Autism Spectrum Disorder vs ADHD

In today’s world, there is a misunderstanding about the differences between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They are disorders that can be observed at the same time. And, while there are some common symptoms, it doesn’t mean that if a person has autism, then has to have ADHD as well or vice versa. 

Autism and ADHD are neurodevelopmental disorders with an increasing prevalence, especially in recent years. ADHD is defined as impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention, while autism spectrum disorder is characterized by limited interest, repetitive behaviors, and inadequate social and communication skills in DSM-5 published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Autism and ADHD are developmental disabilities that can often be confused with each other in terms of diagnostic criteria and observed behaviors in children. There are many studies on both disabilities in the literature. Some of these studies stated that approximately one-third of children with ADHD showed signs of autism, and some of the children with ADHD had problems in non-verbal communication and displayed stereotypical behaviors.

In the DSM-4, the diagnostic criteria book published by the American Psychiatric Association, there was a suggestion that children with a diagnosis of autism could not be diagnosed with ADHD, but this was not stated in the DSM-5 that is published later. There is an important reason why both situations are so intertwined with each other which is that the components considered in the diagnosis of children have a lot of common aspects and meet the thresholds of these diagnostic criteria.

Autism and ADHD are very similar in terms of behavioral and cognitive problems presented by children from both groups. When behavioral problems arise, it was observed that children on the spectrum show some behaviors that can be understood as a symptom of ADHD, while children with ADHD have serious inadequacy in social interaction and communication. Especially the problems experienced in the field of social interaction have a very important effect on the cognitive skills of children. In order to summarize all this information, autism and ADHD can be observed together, as well as they may have similar symptoms.

These two developmental disabilities need to be distinguished very well. Because of the fact that this distinction will directly affect the content of the treatment, intervention plan, and education plan to be followed. The situation referred to as treatment here for ADHD is not valid for autism. Because autism is a lifelong developmental disability that has no cure.

The best step to be taken would be to start intervention, training, and education at the earliest possible time in line with the child’s needs, together with an expert. However, ADHD is a disability that may require the use of medication under psychiatric supervision and has a treatment process with a different education plan.

The fact that both conditions are so similar and in some cases intertwined can make the treatment process difficult but requires a detailed and good observation process. For example, the source of the state of being active, one of the behavioral effects that can be observed in both cases, should be determined very well, whether ADHD or autism.

If the person has ADHD as well, medication may be required under psychiatric supervision. After this situation is overcome, it will be easier and more possible to work with disabilities arising from autism. However, an important mistake made by parents with children with autism and ADHD is related to the use of drugs prescribed by psychiatry. It is imperative that they use the medicines given to their children at the scale and duration determined by the psychiatrist. However, families can observe the behavior of their children. Therefore, they conclude that there is no change and can adjust the dose according to them.

Apart from all these, especially during the summer holidays when the children do not go to school, they may not use medicines. The reason behind this is not logical at all. Because since they do not go to school, families think that there is no problem or that the problems are gone. However, it is not the case at all. So, it should not be forgotten that the drugs prescribed by the psychiatrist for children with both autism and ADHD are given in a timely manner, at the dose and duration determined by the doctor.

Both developmental disabilities are situations that need to be addressed with the cooperation of parents, teachers, and psychiatrists. If there is a situation that requires medication, this should be determined by the psychiatrist. Parents should ensure the regular use of medication prescribed by the psychiatrist.

The education phase is perhaps the most important phase of the process. Parents must contribute to all work to be done with an expert and must comply with the advice and duties given to them by the expert. As a result of all these approaches made with patience, consistency, and willingness, it is not possible not to make progress in the face of these situations. The process can be slow, sometimes annoying time frames, but you should keep in mind that every child is special and every child progresses at their own pace.

Differences Between Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD

ADHD has a persistent pattern that is followed by everyone who has the disorder. That pattern consists of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. These should be observed more frequently than among their peers. On the other hand, autism spectrum disorder is characterized by triple main problems such as problems with their environments in terms of being social or having healthy communication, stereotyped behaviors, and restricted interests. Even though the two of them share more or less the same clinical characteristics, there is an obvious difference between them. Individuals with autism exhibit an unusual interest in repetitive movements and patterns compared to individuals with ADHD.

Autism and ADHD are two predominant psychiatric problems among pediatric patients. Although they share many common clinical features, the difference between autism and ADHD can be identified by carefully evaluating the patient’s interest in repetitive movements and patterns that can be considered the sign mark characteristic of a child with autism.

Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by a triple main and must characteristics. These symptoms must be present in the child before 3 years of age in order to diagnose autism. The degree of functional disability of these symptoms varies from person to person. Before reaching a definitive diagnosis, it is important to rule out the possibility of having other disabilities with similar symptoms. Since it is a spectrum disorder, the person can be anywhere on the spectrum, whether mild or strong.

As we stated above, ADHD is a persistent pattern. That pattern leads to interference with normal functioning. The main symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The onset of symptoms occurs before the age of 7. The presence of symptoms should be observed in at least two different settings. There must be conclusive symptoms of impaired function. There shouldn’t be any symptoms that can be related to any psychiatric condition.

Excessive restlessness, constant overactivity, poor attention, learning difficulties, impulsivity, restlessness, a tendency to accident, disobedience, and aggression are the most prominent characteristics of ADHD. The prevalence rate of ADHD changes depending on the criteria used in diagnosis. Therefore, men are more likely to have ADHD than women.

ADHD has biological, psychological, and environmental causes. Biological causes include genetic, structural brain anomalies, functional brain anomalies, irregularity in dopamine synthesis, and birth with not sufficient enough weight. Psychological reasons include any kind of abuse, corporate growth, and not having good family communication. Environmental causes happen mostly during the womb. These can include drug and alcohol usage of the mother, perinatal complications, early life brain damage, mother’s nutritional deficiencies, low socioeconomic status, and lead toxicity.

Child Yoga: An Effective Practice for Both Autism and ADHD

In recent years, child yoga is accepted as the most effective method of treatment for ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. It is a therapy method used to help treat many diseases, including autism. In addition to the positive contributions of yoga to children with ADHD, the effects of yoga on children with autism are also very positive.

Child yoga is actually not that different from adult yoga. Children’s yoga emerges by putting the classic poses in adult yoga into a format that can be followed by children. Basic activities in children’s yoga are mostly breathing exercises based on simple imitation, postures, positions, meditation, and massage. Child yoga, which is followed by making it fun through games and stories, provides socio-emotional and physical relaxation. In other words, children’s yoga is a technique based on communication and cooperation.

Regarding the consequences of yoga in children, researchers have concluded that proper breathing strengthens the immune system. Emphasizing the importance of diaphragm breathing, it is stated that proper breathing techniques are learned through yoga. With proper breathing, it is possible to be calmer since it has a calming effect. It reduces stress, increases attention and focus, and helps to control negative emotions and thoughts.  

Autism spectrum disorder has been detected in 1 out of every 59 children in the USA. The increase in this rate every year leads experts to seek different supportive therapy methods. Yoga therapy stands out as one of these methods. In addition to the positive contributions of yoga to children with ADHD, the effects of yoga on children with neurodevelopmental differences known as Autism have also been examined.

As a complementary education, significant improvements are observed in the behaviors of children with autism who regularly participate in daily yoga programs in their schools. According to the data, due to the stress-reducing effect of yoga, it is observed that decreasing in aggression and anxiety and increasing in attention and concentration in children on the autism spectrum. It is emphasized that it can help develop more open to learning, imitation, and social-emotional skills.

The researchers pointed out that this practice should be repeated constantly such as every week in the same order so that children with autism who respond to routines can feel safe and relaxed while doing yoga. Visual cues are also very important for the child in this process. Yoga cards showing the poses should definitely be used during the practices, and then the postures should be repeated with the adult.

Overall, yoga is a practice based on love, respect, and trust. There is no competitive win-lose approach in children’s games as in children’s yoga activities. Therefore, a child with autism who has difficulty in communicating with his/her environment outside of his/her needs can provide social-emotional balance with an environment in which his/her self-confidence will increase. Children’s yoga also contributes to the development of gross motor skills. Yoga helps create a balanced and flexible body structure. It can also help children with sleep problems by giving them comfort and letting them sleep more comfortably.

What Is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)?

ADHD is a disorder that can cause very important academic, social and psychiatric problems and its negative effects can last a lifetime. Its incidence in the community is very high, such as 5-7%, it is a disorder that starts in childhood at a rate of 60-70% and can continue into adulthood.

When ADHD is mentioned, a neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral disorder has to be mentioned. ADHD has 3 different symptom groups. These are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. While some patients with ADHD have active attention deficit symptoms, some of them have hyperactivity symptoms, and some have mixed ADHD symptoms with both impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Diagnosis of impulsivity and hyperactivity in ADHD may be easier than the diagnosis of attention-deficit. Impulsivity and hyperactivity are symptoms that run parallel to each other. While symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity may decrease with age, attention-deficit may not decrease in the opposite direction.

The symptoms of ADHD can vary in different periods of an individual’s life such as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood). During this time, over the years, the symptoms may change places with each other, and transitions may occur. Therefore, the way ADHD manifests itself at different times in the same person’s life at that moment and in that section may vary. In one period of his/her life, hyperactivity-impulsivity is dominant, while in another period, attention deficit may be more prominent.

Children with ADHD have a lot of difficulties in completing a task. They often switch to another task before completing the ones they are on. It can also take a very long time for them to start a new task. For this reason, they can be described as greedy by the people around them or even by the noises that come from outside. In addition to all these, acting without thinking is observed in children who act impulsively. As a result of this situation, non-compliance behavior may occur. Behaviors such as interrupting a speaking person and not being able to wait their turn in games can be observed. In addition to all these symptoms, learning difficulties may also occur. It is also possible for the child to show signs of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Attention-deficit symptoms of ADHD;

  • Having trouble focusing
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Not able to make eye contact
  • Inability to continue in the same activity for a long time
  • Get bored very quickly about everything
  • Ignore the important details
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty listening to others, ignorance
  • Being very careless and having an inclination to lose everything
  • Failing to remember simple directions
  • Making frequent mistakes

Hyperactivity symptoms of ADHD;

  • Being very mobile, not able to sit for a certain period of time
  • Constantly moving hands and feet, even while sitting
  • Talking very fast
  • Mispronunciation of words and inability to connect sentences
  • Not able to listen to people
  • Interrupting others during the conversation

Impulsivity symptoms of ADHD;

  • Being very demanding about immediate fulfillment of requests
  • Being impatient
  • Acting without thinking
  • Acting and behaving hastily
  • Not able to wait in a line
  • Not able to control reactions and gestures

ADHD Treatment

If the person with ADHD is a child, they should be diagnosed by a child-adolescent psychiatry unit specialist, if they are an adult, they should be diagnosed with ADHD by an adult psychiatry specialist.

The first step in the treatment of ADHD is psychoeducation. It is to raise awareness of the family about this disease, to provide information about what kind of treatment will be followed and what kind of problems will be encountered in case of not being treated.

The age of the patient is important in the treatment of ADHD, and if the person receiving treatment is a child or adolescent, the participation of the family in the treatment will contribute positively to the treatment and increase the speed of recovery. At the same time, individuals in the social environment outside the family are expected to contribute to the treatment.

ADHD treatment is carried out according to the patient’s criteria, using medication and therapy. In drug treatment, the dose of the drug should be adjusted by the specialist. Therapies are psychotherapy and psychosocial therapy. ADHD can also be treated with the combined use of medication and psychotherapy.

All official child psychiatry clinics around the world agree that ADHD is a genetically caused neurobiological disease and that drug therapy is one of the most important options in the treatment of ADHD. Methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, neurofeedback, play attention, and attention training, followed simultaneously with drug therapy, provide a rapid onset of action and better recovery rates.

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