Some parents wonder whether their child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) may have some form of autism. And they wonder for good reason: Most families of children with Asperger’s syndrome (AS), an autism spectrum disorder, receive an ADD/ADHD diagnosis -- or misdiagnosis -- before a pediatrician concludes that it’s AS.
The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders and ADD/ADHD overlap. Most children on the autism spectrum have symptoms of ADD/ADHD -- difficulty settling down, social awkwardness, the ability to focus only on things that interest them, and impulsivity.
A mother I recently met with 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 isn’t interested in. When this happens, he starts rocking or pacing around the room. For years, we thought it was ADD/ADHD, but, at his last evaluation, his teachers suggested that he might have a form of autism. After seeing a pediatrician, he received a diagnosis of Asperger’s. Knowing he has it -- and working to relieve the symptoms -- is a relief.”