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Characteristics of autism spectrum disorders and ADHD sometimes overlap. More than half of children on the autism spectrum have symptoms of ADD, according to CHADD — difficulty settling down, social awkwardness, the ability to focus only on things that interest them, and impulsivity. ADHD itself, however, is not part of the autism spectrum.
A mother I previously met summed up her confusion and eventual enlightenment: “John is smart and quick to learn something new if he is interested,” she says. “But he has a terrible time focusing on things he doesn’t find interesting. When this happens, he starts rocking or pacing around the room. For years, we thought it was ADHD, but, at his last evaluation, his teachers suggested that he might have a form of autism. After seeing a paediatrician, he received a diagnosis of Asperger’s. Knowing he has it — and working to manage the symptoms — is a relief.”
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological disorder characterized by difficulty communicating verbally and relating socially to others, alongside a need to engage in repetitive behaviours or language. Parents often noted early symptoms include delayed speech, restricted interests, not responding to their name, and avoiding eye contact. No two children with autism will have the same symptoms. Warning signs might be easy to see in one person and virtually invisible in another.
Take the self-test below to determine whether your child’s symptoms resemble children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. A high score suggests it's appropriate to visit a trained healthcare professional for an evaluation.
Many children with autism spectrum disorder traits receive an ADHD diagnosis — or misdiagnosis — before a paediatrician or developmental specialist concludes that it's autism. Hallmarks of autism spectrum disorder and ADHD often overlap. Many autistic children also have symptoms of ADHD — difficulty settling down, social awkwardness, only focusing only on things of interest to them, and impulsivity.
Researchers don’t understand what causes autism, though there seems to be a vital genetic component. Research suggests that autism may develop from genetic and environmental factors, though further study is required to understand this interplay fully.