ADHD vs. Autism: What Are They And How Are they Different


Difficulty paying attention and inability to sit still or pick up on specific social cues are similar behaviors seen in children diagnosed with ADHD or Autism. These overlapping symptoms have similarities, but the actual diagnoses are very different, so it’s essential for parents to know how they differ and what symptoms are condition-specific. 

At Simple Spectrum, we know how important it is to understand your child’s needs, so that is why we wanted to discuss the differences and similarities of ADHD and Autism. 


ADHD and Autism: What are They?

So before we dive into the similarities and differences between ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), let’s take a look at each of these conditions separately to define what each is and how symptoms can look on their own. It wasn’t until the 2013 update that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) recognized that children could be diagnosed with both ADHD and ASD. Before 2013, it was thought that children could not be diagnosed with both, despite the overlapping similarities.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or as most people refer to it, ADHD, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Most children diagnosed with ADHD are usually diagnosed at an early age when it becomes evident that their behavior is noticeably different from other children in their age group. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines ADHD as a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Early signs can include restlessness, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty focusing or paying attention to things.


NIMH defines autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Autism, like ADHD, can be diagnosed at any age, but it is also categorized as a developmental disorder because signs typically appear in early childhood. Symptoms of ASD begin as early as 1 to 2 years of age and are usually noticed when a child may not be taking a bit longer to reach developmental milestones like speaking, going to the bathroom, etc. Symptoms of early signs can include social interaction and communication difficulties, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors - lack of eye contact, overfocusing, no response when a relative is speaking, picky eating. There have also been studies that show the connection between nutritional deficiencies and behavior in children with autism, which is why parents swear by Simple Spectrum Supplement to bridge the nutritional gaps in children. 



ADHD vs. ASD: Similarities and Differences 

When looked at individually, the definitions of these two terms are distinguishable, but when parents are noticing behavior in their young children, the behavior can seem similar and might even lead to an improper diagnosis. So what makes these disorders similar, and why are they so often compared? To start, both are neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the central nervous system, which is responsible for things like movement, language, memory, social skill, and concentration. Children diagnosed with both disorders tend to have high levels of inattention, signs of impulsivity, and forms of hyperactivity, so it can be difficult to tell the difference. 


The differences between ADHD and ASD might be more obvious in adults. Still, there are disorder-specific behaviors that are evident in young children that might make it easier to tell apart. Children with ADHD have difficulty focusing on one task or are easily distracted. In contrast, children with ASD tend to hyperfocus on one thing and find it challenging to shift their attention to something or someone else. A child with Autism may be utterly disinterested in responding to people who talk to them or interacting in general and tend to avoid eye contact. 


One of the most significant differences between ADHD and Autism in children is the way that it will continue to impact the rest of their lives. ADHD can be treated with medication to reduce symptoms, but there are limited medication options for treating ASD. One of the most effective ways parents have reported seeing improvements in their children with ASD is through nutritional support using products like Simple Spectrum Supplement. 


If you want to know more about the signs of ADHD and ASD and whether or not your child may be exhibiting symptoms, it’s important to talk with your family physician as soon as you start noticing early signs of either of the disorders.