Is It ADHD Or Autism? How To Tell The Difference
The first immediate difference between ADHD and autism is that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder, while autism or autism spectrum disorders are classified as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD).
However, the two conditions can often be confused by parents, teachers, and other caregivers. In addition, it is possible to have both conditions, which can make diagnosis more complex.
This article will help explain the difference between autism and ADHD and provide the definitive answer to the question: Is it ADHD or autism?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Explained
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects millions of American children. The CDC estimates that as many as 3-10% of children between 4-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD.
ADHD affects boys at four times the rate of girls. In addition, ADHD can continue through adolescence and adulthood, limiting adult functioning with respect to employment and relationships.
ADHD symptoms typically include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. It results in lack of focused attention, restlessness, inability to remain still, and engaging in reckless or careless behaviors without considering the consequences.
In addition, there are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, and combined-type which is a combination of the first two types. Combined-type is the most common type of ADHD.
While there is no cure for ADHD, it can be managed and controlled. ADHD treatments include ADHD medications, ADD natural remedies, ADHD coaching, ADHD diet, ADHD behavioral modification, and neurofeedback for ADHD.
While the exact causes of ADHD are not clear, researchers speculate that the condition could be linked to maternal exposure to toxins (smoking, alcohol, drugs), childhood exposure to environmental toxins (lead paint, PCB's), altered brain chemistry, artificial colors and preservatives that increase hyperactivity, and more.
Autism, grouped together in the category of autism spectrum disorders, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by communication difficulties and deficits, social impairments and deficits, and repeated patterns of stereotypical behavior (spinning, object twirling or object fixation, etc.).
CDC statistics estimate that 1 in every 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. It affects boys at four times the rate of girls
One of the primary autism symptoms, and often the first noticed by parents, is impaired communication and social interaction. This occurs when parents begin to notice that their child is not communicating at a developmentally and age-appropriate level. Autistic children tend to be indifferent and unresponsive to caregivers.
Depending on the severity of the condition, autistic children can be completely nonverbal. They may tend to focus intently on certain items while completely ignoring others. They generally do not engage in social interaction, do not read social social cues, do not learn what is socially appropriate, and tend to lack empathy regarding others. In short, they are trapped in their own world.
Another hallmark symptom of autism is repeated rocking and twirling objects. They often bite themselves or bang their head when frustrated or when they do not get what they want.
Other indications of autism in very young children include: no age-appropriate babbling or pointing by age 1, no single words by 16 months, no 2-word phrases by age 2, no response to calling their name, loss of previously gained language or social skills, poor or limited eye contact, excessive lining up of toys or objects, no smiling, and no social responsiveness to caregivers.
When older, autism is characterized by an impaired ability to play or make friends, poor communication or conservation skills, repetitive behaviors, object fixation, fixation on keeping the same routine, and low frustration tolerance.