Trouble paying attention to people. Being constantly on the move. Invading personal space, not reading social cues well and having meltdowns. These can all be signs of both ADHD and autism. And the two conditions can occur together.
The signs of autism, also called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, can range in severity. While ADHD (also known as ADD) isn’t a spectrum disorder, like autism it can produce a range of symptoms. And each symptom can cause a range of difficulty from one child to the next. So what’s the difference between ADHD and autism?
This table breaks down some of the key differences between them.
|What is it?||A biological condition that makes it hard for kids to concentrate, pay attention, sit still and curb impulsivity.||A range of neurodevelopmental conditions that causes challenges with social skills, communication and thinking. Repetitive behaviors are also part of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).|
|Signs you may notice, depending on your child||
|Possible emotional and social impact||Trouble following social rules can make it hard to make and keep friends. Frequent negative feedback for acting out or not paying attention can impact self-esteem and motivation, making a child feel he’s “bad” or “no good.” (Read more about ADHD and emotions.)||The main struggles of ASD involve social understanding, communication and repetitive routines or behaviors. Many kids with ASD—even those without significant cognitive challenges—have trouble making friends, understanding how to relate to other people and making sense of social cues.|
|Professionals who can help||
|What the school may provide||A child might be eligible for an IEP under the category of “other health impairment.” Accommodations can also be provided under a 504 plan. Examples might include:
||A child might be eligible for an IEP under the category of “autism.” Special education may be provided along with accommodations. They are very specific to each child, but examples can include:
|What you can do at home||
These are some common examples. But because ASD looks so different in each child, the support provided at home varies a lot from child to child. Parents will often work with a psychologist or other clinicians to create a support plan.
Learn more about how ADHD is diagnosed and how to avoid ADHD trouble spots. along with strategies to help kids manage sensory processing issues.