When worlds collide: autism and ADHD

Autism is noted by the need for routines, order and certainty. By contrast, ADHD is marked by impulsive and sometimes unpredictable behaviour. Yet the two conditions can and often do co-exist in the same person. I should know as know: I’m ADHD and autism spectrum disorder comorbid.

Some ADHD traits can be demanding and uncontrollable, while some ASD traits can cause stress, when not observed. In my opinion and personal experience, ADHD is usually the more dominant, while ASD can be the more powerful. I suspected that I had ADHD, as outward unruly symptoms were and are visible. But unbeknown to me, I was also living with and developing coping strategies for ASD’s potentially more benign presence in my life.

Research suggests that I am not along in my experiences of the two. ADHD may mask autism in children who have both conditions. Those already with ADHD may receive their autism diagnosis an average four years later than those with autism alone. I did better than that. My autism diagnosis came a year after the ADHD diagnosis. In fact the ADHD specialist observed autism symptoms in his first meeting with me. 

ADHD can lend itself to better social interaction partly because of increased talkativeness. And this can mask the symptoms of ASD. I definitely agree! What you see is a chatty person with ADHD attributes on show. 

Nick Stone, ALAG member & Autism Hub peer support facilitator, 26 August 2021

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