Autism vs. ADHD: A Parent’s Guide to Tricky Diagnoses

Social delays. Communication difficulties. Repetitive behaviors. What’s behind them: ADHD? Autism? Both? When conditions overlap, parents need an intimate understanding of each diagnosis to manage treatment – and everyday life.

Diagnosing Autism


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. Even when a professional ventures an opinion, he will often hedge by saying, “Well, he is quirky and has some typical behaviors, and they are somewhat consistent with a diagnosis of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” This kind of talk is frustrating to the parents and the child, but it’s sometimes unavoidable. Another evaluation in a year often clarifies things, and sometimes a child doesn’t need a diagnosis, as long as he is getting the help he needs.

Next: Managing Autism Symptoms


How ADHD Affects Executive Function
Dr. Barkley explains how to identify and treat Executive Function Disorder in children and adults. Listen to the audio now!

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TAGS: Comorbid Conditions with ADD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder

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