ADHD or Autism?

by WebMD


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism can look a lot like each other. Children with either condition can have problems focusing. They can be impulsive or have a hard time communicating. They may have trouble with schoolwork and with relationships.

Although they share many of the same symptoms, the two are distinct conditions. Autism spectrum disorders are a series of related developmental disorders that can affect language skills, behavior, social interactions, and the ability to learn. ADHD impacts the way the brain grows and develops. And you can have both.

The correct diagnosis early on helps children get the right treatment so they don't miss out on important development and learning. People with these conditions can have successful, happy lives.

How Are They Different?

Keep an eye on how your child pays attention. Those with autism struggle to focus on things that they don't like, such as reading a book or doing a puzzle. And they may fixate on things that they do like, such as playing with a particular toy. Kids with ADHD lose initial interest, and they dislike and avoid things they'll have to concentrate on.

You should also study how your child is learning to communicate. Although kids with either condition struggle to interact with others, those with autism tend to be self-centered. They often have a hard time putting words to their thoughts and feelings, and they may not be able to point to an object to give meaning to their speech. They find it hard to make eye contact.

A child with ADHD, on the other hand, may talk nonstop. They're more likely to interrupt when someone else is speaking or butt in and try to monopolize a conversation. Also, consider the subject. Some kids with autism can talk for hours about a topic that they're interested in.


An autistic child loves order and repetition, but one with ADHD doesn't, even if it helps them. A child with autism might want the same type of food at a favorite restaurant, for instance, or become overly attached to one toy or shirt. They'll become upset when routines change. A child with ADHD doesn't like doing the same thing again or for long times.

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