Differences Between ADHD and Autism

The Differences Between ADHD and Autism

The Differences Between ADHD and Autism

ADHD and Autism can exhibit remarkable similarities. Children diagnosed with either disorder may face challenges related to attention and concentration, demonstrate impulsivity, and encounter communication difficulties. Both conditions can impact their academics.

Despite these shared symptoms, it is important to recognize that ADHD and autism are separate and distinct conditions.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition characterized by neurological variances that lead to developmental disabilities. Individuals with ASD frequently encounter difficulties in social communication and interaction, as well as exhibit restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests. They may also display unique learning styles, movement patterns, or attention spans.

Features of Autism

  • not responding to their name

  • avoiding eye contact

  • Becoming highly distressed if they have an aversion to specific tastes, smells, or sounds

  • Engaging in repetitive actions, such as hand flapping, finger flicking, or body rocking

  • Demonstrating a lower level of verbal communication compared to other children

  • not doing as much pretend to play

  • repeating the same phrases

  • Exhibiting a lack of comprehension regarding the thoughts or emotions of others

  • Displaying atypical speech patterns, including repetitive phrases and a tendency to talk without engaging in a conversation

  • Favoring a rigid daily routine and becoming highly distressed by any deviations from it

  • Demonstrating a strong fascination and enthusiasm toward specific subjects or activities

  • Becoming highly upset when asked to perform tasks or follow instructions

  • Struggling to establish friendships or showing a preference for solitude

  • Interpreting language very literally, resulting in difficulties understanding figurative expressions like “break a leg”

  • Finding it challenging to express their own emotions

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by abnormal levels of hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. Individuals with ADHD may also experience difficulties concentrating on a specific task or remaining seated for an extended duration.

Features of ADHD

  • Difficulty maintaining focus or concentration on tasks

  • Tending to forget or be forgetful when it comes to finishing tasks.

  • Easy distractibility

  • Trouble staying still or sitting for prolonged periods

  • Interrupting others while they’re speaking

Signs and symptoms can vary depending on different aspects of ADHD, such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, or difficulties with focus.

Individuals experiencing hyperactivity and impulsivity may exhibit the following:

  • Difficulty remaining seated or still, particularly in a classroom setting

  • Challenges with playing or engaging in tasks quietly

  • Excessive talking

  • Impatience and difficulty waiting for their turn

  • Interrupting others during conversations, playtime, or tasks

  • Someone grappling with difficulties in focusing might display the following:

  • Frequent errors or overlooking details when studying or working

  • Struggles to maintain focus while listening, reading, or engaging in conversations

  • Challenges with organizing daily tasks

  • Frequently misplacing items

  • Easy distractibility by minor occurrences in their surroundings

let’s discuss The Differences Between ADHD and Autism

How are they different?

While there can be overlapping symptoms, the underlying causes of these two conditions can be quite distinct. For instance, challenges in social interactions may stem from impulsivity in ADHD or sensory sensitivities commonly associated with autism. Individuals with ADHD may exhibit tendencies towards tantrums and outbursts due to low frustration tolerance and impulsive behavior. They may find it difficult to stay focused on tasks they find less engaging, display excessive fidgeting, act without forethought, and take physical risks. Common indicators in individuals with autism may include avoidance of eye contact, delayed or absent speech, difficulties with understanding social cues, the use of repetitive body movements (known as “stimming”) as a self-soothing mechanism, susceptibility to meltdowns triggered by sensory issues, anxiety, or communication challenges, and intense fascination with specific preferred subjects.

Children diagnosed with autism often struggle to maintain focus on activities they find unappealing, such as reading a book or solving puzzles. Conversely, they may become fixated on activities or objects they find enjoyable, like playing with a specific toy.

In contrast, children with ADHD typically display aversion towards tasks requiring sustained concentration and may actively avoid such activities.

Observing your child’s communication patterns is also crucial. While both conditions can hinder social interaction, children with autism often exhibit less social awareness of their surroundings. They may experience difficulty expressing their thoughts and emotions verbally and may not use gestures like pointing to convey meaning. Maintaining eye contact can be challenging for them.

Conversely, children with ADHD may engage in incessant talking and have a tendency to interrupt or dominate conversations. Additionally, their conversational focus can be driven by their own interests, leading them to talk extensively about specific topics.

Children with autism generally seek order and repetition, finding comfort in routines. They may develop strong attachments to particular objects, foods, or clothing items. Any disruptions to their established routines can result in distress.

On the other hand, children with ADHD often dislike repetitive tasks and may resist engaging in them, even if repetition could benefit them.

Is it possible for an individual to have both ADHD and autism?

For a long time, medical professionals believed that an individual couldn’t have both ADHD and autism. However, in 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) acknowledged the potential for a dual diagnosis. It is quite common for the two conditions to coexist. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that approximately 30 to 80 percent of children with autism also meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Likewise, approximately 20 to 50 percent of children who receive a diagnosis of ADHD also meet the criteria for autism


Modifications in school and work settings can have a significantly positive effect. Both ADHD and autism may render students eligible for individual education plans (IEP), which can incorporate required accommodations. These accommodations might involve assigning a seat closer to the teacher and away from distractions, providing visual cues to aid task focus, allowing movement breaks, and breaking down assignments into smaller segments.

Speech therapy can benefit individuals with autism/ADHD, aiding them in verbal expression and enhancing pragmatic (social skills) communication. Occupational therapy can offer a sensory diet that assists children with ADHD and autism in self-regulation

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