Autism V/S ADHD

ADHD and Autism are neurodevelopmental disorders that impact similar brain functions. They are different conditions, but they share some of the same symptoms — difficulty settling down, social awkwardness, the ability to focus only on things that interest them, and impulsivity — and a common genetic link. A range of neurodevelopmental conditions causes challenges with social skills, communication, and thinking. Repetitive behaviors are also part of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A neurodevelopmental condition that makes it hard for kids to concentrate, pay attention, sit still, and curb impulsivity.

Distinguishing autism vs ADHD has confused many families. When a child can’t sit still for homework or a meal, or stay put in class, when he fidgets or talks too much and too insistently, most parents and educators, “This kid must have ADHD!”

There are many effective strategies to manage it. It is important to remember, however, that almost any psychological or developmental disorder of childhood can look like ADHD, with or without hyperactivity. Kids under stress, due to learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, or sensory integration problems, may exhibit the same symptoms. It takes a skillful evaluation to tease out explanations for the behaviors.

Diagnosing ASD requires an evaluation by a developmental pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or pediatric neurologist. Most insurance companies, and virtually all public schools, require a written evaluation by a specialist before they provide, or pay for, the services autistic children need. Because autism cannot be diagnosed by medical testing, screening, and diagnosis involve interviews, observation, and evaluations. Treatments for ADHD can help with autism symptoms. Usually, a child who has been diagnosed with ASD is not given an additional diagnosis of ADHD. This is not to say, however, that children on the autism spectrum don’t benefit from the interventions that help children with ADHD even if they don’t have autism.

Physical exercise is a good intervention for attention-deficit children and children on the autism spectrum, all of whom seem to have boundless energy. 

If behavioral and educational interventions aren’t sufficient, medication may help. Because children with ASD have unpredictable reactions to stimulants, the most common class of medicines used for children with ADHD, they are less likely to be prescribed for autistic children.

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