April is Autism Awareness Month and organizations are spreading the word about the importance of autism screening, evaluation, and intervention. For parents of kids with ADHD who struggle with social interactions, the notices and flyers popping up in pediatrician offices, schools, and on social media can prompt questions about whether their child’s difficulties may sound more like autism symptoms than ADHD symptoms.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, commonly known as autism, is not a singular disorder but rather a spectrum of symptoms and impairments. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the diagnostic guidebook published by the American Psychiatric Association, autism spectrum disorders are characterized by difficulties with communication and interactions with other people, as well as restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. These problems are severe enough that they interfere with an individual’s ability to function at school, work, or in other areas of their life (a comprehensive list of autism symptoms can be found here: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/autism-spectrum-disorder/index.shtml). Kids with more severe forms of autism are highly impaired and may develop little (if any) language and interact only minimally with those around them. Kids on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum may have fully developed language abilities and can communicate with others, but overall, they struggle in their interpersonal relationships.
There is a certain degree of overlap between ADHD symptoms and autism symptoms, including social difficulties and challenges related to executive functioning. However, there are some key differences as well.
Distinguishing between autism spectrum disorders and ADHD isn’t always straight forward. If you are wondering if some of your child’s social challenges may be due to more than ADHD, then reach out to your child’s pediatrician. They can help you locate a specialist in your area who can clarify your child’s diagnostic picture and recommend targeted interventions that can help.
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.
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