Some parents wonder whether their child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (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 ADHD diagnosis — or misdiagnosis — before a pediatrician concludes that it’s AS.
The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders and ADHD overlap. Most children on the autism spectrum have symptoms of 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 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.”