Yes! And this can cause a real problem when the very young are being diagnosed. A doctor may stop looking when he or she sees ADHD symptoms and then they miss that the child is also suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Amir Miodovnik, a developmental pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital authored a recent study, which shows that symptoms of ADHD may, in fact, conceal ASD in very young children.
Why is this significant? Because a delayed diagnosis of autism delays vital treatment. Dr. Miodovnik found, “It took an average of three years longer to diagnose autism in children initially thought to have just ADHD. It’s been shown the earlier that you implement these therapies for autism, the better children do in terms of outcome.” He found that some cases the ASD diagnosis didn’t occur until six or more years later. (Look for more information on this study in the October print issue of Pediatrics.)
ASD and ADHD are different neurological disorders, however they do have some symptoms in common. What similar symptoms do Autism and ADHD have?
- Social awkwardness
- Difficulty in interactions with others
What are some differences between ADHD and ASD?
- All-absorbing interest in specialized topics, like sports statistics or dinosaurs
- Lack of nonverbal communication – eye contact, facial expressions, body gestures
- Lack of empathy or understanding others’ feelings
- Monotone pitch or lack of rhythm when speaking
- >Missed motor skill development mile markers, such as catching a ball
- Easily distracted and forgetful
- Problems processing information accurately and quickly
- Touching or playing with everything especially in a new environment
- Very impatient and can’t wait their turn
- Over-reacting when upset or bothered, without consideration for others
Can you see why there might be confusion? Dr Miodovnik recommends that parents who believe that a child younger than 5 has ADHD should take their child to a developmental pediatrician, rather than a family physician, to make sure that possible autism will not be overlooked. He also recommends this because managing a child with ADHD can be complicated.
If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’re concerned that your child has been thoroughly diagnosed and is receiving optimal treatment, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.
If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD, you will also benefit from learning how science is unlocking the key to understanding Asperger behavior. My book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), explores the science behind Asperger’s. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.