hours and not doing anything else). An ADHD child might be interested in many things but gets easily distracted and jumps from one activity to another.
- A child with Asperger Syndrome might get mad if their routine or favorite activity is interrupted, but they don’t usually show a wide range of emotions in public. A child with ADHD might be more open about their emotions.
- A child with Asperger Syndrome can stick with one activity for a long time. A child with ADHD might have trouble focusing on anything for more than a few minutes.
- Kids with Asperger Syndrome and kids with ADHD usually want friends, but both groups struggle with social skills and play. They usually have social problems for different reasons. Kids with Asperger Syndrome might be seen as “nerdy” or “weird,” while kids with ADHD might be seen as annoying or disruptive.
- Kids with Asperger Syndrome like rules but might break the ones they don’t understand. Kids with ADHD might break rules they know but don’t like.
- Kids with Asperger Syndrome might be oppositional to avoid something that makes them anxious. Kids with ADHD might be oppositional to get attention.
- Kids with Asperger Syndrome love order, hate inconsistency, and can get upset or withdraw when things don’t go as expected. They focus too much on details and struggle to prioritize. Kids with ADHD also have trouble staying organized, but they can be more flexible, better at understanding connections, and less stuck on specific facts.
- A child with Asperger Syndrome can talk or play quietly. A child with ADHD often finds it hard to talk or play quietly.
- A child with Asperger Syndrome might have trouble waiting for their turn in games or activities because they don’t understand social cues. A child with ADHD struggles to wait for their turn because they’re impulsive.
- Both groups might seem like they’re not listening when spoken to directly, but for different reasons. It might look like a child with Asperger Syndrome isn’t paying attention because they avoid eye contact. A child with ADHD might seem like they’re not listening because they’re focused on other things at the time.
- The main differences between Asperger Syndrome and ADHD involve focus and whether or not there are obsessive behaviors and sensory issues.
- It’s possible for a child to have both ADHD and Asperger Syndrome (meaning they have both conditions). A child with both will likely show more ADHD symptoms (like impulsivity and hyperactivity) than what’s typically seen in Asperger Syndrome.
- The challenge with the overlap between Asperger Syndrome and ADHD is that, at the more severe end of ADHD and the milder end of Asperger Syndrome, doctors might disagree about which diagnosis is more accurate. It’s common for a child with Asperger Syndrome to be diagnosed with ADHD first because of attention and behavior issues. As more tests are done and more specialists get involved, a more specific diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome might be made.
- Figuring out the right label for a child’s challenges isn’t an exact science, and it can be frustrating for parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals. The goal is to find the right label to make sure the child gets the help they need to succeed in the best way possible.